SOFT-SPOKEN Tay Lu Yee appears just like any other college girl, but in her lies an abundance of talent in art.
At just 24, Tay has already sold eight pieces of art for prices ranging from RM500 to RM2,100 apiece, and has even showcased her art at exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur and Labuan.
A fresh graduate with a degree in Visual Art Technology from Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Tay uses ink pens to create her art.
Kota Kinabalu-born Tay recalled the times when she used to visit her mother’s birthplace in Kudat, where the traditional Rungus longhouse captured her heart and inspired her future artwork.
Tay’s artwork was displayed for the first time last year at RHB Banking Group’s third edition Art with Heart (AWH2019) art exhibition.
In fact, her artwork titled Rungus Longhouse sold an hour before the official opening of the exhibition.
How did you get into art?
“I never thought of getting into art. Before I stepped into university, I did not have any completed artwork. I had no idea what to draw and what to focus on.
“One of my university lecturers, Professor Dr Zaimie Sahibil said I could draw and encouraged me to look at the works of other artists.
“He advised me to focus on the things that I would like to share with the public through my drawings.
“So, I started doing research, making observations and drawing.
“Two artists inspired me, Emi Nakajima from Thailand and Olivia Kemp from Britain.”
What is your art’s main subject?
“The main subject of my artworks is traditional houses in Sabah, which are rarely found, these days. [For] example, the Rungus longhouses.
“I was born in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, while my mother was born in Kudat, at the upper north of Sabah.
“When I was young, I remember visiting Kudat and there were many traditional houses in Kudat. We can’t see traditional houses in Kota Kinabalu, except in the museum. So, I chose ‘Kudat’ and ‘traditional houses’ as my subject for art.
“Rungus is the largest community in Kudat … Thus, I chose to focus on the Rungus longhouses.
“I hope that through my art, people can appreciate the beauty of traditionally-made houses and other traditionally-made items.”
What kind of medium do you use?
“Mostly, I use a technical pen (ink) as my medium, because it can show the detail of strokes in my drawing. Although there is [technology that can] replace pens or take over hand-drawn artwork, the ink has its own unique beauty.
“I chose to use black and white art in the ‘Rungus longhouse’ series of drawings because I want to give a ‘strong feeling’ towards the scene, as if it is going back to the old times. In the past, television shows were in black-and-white. [Gradually], it became full of colours.
“Thus, I use black-and-white to represent the olden days. Besides using ink as the medium in my drawing, I also use watercolours and acrylic.”
How has drawing changed your life?
“Drawing gave me the opportunity to involve myself in different art events or exhibitions, and to have a deeper connection with other artists and their artworks.
“Besides that, drawing [opened] my heart and let me develop critical thinking in everything I see or feel, and to have a different perspective.”
What are your future projects?
“I am planning to draw a series of art focusing on [current] issues in the world. I hope that through my future artwork projects, I can raise awareness among people to express their concerns about the issues, to take action [and] to make a change.”
What are you passionate about?
“I am passionate about heritage and culture in all countries around the world. Nowadays, the world is becoming more scientific, and many things are replaced by the latest technology. Heritage and culture [are disappearing], day by day.
“Besides that, environmental issues, especially issues in Australia, draw my attention.”
Tay Lu Yee. – PHOTO COURTESY OF TAY LU YEE