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Unknown Lady (无名女士), 1962, Charcoal on paper, 47 x 30 cm
The influence of Nanyang Academy of Fine Art’s syllabus on Koeh Sia Yong shows through in this piece, as he sketches out a hyperrealistic portrait of a woman. The thick unrefined lines of charcoal strokes in the background, juxtaposed against the subtle shading on the woman’s face, highlight the gentleness with which every feature is rendered. Light reflects off the curve of her nose and neck, drawing attention to the fuzzy texture of her sweater, created by taking advantage of the naturally scratchy texture of charcoal against paper. Anyone who has worked with charcoal knows it is a notoriously messy medium—Koeh displays remarkable control over it, as evidenced by the neatness of the portrait. The tiniest details remain visibly unsmudged; the slight curl of wayward hairs, the minute highlight of the pupil, even some ambient light on the side of the woman’s face. In all, this sketch melds both Koeh’s expressiveness and tight control over his medium to form a work of wonder.
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