Executed in 1957, Goats heralds Soo Pieng’s acute attentiveness to scientific color theories, as well as the development of his modern compositional style. With Soo Pieng’s inclusion of newfound Southeast Asian subject materials and motifs into his paintings, the richness of his visual renderings illuminate how the minutiae in design and visual texture can influence the narrative of a masterpiece so greatly. Perhaps inspired by the natural and sociological beauty of Balinese life, the stylized silhouettes of each goat are imbued with liveliness and motion, as if they could leap over their enclosure at any given moment. Yet they graze peacefully, content with the idyllic serenity of their perimeters, evoking a peaceful resonance with the viewer. Keeping to the Nanyang style that emerged in Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s, which originated from none other than the master himself, Soo Pieng depicts the angularities of the goats’ bodies, outlining their musculature with deft strokes of black oil, so that their individual figures stand out amongst the canvas. Contributing to the distinctiveness between each goat is Soo Pieng’s confident application of scientific color theories, as he pays particular mindfulness to the nature of complementary colors. Note how the contrasts between each tone stand out – Soo Pieng’s fruitful experimentations with color are evident in this piece, as he adheres to a monochromatic palette, and relies on nuanced tones of burgundy, browns, golds, and beige to generate depth, movement and dimension. It is with this unusual early period work that we witness Soo Pieng’s mastery of visual hybridity, as he lends from cubism compositional styles, as well as Western and Chinese painting conventions to create a sense of spatiality. An alluring and tranquil exhibition of Soo Pieng’s halcyon days, it is worth noting that he only painted a handful of oil painting during this execution period, making this present lot all the more an extremely rare and coveted masterpiece.
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