Malaysian Koi Artist
Tommy Chen 曾 庆 华
Born in Malacca in 1967, Tommy Chen was the recipient of The 1st Wang Yao Art Scholarship Award and graduated from the Fine Art Department, Malaysian Institute of Art in 1990. He had participated in numerous art exhibitions within the Southeast Asia region, including The 5th Biennale Print Exhibition at Wakayama City, Japan in 1990, and The 5th Asian Art Exhibition, at the National Taiwan Museum of Art at Kaohsiung, Taiwan R.O.C. in 1992.
Tommy Chen has been focusing on painting Japanese koi fish for the past two decades and he is known as the finest Japanese koi fish artist in Malaysia. His affection for Japanese koi fish goes back to when he first started painting the koi theme in 1991.
“My new series of paintings - The Joy of The Living Water Series and The Abundant Life Series depict a deep affection for Japanese koi fish, which apparently was moving towards self soul searching that has something to do with positive living attitude. Whatever you do, do it with utmost passion, art is meant to be fun and enjoy.” enthused Tommy Chen.
How did the branding of the koi fish come about?
“Koi fishes swim smoothly in the water. They share a lot of similar characters with us human, where we live life according to some sort of order. When I began put my emotion and feeling into my paintings, I am spiritually at peace.” says artist Tommy Chen.
The very first impression of these Japanese koi fishes to me as an artist
are that they are strong determined in character, full of freedom and very joyful as they swim in the water. These unique elements had actually drawn my inner emotion and thought about the Japanese koi through my creative works of art! The total freedom reflects in these Japanese koi had also embarked me to another level of soul searching that brings me a complete sense of joy and peace.
Tommy Chen’s “The Joy of the Living Water Series ”and “ The Abundant Life Series ” features the red-spotted Japanese koi, known as the Tancho, which weaves its way through the cerulean kingdom beneath the shade of lily pads and dapples of sunlight.
Marked by its majestic crown, its path is followed by the Sanke with their splashes of red, black and white; the Kohaku or red and white and evenn at times by the rare, black-scaled Shusui.
As the theme of Tommy Chen’s koi fish painting suggests, the artist look forward to share the philosophy of joy, peace & hope with all his art collectors and art lovers through his works of art that depict the flow, dynamic energy, a joyful and positive attitude towards life.
Tommy Chen - 2020
Painting is Chen's calling and koi is his favourite subject
THE first thing one notices when speaking to veteran artist Tommy Chen is his strong passion for art.
“Painting has always been my calling. I want to share positive messages with everyone through my artwork,” said the animated 46-year-old from Malacca.
Nicknamed ‘Tommy McKoi’, Chen has been painting Japanese Nishikigoi (koi fish) for the past 23 years.
“Koi fish have very human characteristics. They are strong, determined and joyful as they swim in the water. One feels peace and harmony when looking at them,” he said.
Chen is holding his first solo art exhibition at The Frame Shop, Cyberjaya.
Entitled the “Splendour of Light”, the exhibition features 35 pieces of his vibrant, lifelike collection of koi fish paintings.
Despite having participated in numerous art shows internationally, it took two decades for Chen to realise his dream of holding a solo exhibition.
“I felt the time was right, and my art is at a level where I’m fully confident to showcase it to the public,” said Chen.
He explained that the ‘Splendour of Light’ signified hope, love and joy — themes central to his artwork.
The new series of paintings include ‘The Joy of the Living Water Series’ and ‘The Abundant Life series’, mostly acrylic on canvas.
The beautiful, delicately painted fish exude an aura of tranquility, with lily pads and rays of reflecting sunlight weaved into the scenery.
Chen draws inspiration from observing the fish in their habitat.
“Koi fish are very expensive. I usually go to friends who rear the fish, who allow me to observe the fish in their ponds. Sometimes I take pictures for reference, or I do on-site sketches,” he explained.
He also visits parks and resorts where the fish are reared. Recounting an episode at a resort in Malacca, Chen said that he saw two groups of fish in a pond, which was shaped like a figure eight.
“When the schools crossed over from each side, they did not clash. They were in perfect harmony, like there was a natural traffic light. I find it fascinating how synchronised they are,” he said, adding that he could spend hours just observing them.
“To paint a good picture, you have to imagine that you’re the fish and understand their movements.”
After graduating from the Fine Art Department of the Malaysian Institute of Art, Chen worked as a printmaker, and later a museum curator, before realising his passion was in painting.
“Over the years I have improved my brush strokes and techniques. In the early days, some of my collectors used to joke that my fish looked more like dolphins or sharks,” he said.
On future exhibitions, Chen said that he would organise more if the timing was right. “I’ll follow what my heart tells me,” he said.
He said he was branching out to paint other fishes, such as arowana. Guests will get a sneak peek of one of his works from his upcoming ‘Majestic Series’ at the exhibition.
The “Splendour of Light” exhibition is being held from 11am to 6pm at The Frame Shop, Shaftsbury Square, Cyberjaya until this Saturday. Admission is free.
The paintings are for sale and prices range from RM3,000 to RM18,000.
To Promote Art in Malaysia (feature on Artmalaysia.org)
Art education : Diploma in Fine Art, Malaysian Institute
of Art ( 1988 -1990 )
Date of birth : 23rd November 1967 ( Malacca )
1988 - The 1st Wang Yao Art Scholarship Award
1981 - Young Talent Art Award
1st Solo Exhibition 2013 - "Splendour of Light ” - The Frame Shop at Cyberjaya, Selangor
COLLECTORS FROM SHANGHAI, ... LOVE TOMMY CHEN ARTWORKS
Wang Yao Art Scholarship's first recipient is Tommy Chen, a Malaysian born in Melaka who graduated from Malaysian Institute of Art in 1990.
From Shanghai to Singapore, private and corporate collectors go after Tommy Chen's works and collectors as far south as Australia chase after his pieces too.
Positive attitude towards life, a continuous flow of dynamic energy theme in his creations, a radiance of joyful love and peace, collectors from Hong Kong, Japan, USA, United Kingdom, and Germany are watchful of Tommy's works.
Arts collectors prefer to make sure they do not miss out Tommy's latest creation, the prosperity of a the koi fish painting on the walls of homes and businesses spaces.
Since 1989, he had participated in several art exhibition within the South East Asia region, in the 5th Biennial Print Exhibition at Wakayama City, Japan in 1990, and the 5th Asian Art Exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Art at Kaoshiung, Taiwan R.O.C. in 1992.
1988 - The 1st Wang Yao Art Scholarship Award
1981 - Young Talent Art Award
1st Solo Exhibition ................
Press articles :
- StarMetro - ART page 18,19 The Star Publication ( 5 September 2013 )
- StarMetro, The Star Publication ( 27 January 2012 )
- News Straits Times ( 9 November 2004 )
- China Press ( 23 June 2008 )
- Guang Ming Daily ( 28 August 2013 )
- China Press ( 25 August 2013 )
- News Straits Times ( 23 November 2014 )
Magazine articles :
- CiTi – ZEN ( ISSUE 22 , April - Jun 2012 ), Ireka Cooperation Berhad
- EXPACT Magazine , ( ISSUE 7, November 2001 )
- Art Corridor Magazine ( Inaugural Issue , January - March 2001 )
- Haven Magazine ( ISSUE # 55 , June - July 2012 ), The Expect