Gerald in his little studio, sketching portraits of the donors who contributed to the welfare of the needy community in Kuching.

Throughout his life, Gerald Goh has always been passionate for art. Apparently, this has to do with a childhood spent amongst pottery makers and artists.

An artistic inclination from a young age

Gerald posing with his ceramic tiles mural.

Just as everyone has a little story that drives him, this is Gerald’s story. He is a third-generation potter in Sarawak. Having been raised in a pottery factory, he grew up amongst the clay and colourful mixtures, “And for that, I was nicknamed by my father ‘the muddy one’.”

In primary three, Gerald Goh impressed his art teacher with a painting of an apple.

When asked what distinguish his painting of an apple with his classmates’, he so funnily answered, “My then 20-year-old sister was an artist, and she painted the apple for me to ‘demonstrate’ the technique. It looked so real! My art teacher was shocked that it was done by a primary three nerd.”

rom there, he figured, “I have a reputation to keep, so it kept me on my toes, that I have to be good.”

He vividly recalled a moment during one hot afternoon, when he was six years old, squatting in front of his father’s potter’s wheel as he pulled up a chunk of clay and turned it into pots. “He noticed my ever-increasing interest in the craft, and gave me this encouraging line, ‘Learn how to paint nice paintings, and we can team up later, I make pots and you paint on it’.” Gerald said the words went on to spark his art career.

Gerald revealed that creating artwork on pottery is a tough job as clay artworks have to go through tedious scrutiny under the fuming heat of the kiln. “That ‘muddy’ experience has given me a foundation for perseverance and determination in my life thereafter.” It was also from those bits and pieces that his artistic inclination sprung — and by mixing around with pottery painters and pottery artists back in the days.

A painting of the street of Paris he painted while he was visiting the French capital.

Now at 52, Gerald is the president of the Sarawak Arts and Handicraft Association and the vice president of the Sarawak Artists Society. As an artist, he was greatly inspired by his father, “He was the greatest potter in Sarawak whose art-pieces are astonishing and a sight to behold,” said Gerald.

As a little boy, he was greatly influenced and surrounded by different forms of art. His dad was a potter, while his mom, despite not being a professional, performs in Chinese operas (and could memorise the whole play mimicking different voices of the characters). Meanwhile, his maternal grandfather was a principal who recites poetry and also does calligraphy. “I grew up in that kind of environment, so you can say that it was in my blood.”

As an artist, Gerald based his art from the cultural diversity of Sarawak, “Our state is rich in content and is extremely exciting in the sense of art. We are blessed with all these resources and it’s there for us to transform them into something that is so uniquely ours.”

His proudest moment was when he was able to represent Malaysia in numerous art festivals and showcase his artworks. At the same time, he is also glad that he was able to see how international artists manoeuvre their strokes to create the extraordinary.

“So no matter how proud I was boarding the plane, that same me is often reduced to merely a first-grade student in front of the maestros so I must say that I have yet to achieve my proudest moment.” To Gerald, there is always so much space between what he had done and what he could do further.

The artist disclosed that he would often be asked — “Gerald, you have seen half the world in your field, but why are you still in Sarawak?”

Gerald posing with his painting when he represented Malaysia in the Budayaw, Festival of the Arts.

ccording to him, the question would hit him quite hard a little time before he could state the obvious, “Unfortunately, we do not have enough appreciation for art in Sarawak.”

Addressing the issue, Gerald shared that this is why he has been pushing for opportunities to bring local artists out of Sarawak, to get them to be involved in exhibitions and art sharing with artists abroad.

“Through an art platform that I set up — the World Art Convention — I have been organising joint art-related activities including joint exhibitions, to link local artists with their counterparts in other countries.”

He hopes that all these initiatives and activities will expose local artists to open up their frontiers for more creativity. “At the same time, I also wish that it would expose the local communities to more art vibes, so that they can appreciate the art and the complexities behind it.”

His life’s mission is to present Sarawak to the world, in an international arena, regardless of the forms of art. He is currently venturing into filming and will be promoting this new form with enthusiasts who are passionate in the same field of arts.

Most recently, Gerald collaborated with Majlis Bandaraya Kuching Sarawak (MBKS) for a project called ‘Art for Heart’ to help the needy during the movement control order (MCO).

The project hopes to collect a minimum of RM100 donation for underprivileged families, by offering sketched portraits of the donors. The fund would be used to purchase basic food items and necessities for the families. Those interested can WhatsApp their names and number of families that they want to sponsor to 016-2792350 (Angeline Bong).