About Painting

Harlequin and His Companion


Pablo Picasso. Harlequin and His Companion, 1901, Oil on canvas, 73x60cm. Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

I was reading a 2013 Number 1 issue of the Interior Design and came across this painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso who needs no introduction.  I decided to pry into this painting.

Harlequin and His Companion, a painting using oil medium on canvas, was among the earliest pieces to bear Picasso’s signature, which he began using that year, around 1901.  Picasso’s interest in social outcasts such as street performers or saltimbanques (French word for acrobats); doted from his days as a student in Barcelona.  He frequented the café and witnessed the urban poverty brought about by industrialization.  Street performers, such as the figure of the harlequin represented for Picasso the dark side of the city and were the subject in his work over the next few years.

Harlequin and His Companion featured two colourful characters which predate Picasso’s iconic Blue Period pieces.  Both characters were seated too close for comfort together with contemplative expression.  Their closeness exuded a need of solace in each other company.  However, the empty space on the harlequin’s left side and the tightness of space for his companion suggested that the harlequin was the one in need of support and companionship.  The lady was dressed in her bright orange-gold long-sleeved dress and her facial expression was melancholic staring directly at the viewer; whereas the harlequin was looking at the other side full of apprehension, as suggested by his nail biting.


Most people know or seen Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower, but how many people knows about Egon Schiele, Gustave Klimt, Anselm Kiefer or Piet Mondrian’s sunflowers?  I think it might be interesting to create a gallery of sunflower paintings rendered by different artists.

Vincent van Gogh

Sunflower by Vincent van Gogh

Piet Mondrian

Sunflower by Piet Mondrian

Paul Gauguin

Sunflower by Paul Gauguin

Gustave Klimt

Sunflower by Gustave Klimt

Fernando Botero

Sunflower by Fernando Botero

Georgia O'Keeffe

Sunflower by Georgia O’Keeffe

Egon Schiele

Sunflower by Egon Schiele

Claude Monet

Sunflower by Claude Monet

Anselm Kiefer

Sunflower by Anselm Kiefer

Lotus Pond Encountering a Stranger

Chua Ek Kay Lotus Pond Encountering a Stranger 90x97cm.png

Chua Ek Kay. Lotus Pond Encountering a Stranger. Ink and Pigments on paper, 90x97cm.

In Lotus Pond Encountering a Stranger, change that happens in a split moment is captured in the painting.  It is a form of consciousness of his surrounding during his immersive studies which is often overlooked by people due to the hectic schedules in life.

Chua’s knowledge of life, personal experiences and intuitions merged into his paintings which helped to bring the viewer’s consciousness to what has been overlooked. Chua’s painting was influenced by the concept of xie yi imparted by Fan Chang Tien of the Shanghai School who taught that the inspiration of a painting can have no other purpose (如是而已, 别无他旨) and yet somehow be embedded with ‘ideas’, creating a platform for sharing thoughts between the painter and the viewer.

In Lotus Pond Encountering a Stranger, Chua has personalized the lotus pond as suggested by the use of word ‘encounter’ in the title. The painter ought to become the object to be painted to study the object inwardly with the mind.  Su Tung Po’s popular quote “one did not paint the bamboo but became the bamboo”, which is to keep the mind void of all interferences and ceases to be outside of the object but blending with the object.

In a painting, a clue or two may be supplied by the painter but usually, it is the viewers who complete the forms and significances out of their perception and interpretation. If the reflection of being was in Chua’s mind during the execution of Lotus Pond Encountering a Stranger, the ring of void in the painting may reflects the story of an encounter by a Zen master.  One day, while meditating in his garden, Basho[1] heard a frog jumping into his little pond.  Spontaneously, he uttered the words in a famous haiku[2]:

 The old pond;

A frog jumps in:

Sound of Water

Three simple sentences reflect the notion of being,  that true enlightenment is not found in any book but in one’s own consciousness; one can only live in the present moment and be conscious of the surrounding as the realities of life are most truly seen in everyday things and little actions.

[1] Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), a Japanese poet known for his composition of haiku infused with the spirit of Zen Buddhism

[2] Haiku – Japanese poem of seventeen syllables in three lines, five, seven, and five. It is usually composed by the monks in an instantaneous and intuitive rendition seized directly by the heart.


Vincent van Gogh and Foxgloves

Pictures on Floxglove taken at Garden by the Bay. Surprised to know that it is associated with Vincent van Gogh. Pretty bells on slender stems (Digitalis purpurea), there are around 22 species bloom in shades of red, yellow, pink, purple and white, often with a beautiful spotted throat and reach heights from 15 to 150cm. The foxglove is also known as fairy thimbles, witches’ gloves and dead men’s bells. The drug Digoxin is derived from Foxglove. And the side effects affects the vision, imparting everything with a yellow hue and a halo. It is thought that some of Van Gogh paintings were painted under the influence of this drug which was prescribed at the time for epilepsy and mania (he might be  suffered from both) In the Portrait of Dr Gachet, a vase of foxgloves appears in the foreground.


Vincent van Gogh.  Portrait of Dr Gachet, 1890, Oil on canvas 67x56cm

Jase Lim

Foxglove at GBTB