Bearing all the key characteristics of Soo Pieng’s late signature style, To The Market
is a seminal work by the celebrated Singaporean artist that employs many of the quintessential motifs of the artist’s oeuvre. The picture of two male figures initially manifested as a sketch in 1952 titled To the Market
, and Soo Pieng completed the painting with the same composition years later, in 1980, following his second trip to Bali. The men bear placid, stylized facial features and are rendered with slender limbs. In many ways they epitomize quotidian kampong
life, as they go about their daily routes, wearing conical straw hats and simple sarongs
around their hips. While many of Soo Pieng’s late works illustrate seated women engaged in an activity, To The Market
a prime example of the artist’s studies of the Southeast Asian region as he captures the quiet dignity of local folk.
Shaded by the branches of tropical trees, two men cross paths on their way to or from the market. The frontal figure carries large bunches of coconuts, tied together and swung over his shoulder, while the figure behind him balances a long stick with a hanging birdcage at its end. A truly balance composition of movement and stillness, To The Market
carries the hallmarks of Soo Pieng’s mature figurative style as the pair’s streamlined bodies and almond-lidded eyes resemble wayang
puppets. The artist sought to lend his subjects a dignified presence, which is most evident in the titular man whose calm demeanor betrays the laborious task of carrying heavy coconuts across town.
While Soo Pieng’s overall palette is quintessentially Southeast Asian – it’s muted, but warm overtone suggesting the thick and heated atmosphere of the tropics – it is the pop of orange at the belt of the man facing the viewer that brightens the scene. Almost florescent and iridescent, the orange further highlights the detailing in the man’s sarong – created by scrapping lines and patterns out of still-wet paint.