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Devotion, Peace and a Record



 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee with her certificate and new record-breaking painting.

Lee with her certificate and new record-breaking painting.

 

DENNIS CHUA speaks to Malaysia Book of Records title holder Puan Sri Catherina Lee, who finds fulfillment in creating Chinese landscape paintings.

 

HAVING made it to the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) in 2000, philanthropist and artist Puan Sri Catherina Lee has recently bettered her earlier feat.

 

She is now the proud record-holder of Malaysia’s longest Chinese landscape painting, measuring 585.9 metres, depicting, unconventionally, local and regional terrain rather than that of China’s.

Lee’s first entry into the MBR was for her 34.44-metre Chinese landscape painting titled “Four Seasons,” which took her two years to complete. She unveiled it at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur.

Of her new painting, she said: “The padi fields and tropical trees point to a Malaysian scenery. While it is done in a Chinese artistic style, its subject is rooted in my passion for all things Malaysian,” she said at the painting’s certification ceremony by the MBR at The Pavilion in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

The painting was certified by MBR founder Datuk Danny Ooi and proclaimed as an MBR entry by Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

Shafie said the painting ought to be submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for consideration.

It took the 60-something Lee, the wife of former Health Minister the late Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, eight years to create the watercolour masterpiece, which she plans to exhibit next year.

Businesswoman Lee, whose maiden name is Chang Yow Fang, is self-taught in Chinese art but later became the student of well-known artist Chong Back Tee for three years.

“I started to be passionate about Chinese paintings in 1988. I found painting them fulfilling and thus looked for a teacher for guidance.

“After that I began to devote five to six hours a day to paint,” she said.

In 1997, Lee was invited to participate in the “International Peace Trophy World Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition” in Xian, China, where one of her works received a bronze medal.

In the same year, she held an exhibition at Menara Maybank, Kuala Lumpur, where proceeds from the sale of her 76 paintings went to the Phoenix Welfare Foundation.

She formed the foundation to promote welfare activities and provide financial assistance to the less fortunate.

Recently, she won another prize at the first “Beijing International Fan-Leaf Art Exhibition” organised by the International Exhibition Agency of China’s Cultural Ministry.

She has also been appointed as an overseas consultant artist by the Shaanxi Yan Huang Calligraphy and Painting Art Academy.

Lee’s painting was also nominated for an award at the “1997 World Chinese Painting Exhibition” in Beijing.

“I prefer to draw landscape pictures of mountains and waterfalls even though they take a longer time to complete,” she said.

“Painting landscapes gives me peace and happiness and I’ll continue to replicate my achievements in art, if not do better, since I believe in living life to the fullest, doing what I like most.”

Lee, a mother of two, only “broke away” from “high society” life when her husband retired from politics in 1977.

She went back to her motherland — Singapore — to start an import-export and property development business in 1982 and counts Kuala Lumpur’s Wisma Murni, an eight-storey service apartment in Jalan Imbi, as among her achievements.

In her early days, she acted in seven Hong Kong films, after being crowned Miss Singapore in 1966.

“My involvement in business did not erase my interest in art. I have loved art since childhood, and began with simple pictures of birds,” she said.

Lee said she loved painting large masterpieces not to “show off” or “create world records”, but to “be in sync” with her very nature.

“I love to paint large because I’m one who speaks and laughs loudly. When I hold up the brush I can thus only paint big works of art,” she said, adding that she gets easily engrossed in her work.

“This method of painting not only allows me to enrich myself spiritually and challenges myself, but also plans my golden years. I combine art with charity, as I believe everyone has to give back to society and help the less fortunate achieve their dreams.”

Lee combines Oriental and Western styles in her works of art and emphasises striking colours to bring out natural scenes in Malaysia and the region.

“My love of art is also translated into gardening. At home, I love to decorate and landscape the garden in my personal way,” she said.

The Phoenix Welfare Foundation can be contacted at 03-2095-9299

 

 

 


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