A life lived too short

by Sylvia Lee Goh, Malaysian Artist
4 September 2010

A year has passed in the blink of an eye. The sun still shines. The birds are still singing and pair of squirrels are thrilling in sharp shrieks, oblivious, oblivious.

How is one to encapsulate the whole life of another human being in so many words or in so many pages? Is it ever enough? 43 years is just a memory now, and soon this too will be gone. Only what has been archived, recorded and preserved will stand the test of time. That too, and for how long? Everything is corruptible. Life is but a blink of an eye in eternity.

Emil was already a traveller, up and down the Malaysian Peninsular even before he was born. A dashed drive from Singapore in the early hours of 6 March 1966, back to Johore Bharu to be born and to be registered as a Malaysian citizen announced his Malaysian dawn. His father was an electrical engineer working for the Federal Government, and his mother is an artist.

Emil's primary and early secondary education was cut short in Malaysia for a boarding school residency at St. Patrick's in Singapore for the remaining secondary years. Here is an enclosed and protected environment he forged life-long bonds with his fellow boarders. He was schooled in missionary institutions and this was what shaped his character and approach to life.

Born a cradle Catholic, Singapore played a big part in his religious development. He was Baptised, received his First Holy Communion, Confirmation and eventual interment in the Island State.

In the middle 80's, Emil attended Taylor's College, which saw him qualify for tertiary education in Australia. There were strong friendships born in this period.

In the late 80's at the University of Newcastle, he tested two courses and settled for a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Drama. It was here that Emil created his thought-provoking philosophical installations "Elements" and "Relative Perception" that best revealed his intrinsic thoughts, feelings and perceptions of that period of his life. It revealed his sensitivity and gentle nature.

In 1993, Emil registered himself for a Fine Arts course in the Sydney College of Arts Sydney University in Photography/Sculpture. Upon completion, he bagged the coveted Travelling Scholarship where he earned his Master in Fine Arts. Whilst in Goldsmiths, he developed a knee problem, and was confined to a wheel-chair for six months, he cheerfully went about his studies. During this period, he was nursed by a Florence Nightingale from Hong Kong, who ministered him. We have yet to identify this angel of mercy. Please treat this as an invitation to disclose your identity to this grateful parents, who wishes to acknowledge you.

Emil forged links and exhibited in Europe. Always restless and full of creative energy, he never know how to relax. His mind never stopped tickin. fter Goldsmiths, he took up a University of Hong Kong residency. He then returned to Australia, and in 2003 was awarded an Asialink residency in Ssamzie Space, Seoul Korea. Seoul extended his residency. He became enchanted with the city and stayed on. Without a working visa, Emil could only lecture in three Korean Universities for a period of two years each. He taught art and design and was delighted in showing the young Koreans new ways of seeing art. It was difficult surviving without a working visa, but he soldiered on, loving and eventually dying for what he loved best.

Emil's art was always about people in their environment, how they perceived and interact and treat each other, and about the big and little wonders of everyday life that might escape us. It reflected his youthful idealism and innocence of life, relevant to his time surroundings and the culture of politics of the day. His messages were challenging. They nudge the core of conscience. They touched raw nerves and people sat up, took stock and questioned themselves.

After completing his Masters, his art theme shifted from philosophical to the curiosities of daily life. He was also caught up in designing and have made contributions in this field.

In a nutshell, what is important is that he left his mark in the art world with good memories and enduring friendship.

This memorial website is to commemorate Emil's first anniversary of his passing, and to honour his friends who responded immediately in ways open to them, in this age of technology. Such outpouring of sentiments consoled everyone who knew him, as they read each other's "sharings". The tributes were the most beautiful expressed genuine heartfelt responses that are edifying and a reflection of the subject and the author.

We would like to share them again, with blessings of the authors here in this website.

Emil was a very energetic and deeply passionate about his love for art. He ate, slept and dreamed art. Had strong convictions, always focused and had direction. I believe he is practicing and still pursuing his dreams and objectives in hid new environment, with new art. Go, go Emil – go and chase your dreams.

No words of thanks and appreciation can fully describe how grateful we are to the "contributors" of this special memorial website – all of whom are EMIL's FRIENDS, GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU.

Grateful thanks to the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, Singapore for providing a niche in their columbarium for the last resting place for Emil. Emil had firmly expressed his last wish, on the 7th night of his passing to be interred in this church of which he was aware of and prepared for, since May 2004.