Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Voice November 4, 2009

Wednesday November 4, 2009

The Clement element


With his parents’ unwavering support, Clement Ooi emerges as an artist in his own right.

CLEMENT Ooi, 20, is in his element when he draws and paints. His flair for detailed drawing and skilful play of colours has won him awards and recognition, locally and internationally.

Clement started drawing at the age of five as a means to communicate and to amuse himself. Over the years, he got better at his craft, thanks to the tireless efforts of his parents, Ooi Bee Lam and Annie Kam, to provide him with every opportunity to excel.

Clement, who has a photographic memory, takes delight in etching every intricate detail of his subject. His series on the popular ornamental plant, Heliconia, is a case in point. In capturing the essence of Heliconia Rostrata or commonly known as Hanging Lobster Claw, Clement pencilled every single vein of the leaves and stems and splashed the cascading flowers in blazing red.

The sharp contrast created by the juxtaposition of sketching in charcoal and painting with acrylic, showcases his ingenuity in bringing out the best in the two different styles of expression.

Clement employs the same technique with his series on orchids with equally stunning results. He painstakingly inked every line on the petals and stems in black and added a hint of colour to the lips of each flower. The deliberate, prudent use of colour against a backdrop of black and white etching, highlights the loveliness of the prized tropical blooms.

The wow factor continues with his latest works on ornate leaves with their array of pigments and shapes. The pattern of the veins is brilliantly captured on canvas. Nothing escapes his eyes. The interplay of hues, the contours of foliage and even the very outline of each stoma on every leaf, are explicitly and splendidly rendered.

Autistic artistry: Clement Ooi with one of his paintings

Clement may have inherited his artistic streak from his mother who enjoyed her share of accolades for her painting of flowers during her school days,

It is to her credit that Clement has developed his signature detailed drawings of plants. “During my walks, I am usually on the look-out for leaves, flowers and even weeds which I think Clement would take delight in drawing,” says Kam.

But Clement’s talent is not limited to painting plants. He is just as adept at sketching with live models as he is with his animated drawings of his favourite cartoon character, Pokemon.

Clement also dabbles in abstract painting and embellishes the frenetic pace of city life with his kaleidoscope of buildings and people.

It may be difficult to pinpoint which genre Clement belongs to but one thing is certain: his art is his way of communicating with the world.

While Clement may be spontaneous when it comes to his craft, he is less so with words because he has autism, a learning disorder that can affect communication and social skills. Clement’s capability inspires families with autistic children, giving them hope to contend with a society lacking in support services for those with learning difficulties.

“When Clement was diagnosed at age three, there was little information on autism. But in time, we connected with other affected families and rallied behind each other,” recalls Kam.

Although his years in primary school were very trying for the family as there was no interventional therapy available for students with autism, the Oois remained steadfast in seeking help for their son.

Kam is a driving force literally as she ferries Clement around to fuel his passion for art, while ensuring that he makes time for school and recreational activities such as bowling. Clement also joins a theatre club for the learning disabled.

His talent did not go unnoticed. Four years ago, lawyer-cum-art gallery owner Kerk Boon Leng took an instant liking to Clement’s art and hosted his first solo exhibition in 2007.

Kerk, who owns Meusse Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur, speaks passionately about Ooi’s works. “Clement is first and foremost, a gifted artist. His autism is secondary. He is an artist – an exceptional one at that– who happens to have autism,” he contends.

With the benefit of more than 20 years of experience in buying and viewing paintings, Kerk has arrived at a point where he feels art should simply be enjoyed because it is pleasing to the eye. And he believes Clement’s art falls in this category. “There is a danger when art critics attempt to over-analyse and try to second-guess that the artist is conveying some deep, hidden meaning in his art,” he says.

Two years after he held his first solo exhibition, Clement is now hosting his second one in Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Over 30 pieces of his masterpieces are exhibited.

As he celebrates his art and adulthood, Clement is learning how to dance and play the drum. It would be interesting to see how he would capture the movements and mood should he choose to put them on canvas.

Clement’s work can be viewed at www.clement and

One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. Feedback on the column can be sent to

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