Painted two years after his first trip to Bali, Padi Fields demonstrates the immense impact of that very expedition for Cheong Soo Pieng and his fellow pioneers of the Nanyang Art Movement. Rendered in a highly sophisticated yet intense chromatic palette, the current work is a rare and early example of Soo Pieng’s acute eye and immaculate execution. The artist’s 1950s works are considered some of his most experimental and count as exceptional in his oeuvre – Soo Pieng only painted a handful of oil paintings during this period. An alluring landscape of radiant hues, Padi Fields holds true to some of the salient themes of Cubism and Fauvism yet divulges artist’s longing develop an idiosyncratic vernacular himself.
In the wake of the trip to Bali, one sees the inspiration Cheong Soo Pieng drew from the island’s cultural milieu and tropical landscape. The impression left on Soo Pieng’s own artistic consciousness was strong; the painter himself readily acknowledges that the sojourn was “a landmark event” that “completely changed his approach to art."
Here, Soo Pieng stages a dramatic play of colors – the various tiers of the padi fields are simplified into angular shapes then filled with bold colors, emblematic of Fauvist theories. Yellows, turquoise, oranges, ochres, lime greens and warm purples are juxtaposed next to each other. Although the placement of these bright blocks of color is seemingly random, further study of the overall effect reveal the artist’s intentionality and heightened sense of expressionism. Just as Henri Matisse and André Derain were interested in the scientific color theories regarding complementary colors, here Soo Pieng employs pairs of colors, side-by-side to make each hue look brighter.
The artist’s appetite for fresh applications of Eastern theories of harmony and balance is also evident in the current work. While the rigid angularity of the hill in the foreground lends structure to the work, the background of the work is painted with a loose spontaneity. The ochre green trees, in rolling rows, recede into the far distance, towards the brilliant blue sea. Furthermore, the strong black outline that cuts the painting diagonally creates a subtle tension between the two spatial divides.
Ultimately, Padi Fields is a masterful exercise of symphonic color and form, elevating what was often a romanticized landscape, into a naive yet sublimely beautiful scene.
 Yeo Wei Wei Ed., Cheong Soo Pieng: Visions of Southeast Asia, The National Art Gallery, Singapore, 2010, p.94
Ibid, p. 93
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