Friday, June 27, 2008

Remembering Cousin

The day Goh Sheow Sun lost his battle against the big C was the day the Taiwanese people experienced one of the biggest shake ups in their earth-quake history of the century (7.4 on the Richter Scale). That was 19-9-1999, just after my youngest brother got married and my parents were there visiting. Fortunately, they were in Taichung and other than some scary, almost violent vibrations, nothing actually fell apart in their neighborhood. The only thing that resulted was power failure and roads were closed for a while.

My cousin loved Art, but he had to survive. He could have done well in Kuala Lumpur, but he hated the place because one day, while alone in the house, some gangsters came and demanded 'protection' money. Badly shaken, he decided he didn't want the designing job offered by a pewter company. He refused to live in KL. He came back home to Penang.

He worked hard and created enough artworks (mostly copper or wood bust-relief carvings) for his own solo exhibition. It was held at the Penang Library. I had the original catalogue and pictures and kept them in my bookshelf for years until I moved to SP. I lost them somewhere in between. These included some catalogues which featured exhibitions in later years in which some of my paintings were exhibited among the works of some contemporary artists of Penang. I should have kept them in a safer place, but those were the years when art wasn't featuring an important part of my life. The bread and butter was. And a roof over our heads.

He later went to work for a towel factory in Butterworth as a designer. Some years later (after he offered his job to me) he moved up in the ranks but he switched his job location to an administrative department as a personnel officer. He eventually became the Personnel Manager. He still worked on his art during his leisure. But due to work commitments which very often took him till late at night, he had no time work on his commissioned artworks. That caused him to burn the midnight oil to get them done. That probably affected his health. Ten years after he was first diagnosed for cancer, operated on to remove it, the thing came back with a vengeance.

I just found his name in the list of Penang Artists but there were no photos or write ups on him or his works. That reminds me, I haven't been to his home in years since his mother's (my 1st aunt) gone, he's gone and his dad's gone too. As for his wife and son, it's been "Hi & bye" sometimes when we chance to meet at weddings, funerals or new year gatherings.

So, 14 July 2008 we dropped by in the evening before heading for home after a visit to parents, and 2nd aunt.  Mrs Goh was overjoyed to see us.  We learned that she's going to renovate the old house soon as it was overrun by termites which destroyed all her father-in-law's and Sheow Sun's artworks stored in the back room. 

Here's one left intact because it's hanging on the wall. 


Here's a shot of some his ancestors.


And one of the family in front of the house


  1. I'm sorry to hear that, Teh. It pinches my heart especially to a fellow artist who struggled to live and find meaning in his art.

  2. He found a balance but somehow life threw a spanner in.

  3. I don't remember seeing any of his artworks in his home. He didn't seem to have kept any around. They're all commissioned jobs. Anyone with photos of his works please forward to me. Thanks.

  4. Three years ago when I went back to Penang, I visited his family (sister-in-law), found some painting along with his father's works in the store room on the back yard, there was only one I found......

  5. I plan to drop by and pay them a visit next trip home.

  6. We did drop by. Termites beat me to those paintings. If only we'd been there earlier with digicams...