Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Abstract Landscape
Abstract Landscape

Taking formal inspiration from the German Expressionists, this abstract landscape is painted with blocks of strong, non-naturalistic colours, arranged in a jig-saw-like manner. Bold black strokes outline the boat’s mast and hull and illustrate the silhouettes of barren trees in the foreground.  The use of warm sienna colours on the left tapers into more muted shades of dark navy and black on the right. Abstract Landscape is an example of the artist’s multi-faceted practice, which draws inspiration from Chinese ink brush paintings, German Expressionism, and French Post-Impressionists such as Cezanne.

Oil on board
40 x 49 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Lee Cheng Yong
About Lee Cheng Yong

A contemporary of Yong Mun Sen, Lee Cheng Yong (b. 1913-1974, China) was a pioneering and versatile artist and educator. In 1930, Lee graduated from the Xin Hua University of Arts in Shanghai. It is unclear when he began his art teaching career at Chung Ling High School in Penang, but by 1932, he was holding a solo show at the Philatelic Union at Acheen Street, George Town, the second artist to hold a solo exhibition in the country, after artist Ooi Hwa in 1927. Lee was an activist and an avid founding member of the Society of Chinese Artists in Singapore (1935), Ying Ying Art Society (1936), and the Penang Art Society (1953). In 1936, he was also elected president of the Penang Chinese Art Society, with Yong Mun Sen as vice president. Remembered by his students as a stern but kind man, the reclusive artist was granted two retrospective exhibitions in 1966 at the Penang State Art Gallery and The Art Gallery, Penang. His multi-medium oeuvre containing gouache landscapes, oil portraits and sculptures have been shown at Artists Imagine A Nation (2015) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and The Nanyang Show (2016) at the Visual Arts Centre, both located in Singapore.

Further Readings
  • Pioneers of Malaysian Art. 1994. The Art Gallery, Penang.

  • Lee Cheng Yong Retrospective. 1996. Penang State Museum.

  • “Nanyang Style: Bygone Dreams of Paradise? (Recent Conversations with NAFA Alumni)” in Narratives in Malaysian Art, Vol 1: Imagining Identities. 2012. RogueArt.

  • Eight pioneers of Malaysian Art. 2014. Marshall Cavendish, Singapore.

  • The Nanyang Show Catalogue. 2016. Visual Arts Centre, SIngapore.

  • ica_singapore_exhibition-catalogue_artists-imagine-a-nation.pdf (

Learning Section
  • This painting is called Abstract Landscape. What kind of landscape do we see? What elements of the landscape do you recognise? What elements have been abstracted?

  • How has colour been used in this painting? Is any one colour more dominant? Where is it used? Are the colours realistic? What mood do they create? What is the focal point of the painting? How does the artist emphasise this element? How does your eye move around the painting? What elements guide your eye around the painting?