A Painter of Sublime Landscapes
Jimmy is the name given him by his schoolmates. Prabhakara (Sanskrit meaning "store of light") is the name he prefers to be known by. Prabhakara (Jimmy Quek) is a serious artist who has made a name for himself in the Singapore art circle as one of the more promising young contemporaries and a painter of sublime landscapes.
Prabhakara excelled in art in his school days, and his lifelong interest in a professional art career was sparked of by an exhibition he saw in his youth. His foundation in art was laid when he did a short course at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1973. The need to have a regular paying job postponed his original intention of immediately becoming a professional artist. He enrolled for a business study course at Ngee Ann Technical College in 1974 to study business administration, accounting and marketing. After graduation in 1977 he joined a piling firm and stayed with it for three years. Then he started his own design company working on 3-dimensional assignments and graphic designs. The designer's job was nearer to his heart's love for art. For a brief period he was contented. Like
most young men. Prabhakara was energetic, restless and ambitious. He felt restricted working under the dictates of clients and having to meet deadlines. he yearned for freedom unlimited - freedom to do what he liked, when and how a piece of work should be carried out. He was prepared to pay a price for this freedom, and so it was that after four years as his own design manager, he severed ties with the business world and struck out on his own as an independent professional artist. His new found confidence came to him after a short stint with La Salle College of Art, 1985-86 and his many successes in art exhibitions and competitions. He was also encouraged by the support given him by Della Butcher's Gallery of Fine Art.
At La Salle, Prabhakara painted realistic landscapes, still-lifes and figures. The focus was on orchestration of colors and rich textural surfaces applied in heavy, vigorous strokes. Shapes and forms were boldly delineated in a subconscious attempt to bring out the abstract quality inherent in a landscape or a still-life. These early experiments were developed in 1987 into a series of fluid landscapes in which the heavy impasto had given way to diaphanous brush strokes that were charged with an energy and expressiveness that bespoke a mind that had penetrated beneath the superficial appearance of subject matter. This was the first breakthrough from realism to a semi-abstract art form for the artist.
As Prabhakara probed deeper to discover the essence of a panoramic landscape seen from an elevated viewpoint, his paintings attained a breadth of vision totally absent in his earlier works. His 1990 series of landscapes is a felt "presence" of the awesome spectacle of the majesty and grandeur of atmospheric space. The earlier paintings despite being semi-abstract in concept, were still firmly grounded in visual reality. This later series has moved further away, relying more on felt sensation and the creation of forms with free-flowing brush strokes. Always there is this swirl of colors, harmonious or clashing at times, with a strong red, orange, or yellow, to give intensity to strong, tumultuous movements in the foreground. Calm and peace is restored in the background where an identifiable feature, such as a high horizon, a solitary peak, or a headland, brings back the reality he started with. In this 1990 series, Prabhakara has reached artistic maturity displaying consummate technical skill and high emotive power in his response to his theme.
Since 1991, Prabhakara has shifted his theme to concentrate on movements of figures in the streets, and in MRT stations. He dispenses with reference points reducing his paintings to space and planes. It is the movement of figures that counts, and not the figures per se. This line of development can be seen to point to only one direction - total abstraction.
The source of Prabhakara's art philosophy is anchored in Buddhism. He subscribes fully to the embalming influence of daily meditation. He pointed out that in meditation, the mind is set free to dwell on a higher plane of consciousness.
Calm and tranquillity is restored to a turbulent mind, and it is in such moments that many of his art solutions were worked out. He cited the early example of his 'tree' series. he started a landscape with rubber trees and left it unfinished because he ran
out of ideas. For years the tree idea was at the back of his mind. Then one day, after meditation, it dawned on him to paint the sound and movement of trees rather than their physical attributes. Since then, he has great faith in employing a meditative approach in his painting. He claimed that meditation has given him a propensity for change, and that he is more daring and adventurous in his search to find himself in art.
Prabhakara is an artist on the go. He has come some way up the ladder of success in his chosen profession. He is still young, and
with the kind of dedication and commitment that have sustained him all these years, he should have no difficulty securing his niche in the forefront of Singapore art.
Chia Wai Hon
16th April, 1992