Born in 1951, the Penangite Ong Oh Hup Hoe has always felt a close inclination to the arts from his very early years having participated in art competitions in schools and community institutions. Armed with a honours degree in pharmacy, Ong Oh went through a fleeting but successful career in the pharmaceutical world. Without a thought upon his retirement, he went on to immerse himself into his art as a full time artist and has been actively painting for the past 10 years.
In speaking with the artist, Ong Oh reveals that he continued to be actively involved in the arts and designs field amidst the hustle and bustle of corporate life. Through these years, he was involved in a range of artworks from paintings to even design of magazine covers, an escape to peace and serenity.
Interestingly so, his journey into art primarily started during his varsity days where he cheekily shared the secret to his corporate success; peddling his art paintings door-to-door in his hometown of Penang to sustain his university education. This truly marks the beginnings of a promising artist where he too had his share of interest from way back in the 1970s.
During his youthful days, texture paintings were primarily his forte. The artist went on to introduce geometric styles into his paintings, garnering much attention from his peers and interested collectors. These paintings were mainly flat abstraction celebrating feminism, with much influence from the Egyptian figures. The Three Unwise is representative of his works in the 1970s. Subsequently one witnesses the apparent progress of the artist as he expands his horizons and presentation of his classic geometric style, clearly depicted through Control, a painting completed in 1992.
In the new millennium, Ong Oh’s commitment to his art passion is unmistakable where he consistently strives and experiments with different paintings techniques to produce artworks that are of high quality. One essentially senses his spirituality as he pours his emotions and life insights into his art.
In his first ever solo exhibition ‘The Journey Begins’ in 2005, one can truly witness his ability to play and work with different mediums and painting techniques. The Drop, carrying Rothko influences, represents the fall of man from the prime of his life.
The exhibition truly marks a turning point as he progresses to present more colours and curves to his artworks. Overone was a conceptually strong figurative painting that addresses the social issues of man. However The Angel is the key painting of the exhibition, calling much attention as viewers were taken by the abstract angelic female figures in contrasting hues. The texture of The Angel was also a true eye-catcher as it aims to draw our attention to submerge into the painting.
The Forest series was the key theme for his second solo exhibition, ‘The Journey Continues’ in 2007, with none other than the forest landscape as its focus. What’s Beyond was the significant painting of the series, where it provides the viewer with a rich perceptual experience as the artist draws the viewer to an underlying message; to consider your strengths before venturing into the unknown. Within this show, the artist provides us with a sneak peek into his 7th Heaven series with Dawn, In Between and Night. The complexity of the trees and detailing of his Forest series led him to a new form of painting. Dawn, In Between and Night gives a kaleidoscopic view of vibrancy and life, made up of 7 panels and pleasant choice of colours.
In 2011, Core Design Gallery hosted the 7th Heaven show. The Cycle marks the beginning of the series, depicting the cycle of life, the rise and fall of civilization. 7th Heaven celebrates life’s energy in a multi-toned 7 panels of pleasant colour hues. Such vibrant hues of colours create the kaleidoscopic effect, projecting cool and calm serenity. This series proves to be a hallmark of the artist’s career as he welcomes his audiences with feelings of joy and calmness, whilst viewers alike have expressed awe and auras of positive energy. The not-to-be-missed painting is none other than 7th Heaven series 8. The magical gold hues of the trees’ leaves are subtly yet amazingly complementing and fading gently into the background amidst the contrasting colour shades of blue and red. One truly cannot miss the spiritual aura and energy within the painting. The painting truly never fails to draw the viewer to a second look, where upon closer scrutiny, one becomes fascinated with the subtle hints of feng shui elements of prosperity. With this realization, it becomes evident that these feng shui elements are truly present in this series of paintings.
Being largely self-taught, Mr Ong Oh exudes a passionate commitment and clear versatility to his art with the differing techniques and styles displayed. Remarkably so, his masterly play of dimensions and colours generates multiple layers of moods and energy within a single painting. In essence, his works are nothing short of a true pleasing enigma.