Lam siong onn

“Simplicity is the core of art and beauty” is the principle that underpins Lam Siong Onn’s art.  

Using watercolours as his favoured medium, Lam’s transforms everyday scenes in Asia into geometric contemporary landscapes. Compositionally his paintings are an assemblage of complex subjects distilled into simple shapes while retaining the core essentials. Whether it is a casual jetty nearby his home in Malaysia or a bustling street in the heart of Hong Kong, his works capture the mood of the place and effuse an evocative sense of familiarity. Using primarily flat brushes, an unusual practice for watercolour painting, Lam creates transparent, vibrant and precise geometries which he combines and juxtaposes, coherently uniting the images with a clear and confident poise. Consistent throughout his work is the emphasis on light and the use of the paper’s crisp whiteness to create a sense of brightness and brilliance. The influence from modern artists Paul Klee, Mark Rothko and Frank Webb is also evident in his work.

In his youth, Lam aspired to be a concert violinist. His musical ability was noticed by the Conductor of the Sarawak British Police Orchestra who invited him to perform with them. Several years later, Lam had to reluctantly put his musical ambitions aside to work as a primary school teacher and support his seven younger siblings. In his twenties, Lam heard over the radio an interview with legendary violinist, Fritz Kreisler, who mentioned that his greatest regret in life was not to have pursued watercolour painting. This was an inspirational encouragement to Lam to rekindle his other natural gift - painting. In the twenty years that followed, Lam practised and experimented while working as an art teacher and part-time draftsman for an architect firm. He finally devoted himself to full-time painting in his forties once his own children had grown up. 

Lam Siong Onn was born in 1937 in Sarawak, Malaysia. Self-taught, he worked as a teacher, draftsman and cinema billboard painter before turning full-time artist. He currently lives and works in Kuching, Malaysia. He has exhibited extensively locally and internationally over the last 25 years, including in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Belgium, England, Jordan, Brazil and the United States.  A founding member of the Sarawak Artists Society, he also contributes to a large number of watercolour and art alliances. In 2000, his work “Rush Hour” was a winning entry representing Malaysia at the Winsor & Newton worldwide painting competition and became part of touring exhibition shown around the world (London, Stockholm, New York).  He has been recognised with lifetime achievement awards, notably by the Malaysian National Visual Arts Gallery in Kuala Lumpur (2013) and as a First Sarawak Generation Fine Art Artist (2008). His works are collected in private and public collections including the Malaysian National Visual Arts Gallery, Bank Negara Malaysia and Galeri Petronas, Lee Hwa & Chung Kiew Bank, Shell Company, Sarawak Museum and the Sarawak State Library.