"Nature At Play", Michael Quah's evocative solo art show

Michael Quah © Adrian Cheah

Besides my beloved parents, a handful of inspiring teachers have steered my decision to make art my career, and what a rewarding and fruitful endeavour it has been. Among them are Mr Ng Kok Lum (La Salle School, Form 1-3), Mr Michael Quah (St. Xavier's Institution, Form 4-5) and all my lecturers at The Malaysian Institute of Art.

When I first learnt that Mr Quah was going to hold his first-ever solo exhibition, I was tremendously excited for him. Little does he know that he has gifted me a magical spark that has continued to fuel my creativity to this very day. By just unlocking the door of looking at things from various perspectives, it is impossible for me to look at a thing or a situation from just one angle. The mind's eye is able to take me on wild journeys, tapping into a creative source that is truly limitless. I am indeed blessed to have Mr Quah as one of my art teachers.

Mr Quah, a quintessential teacher and artist, is indeed a beautiful soul. His art pieces are a testament to the transformative power of art, celebrating the joy of creativity and the wonders of nature. His exhibition, "Nature At Play", will be held at the Heritage Centre, St. Xavier's Institution Penang from 22–24 September 2023.

The exhibition is a dynamic celebration of Mr Quah's fascination with nature. The exhibition will showcase 70 watercolour paintings created between 1995 and 2018. Each painting illustrates various perspectives of nature's charming persona, evoking a sense of marvel and wonder.

Teaching and creating art became symbiotic, enriching Mr Quah's understanding of the creative process and influencing his style and technique as a painter. He takes unadulterated joy in spontaneity, revelling in serendipitous encounters and integrating them all into his organic masterpieces. Thus, his distinct style emerged naturally as a result of his playful exploration with various media and techniques.

Nature At Play © Michael Quah

Here is what you can expect from "Nature At Play":

  • Engaging emotions in art pieces entitled Uplift, Joyfilled, Peace, Celebration, Curious and Exuberance.
  • Versatility of colour flow and tactile textures in art pieces entitled Moving Moments, Vitalityscape and Island Mystique.
  • Expressions of the shapes in art pieces entitled Blooms and Roosting Space.
  • Shadows on raised surfaces in the series Textured Tenacity.
  • Calligraphic illustrations in Psalm 84.
  • Ying-Yang's whimsical expression in In Mood.
  • Coastal interpretations in the series Mindwork.

This exhibition promises to be a captivating journey through the life and work of a visionary artist. Each painting offers an opportunity for the viewers to engage their imagination, beckoning them to view it from various perspectives. Grant your imagination the permission to come out and play, and above all, have fun! Maybe then, one could encounter the true spirit of Mother Nature, just as I am sure Mr Quah must have. You may also find yourself transported to your own cherished memories and experiences with nature.

Being a photographer and an artist myself, I can add that a captivating photo or an evocative painting has the power to conjure up emotions, prompt reflections, and need be, offer a space for meditation and visual therapy.

Drop by the Heritage Centre of St. Xavier's Institution and allow Mr Quah's paintings to awaken your senses and spark your imagination. If you were to buy a piece or two, display them at a special corner of your home and view them time and again, to act as a gentle reminder to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all. A grateful heart makes life extraordinary.

Nature At Play © Michael Quah

"Nature At Play", Michael Quah's inaugural solo art show

Heritage Centre, St. Xavier's Institution, Penang
22 September 2023: 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
23 September 2023: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
24 September 2023: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Official opening will be officiated by Dato' Ir Rajendran Anthony, Datuk Bandar of Penang on Friday, 22 September 2023 at 4.30 pm

Pre-sale artworks available! For more information, contact Victor Tan at +6019-480 6556.

About the Artist

Michael Quah © Adrian Cheah

Mr Quah's journey as an artist began with inspiration and motivation from his Form 4 art teacher, Brother Joseph McNally. Persistence and patience became a cornerstone in his development as an artist. Over the years, he explored various art expressions, constantly seeking to understand materials and finding new ways of creative expression. His willingness to learn, unlearn and relearn fueled his long and successful career.

From the 1960s till his retirement 31 years later, Mr Quah was an art educator at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang. As an art educator, his journey took a new dimension. Working with young minds, he discovered the importance of understanding and awakening their understanding as a foundational skill for learning. His teaching methods were process-principle-learning based, engaging students' multiple intelligences, lateral thinking and creativity. He brought art out of the confines of the classroom, encouraging his students to explore various art forms and engage in public exhibitions and competitions.

Mr Quah was also appointed as a member of the art curriculum design panel for the Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah (KBSM) at the Curriculum Design Centre (CDC) in Kuala Lumpur. It took eight years of careful preparation before the national KBSM learning/teaching programme was launched.

At the state level, Mr Quah headed the team to share in the in-service training for teachers in Penang. He was appointed as one of the national examiners and a team leader for the Form 5 MCE/SPM Nature paper. As a chief examiner for Penang State Crafts SRP Paper, he was privy to the complex intricacies of large-scale organisational abilities and the divergent skills that art education required to be efficiently managed.

After his retirement, he went on to establish his own advertising company, Dreamagic Sdn Bhd in Selangor, serving as the creative director.

Awards & Honours:
1966: Frank Sullivan Best Artist Prize from the Specialist Teachers Training Institute
1991: Guru Cemerlang Award from the Penang State Education Department
1992: Guru Cemerlang Award from the Ministry of Education, Malaysia
1993: La Sallian Teacher Award from the La Salle brothers

PS: I did not know the amount of work Mr Quah put into structuring his art classes until I interviewed him for this story (39 years later). He personally tested his lessons to see if they were doable within the 45 minutes/90 minutes time frame, making them interesting and intelligently thought-provoking. Although I was in the Science stream (Form 4-5), I took art as an extra subject and always looked forward to Mr Quah's classes. Now I understand that the lessons he gave me were more than to achieve Grade 1 in art (which I did). He has taught me to be a seeker, focusing on continuous exploration and learning, to look within and to celebrate my individuality. Thank you Sir!

Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All right reserved
26 July 2023