S y l v i a   L e e   G o h  


Welcome to
the official website
of Sylvia Lee Goh –
a Penang
Nyonya artist

Here, you will find
a selection of
all her well known works.


| Introduction | Remembrance & A Sense of Loss | Garden of Eden | The Search of Beauty | The Artist | 2nd Solo Exhibition |
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"Furniture gleaming with the sheen of years would grace our bedroom; the rarest flowers, mingling their odours with vague whiffs of amber, the painted ceilings, the fathomless mirrors, the splendour of the East ... all of that would speak, in secret, to our souls, in its gentle language. There, everything is order and beauty, luxury, calm and pleasure." – l'invitation al Voyage, Baudelaire

Capturing the opulence of bygone days - the Nyonya art of Sylvia Lee Goh

Sylvia Lee Goh embarked on a journey of discovery of identity and self-worth. It was a long road, but with a lot of encouragement and moral support.

In the mid-eighties Sylvia was a member of the Arts and Craft Guild, holding a committee member position for two years. This Guild was under the umbrella of the American Association.

In 1986, Ahmad Khalid Yusoff, the president of the Persatuan Perlukis Malaysia invited Sylvia to become a member. Today, she is a life-member of this Association.

Sylvia has participated in twenty-eight exhibitions, two of which were organised by the National Art Gallery, "Nuance" in Jakarta, Indonesia, and "Contemporary Malaysian Art" to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Beijing and Bangkok have been other foreign venues. Taking part in "Salon Malaysia 1991" was a feather in the cap. In 1994, she was thrust into abstract-expressionism when Petronas imposed a theme, "Energy" on the annual exhibition of the Malaysian Artists Association (Persatuan Perlukis Malaysia). There was no choice but to accept the challenge, but with gratifying results. Her attempt shook the artistic community with questions of direction.

Her first entry into the Philip Morris Competition earned her an Honorary Mention.

She paints what she sees, feels and experiences around her, taking special note of meaningful moments and occasions. Her colours reflect her Asianess, bright and warm.

Nyonya roots run deep in her ancestry. Her paternal lineage was rooted in Alor Star, Kedah, where her great grandfather Lee Yoke Cheng was the Private Secretary to Sultan Ahamd Tajuddin Mukarram Shah (1855-1879). Loo Yet Leong, the maternal great grandfather was a well known Patriarch in Pagar Tras, in the Straits Settlement of Penang. The Artist herself, was born in Bukit Mertajam, Province Wellesley.

The paintings are nostalgic of an era blessed with a culture that revelled in all things beautiful. The Nyonyas and Babas took great pride in exquisite craftsmanship, in every aspect of their lives. Their life-style and customs made their existence meaningful and always full of expectations.

The landscapes are from expeditions, from the lakes to the hills - personal journeys that have gloried in the wonders of nature - paintings that could not have been - had there not been a personal presence, a communion. These are paintings from the heart - memories, feelings, nostalgia. All have played their role - sometimes poignantly. Some are not so easily interpreted, but all have meaning.

Viewing a painting is an exploration and an exercise in introspection.

Here To-day,
To-morrow Gone I
"Genting Highland"

1994, 36" x 52", 38KB

Garden in
Taman Seputeh

1990, 36" x 48", 44KB

Secret Garden Series I
"To the Unseen Gardener"

1994, 36" x 48", 42KB

Click on the slides to view a larger image


T H E   S T A R
From an artist's heart by Jonathan Kwok

Although Penang prides itself for its Straits Chinese heritage, there has been few, if any, art exhibition totally devoted to the Nyonya-Baba culture.

As such, Sylvia Lee Goh's critically acclaimed solo art exhibition, From The Heart, marks a significant milestone in the local art scene. Her exhibition, at the State Art Gallery in Dewan Sri Pinang, showcased 40 paintings created over two decades meticulously captured the splendour and intricacies of the Nyonya-Baba heritage.

Just as the title suggests, the paintings reflect her heart's passion for her Peranakan ancestry as well as a deep love for nature and life itself. A Penang Nyonya herself who studied at the Light Street Convent, Sylvia has a remarkable eye for the things that surrounded her - her family, friends who touched her life, food of her youth and even her garden are all lovingly recreated in paint on canvas.

In her paintings Nyonya Altar, Blue Bowl and Koay, Nyonya Koay (Koay Muih), Teh, Chye Koay and Ang Koo, Rambutans and Nyonya Tray, Sylvia successfully captures on canvas the very things most of us would consider mundane.

Her generous use of vibrant colours and intricate attention to details focuses us to take a second look at these "everyday" items.

Paintings of women also take centre stage in her works such as the solitary Nyonya and women in private communication, whispering to one another and one would soon notice an absence of men in her works.

Her subjects, often caught in a unique gesture and expression, exude a certain lifelikeness and aura of a bygone era.

Then, there are her landscapes, masterpieces done in Genting Highlands and Lake Cini and even the beauty of her garden ... a place described by some as "paradise itself".




Designed by Adrian Cheah 

D  I  S  C  L  A  I  M  E  R     A  N  D     C  O  P  Y  R  I  G  H  T

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