Kean Onn See

Reminiscence, 2023

75 × 100 cm
Reminiscence This carved and painted woodblock depicts a moment during that perfect afternoon in my studio. I kicked off my Japanese slippers and removed my work apron. I was about to leave the room and there it was, a moment of stillness and gratitude. Growing up as a child in Malaysia I once secretly wanted to be a painter. Back then it was a childish dream. As an adult I embraced the life of an artist after the death of my father during the pandemic. I knew it would be a tough road, but “Do things when you are young, don’t wait”, Dad said. Those parting words were his last gift to me, the best gift. I love my studio. It is bright. It is small. It is peaceful. It is perfect. The paintings on the pegboard have new homes now. They have spirited away, but the memories of creating remain, and fill me with gratitude and a touch of nostalgia, if not melancholy. I miss him.

Kean Onn See’s paintings are drawn, carved, and then painted on woodblock. Every stage of this creative process requires a different set of skills, which must come together technically and creatively, to form the finished work.

Every work begins on paper. The image is then transferred to a woodblock. Using both traditional and modern engraving tools, the lines of the image are carefully carved to achieve the desired textures.

Finally, the carved woodblock is sanded, before it is lightly painted with at least four layers of acrylic. The goal is to create textures by layering the paints strategically, and at the same time, revealing the natural grain of the woodblock.

Primarily self-taught, Kean Onn See started painting as a hobby in his early 30s and pursued this interest while working full-time.

Over the years, he has experimented with different media and genres before fInally adopting painting on carved woodblock as his preferred medium.

Inspired by the process of Japanese woodblock prints, and his love of carving and painting, he continues to explore new techniques and tools to further develop this meticulous way of making art.

A finalist of Sir John Sulman Prize 2023 and Mosman Art Prize 2023, Kean Onn See was born in Malaysia and now lives and works in Sydney.

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