BEHIND THE CANVAS
Born in Singai, Bau District, Sarawak in 1939, Raphael Scott Ahbeng was educated in Bath Academy of Arts, United Kingdom. He has been a teacher of the Arts and English language, a cartoonist and even a radio producer. As a painter for over 60 years, RSA is recognised as the most renowned abstract artist from Malaysia Borneo.
I have always been fascinated by the little world around me… which I believe is just as well. When I first started painting so very long ago… my real intention was somewhat selfish. I did not want people to look at what I was trying to do. Those stealing glances made me mad when in fact people were simply trying to give me praise. Art I considered then should be absolutely private and confidential.
After many years of this strange feeling I began to open up… and even tried to do drawings in front of my classmates. That was really the beginning of the art that was to influence my life and lifestyle. I began to nurture this somewhat awkward influence in the year 1954… when I had a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner. I never ate well before that because I had to do all the cooking for myself when I attended primary school. Life in a mission school just after the war was all guesswork. The teachers were sadistic and uncompromising. I was beaten constantly just because my main interest was sketching and drawing.
The Lord was kind when I entered Batu Lintang government primary school in 1954. It was like a pick-me-up… from then on there was no stopping me from becoming the boy who was able to tell jokes through art. Do I think art has been good to me all these years ? I do!
The desire to show that I can produce the best possible image is what drives me. It is the thin line dividing skill and madness that matters.. An anecdote for all my friends and relatives who have had faith in me: “ One king is enough for any kingdom. One good and lasting job is enough for sanity’s sake… art says it all” I have never had it so good. You could be me.