Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
A Prancing Horse
A Prancing Horse

Many of Lee Joo For’s paintings feature his favourite motif, the horse. Horses are important animals in Chinese history and mythology, being the most powerful of the domesticated animals. Through his depiction of the horse, Joo For has emphasised its power and agility with thick, fast brushstrokes, with the horse’s contained aggression seemingly strained against the frame of the painting. The work is also unique for combining the traditional medium of Chinese ink with the modernist sensibility of speed, to creatively capture the dynamism of a horse in motion.

Chinese ink and acrylic on paper
59 × 82 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Lee Joo For
About Lee Joo For

John Lee Joo For (b. 1929, Penang – d. 2017, Melbourne, Australia) has been dubbed “the symbolic painter” by fellow artist and teaching colleague Syed Ahmad Jamal. He received a generous government scholarship in his youth that allowed him to study at three different English universities: the Brighton College of Art, the Camberwell School of Art, and the Royal College of Art. In 1973, he migrated with his family to Melbourne, Australia. Mostly known for his symbolic paintings, he was also a skilled sculptor and print-maker. Horses are a recurrent motif in his work because of their significance in Chinese symbolism (his father was a Chinese calligrapher). Aside from art, he was also an accomplished playwright, having written many stage plays and musicals, often with evangelical themes.

Further Readings
Learning Section
  • What is your first reaction to this painting? Write down 3 adjectives which describe this painting. Write down 3 nouns which connect with this painting. Write down 3 verbs which help you describe this artwork. How does this painting make you feel? What is the atmosphere of this painting? What does this painting remind you of?

  • What qualities of a horse does the artist focus on? What is the horse doing? Where is the horse? What time of day is it? What do horses represent to you? What do they symbolise? If you were to paint a horse, what qualities would you emphasise?