(Texts extracted from First One-man Art Exhibition Catalogue - Prabhakara 1987.)
Art in Singapore is noteworthy for its understanding of the abstract possibilities of two dimensional form, and for its pursuit of beauty and uplifting spiritual values. Both of these abound in the work of Jimmy Quek, but are combined with an exhilarating sense of colour.
Beauty in nature and the movement and change which is life, are recurring subjects in this artist's work. Water is featured in many pieces, but differently each time. In Wave, power and grandeur are communicated by the scale and grandeur of the composition, the strength of gesture and richness of blue pigment. The contrasting delicacy of the merest touch of white spray enhances the above, and adds a fleeting temporal quality.
The transience and mutability, the infinite possibilities of change and movement in water, fascinates the artist. In Water, Life, Mercurial 2 and Rock, the paint itself dashes across the canvas, rebounds or flurries into subtle configurations of mist and spray, and sometimes seems to evaporate away altogether.
But Jimmy claims no desire to limit himself to one style 'simply for the convenience of being easily recognized by a public', and Aerial View 2 is one striking example of his considered flexibility. It differs from his looser pieces, being broad, calm and strongly figurative. Unlike many artists, Jimmy has not left figurative interests behind as he developed towards the abstract. This recent work combines both. The idea of openness and serenity is produced directly by the picturesque view of patchwork fields, but the effect is enhanced by gentle harmonies of greens, and the sense of flatness communicated by the high horizon and by the smooth texture of the paint itself. The meandering curves of the river give life and movement to the composition, just as they give life in reality to the surrounding country.
In other works, Jimmy's unusual impasto technique often tempts the viewer to enjoy the interaction of the layers and colour and texture and shape of paint, as well as whatever reality they might suggest. In several compositions, he replaces the traditionally dark line with a lighter, brighter one. A fluid gesture in chrome orange or an outline in crimson can thus interact as colour, as well as defining shape and movement.
Such experiments highlight Jimmy's general preoccupation and sensitivity with colour. Works like Untitled and Aerial View 2 show a mastery of the cool, muted harmonious tones and mood popular in Singapore art. The equally traditional red, of Chinese New Year, Guo Tai Min An and Causation is handled with both spirit and the control necessary for this difficult shade. It does not become heavy or over-dominant, yet retains it potency. One way Jimmy achieves this is to juxtapose equally vivid colours, orange or Paris blue, which simultaneously compete with and enhance the red.
Colour is never merely factual. It plays a part in composition, as in The Fairground, where the dynamics of the colour reconcile the difficult relationship between the circular and rectangular shapes. In Guo Tai Min An irrelevant foreground objects
Here, and in his purer abstract works, vivacity of colour becomes an end it itself. In the latter, Jimmy is free to exhibit more idiosyncratic orchestrations of colour. He tries unusual combinations of colour. He tries unusual combinations; for example, Paris Blue, rust and moss green. He shows an interest in giving conventionally gentle shades, pastel yellow, pink or turquoise, a greater impact by brushing them broadly over the last layers. The result, as in Surf, is an exciting tension and contradiction of expectations, as the softness of the colour itself counterpoints its own strength of gesture, or a delicate shade confronts a vivid one.
Despite the apparent range of subjects and styles presented by this young artist, most of his works distinguish themselves in terms of almost musical sensitivity to abstract pleasures and colour, shape and movement, yet keep a foothold in the figurative. The delightful balance between the two can tantalize and provoke us. Even the least figurative, such as Mercurial II, include a horizontal strip at the top to introduce an illusive suggestion of a landscape, whereas Rock has been signed on the back so that it can either remain true to its title, or be hung another way up.
Jimmy continues the picturesque and abstract tradition of painting in Singapore, and provides a welcome splash of colour, dynamism, and a reassuring curiosity.