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Khaw Sia: Pioneer Artist of Malaysia

KHAW SIA (1913 – 1984)

Pioneer Artist of Malaysia

Khaw Sia who migrated to Penang from China, is one of eight pioneer artists who started the art movement in Malaysia. As a first-generation artist in the country, he contributed to the flourishing art scene by mentoring creative students.

Khaw Sia also influenced many younger artists with his signature painting of dew drops on orchid plants. He was particularly passionate in the cultivation of orchids and he documented them relentlessly in watercolour, the same way cameras are commonly used today. There is a generous body of watercolours by Khaw Sia and rarer pieces in oil and pastels. 

At this current exhibition in the E&O, you will see a cross section of Khaw Sia’s works covering still-life and landscapes, mainly realistic in style. His paintings are sold at art auctions in Malaysia and Singapore, and since 2013, at Christie’s Hong Kong. The National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur and the Penang State Art Gallery  are two known local institutions with Khaw Sia’s art in their permanent collection.

1913                - Khaw Sia was born in China.

1927 to 1932    - He began his formal art education at Sin Hua Art Academy in Shanghai.

1933                - He studied in England under Scottish artist and illustrator, Sir Russell Flint.

His tour of Europe inspired his series on churches, buildings and landscapes.

1937                - Khaw Sia migrated to Penang, after a short stay in Thailand.

1954                - He was the first Malaysian artist to visit Bali, after the 1952 visit by artists of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

1955                - He presented his first solo exhibition of watercolours and oils painted in Bali.

1954 to 1959    - Khaw Sia exhibited and received awards for his watercolours painted in England and France. They included Le Salon, Paris (1956), Summer Salon, 14th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute Galleries, London (1957), and National Society 25th Exhibition, England (1958).

1960                - He started painting orchids in watercolour which was much admired.

1984                - Khaw Sia passed away in Penang at the age of 71.


Exhibition Period: 16 April till 28 June 2020

Due to the unfortunate Covid-19 outbreak, the exhibition had to be cancelled and we have created a virtual walkthrough of the exhibition (via Artsteps) for online viewing instead. The virtual walkthrough is best viewed on a desktop browser, or via Artsteps mobile app (available on Android and IOS).




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