Description: A man and a woman – the perennial multi-layered theme in John Lee Joo For’s creative works in paint and in print. Two beings of different sex juxtaposed together fused in union as a consummation, and as the sacrosanct family unit in his Born-Again beliefs, or as a platonic friendship veering closely to romance, and as fornication for plain lust. They are about temptation and sins, fame and glory. In his heady day, John Lee Joo For, by his own outward confession, was a philanderer and his art and plays were filled with salacious overtones. Here, the female, obviously drop-dead gorgeous, has a legion of suitors, on her left and behind her, like smitten puppies ready to do her bidding. John Lee was the toast of the day, with his play, Son Of Zen, being shown at the Hatch-Billops Studio Players, off Broadway, in New York on Feb 2, 1969. He had some 30 staged plays and 30 Pop-Malayan radio plays, including The Propitious Kidnapping Of The Cultured Daughter (1978), which as staged in Penang as well as in Australia. John Lee single-handedly invented the first few chapters of Malaysian drama. He won the Best Playwright Award for three consecutive years. He wrote, performed, directed and produced them. The painting was at a time when he had a one-man show in Kansas University City after another at the International Institute in New York. It came a year after his ground-breaking Oriento-Byzantine series of works in 1968, with its grandiose manifesto. The near life-and-death situation he experienced on May 13, 1969, eventually led to his migration to Australia in 1973 (A Tumultous Struggle: The Life And Art And Times Of John Lee Joo For, John Lee Joo For Retrospective, by Ooi Kok Chuen). But there was another reason. “I got frightened by the curtailment of my freedom, not only the political but the creative expressions and my spiritual search,” he told writer Ooi Kok Chuen in an interview in Melbourne in 2008 for his retrospective.John Lee graduated from the Brighton College of Art, England, 1959; Camberwell School of Art, London, 1962; and the Royal College of Art, London, 1963. He was given a Retrospective, first by The Art Gallery, Penang, in 1995, and then another by the Penang State Art Gallery in 2008. A consummate artist, John Lee’s biggest drama achievement was the staging of The Call Of Guadalupe. His first novel was called Twenty-Seven Days Has February followed by Sara And Sanjiro, a novel he co-wrote with his son-in-law Stephen Gray.
Dimensions: 65cm x 95cm
Artist or Maker: LEE JOO FOR, JOHN
Medium: Mixed media on paper
Provenance: Private collection, Penang
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