Love for Art

Edward Poynter The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon
The visit by Queen of Sheba to King Solomon by Sir Edward Poynter

During a visit to Sydney in 1999, I visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales and fell in love with a painting – ‘The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’ (1890) by Sir Edward Poynter. It is a large oil on canvas painting and when I saw it, it drew me in immediately and I spent a considerable time admiring its rich details, from the architectural perspective, the decorations, to the figures’ expressions and their costumes.

I remember feeling such a sense of awe, a tug of magic by the skill of the painter, evoking an undeniable feeling of fascination with a fluttering in my heart, which I had never felt before towards a work of art.

I grew up with mostly Chinese paintings and calligraphy at home, collected by my parents – beautiful paintings of roses, fruits, dragons and roosters, and striking calligraphy works of Chinese poetry that I cannot read. I suppose I have always taken for granted the graceful beauty of art displayed at home, selected by my mother’s discerning eye.

I took a course on art appreciation in college and while it gave me some familiarity of famous art works, from the Old Masters to contemporary American artists, I realized during the time in that Sydney art gallery, that viewing actual art works (particularly originals) is a unique experience to treasure.

My own love and appreciation for art has deepened over time, whenever I view not only famous original art pieces that I had previously seen or admired from books or pictures, but also contemporary paintings and sculptures at my friend’s art galleries – Wei-Ling Gallery and Wei-Ling Contemporary – located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I take every opportunity to view and admire art during my holidays; while I have enjoyed visits to various delightful museums and art galleries in New York, Washington DC, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, London and Florence, Australia has its share for broadening my exposure to art. In 2010 during my first visit to Perth, I attended an exhibition of ‘Peggy Guggenheim : a Collection in Venice’ at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, where I viewed paintings by Pablo Picasso, Vasily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian.

Looking back on that day in Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales, do you know what else made Poynter’s painting so special to me? It was a sweet old gentleman who was working as a security guard at the gallery. He came up to me with a friendly smile and told me a story of the painting – on how King Solomon was being tested and had to correctly guess which one of the two flowers Queen Sheba had in her hand was real. I wonder: if you ever get the opportunity to see this painting in person and examine the exquisite lotus flowers in Queen Sheba’s hand, would you be able to tell? I must confess that when I figured it out, I squealed in childish delight.

I keep a postcard of this special painting tucked into a mirror in my bedroom and when I look at it, I remember not only the kindness of the security guard, but the first time I consciously fell madly in love with a painting.


Love for Art

V’s Oxtail Stew Recipe

I love to eat and have come up with a recipe for oxtail stew that is considered one of my signature dishes, loved by family and friends.
I cook with very little salt so do feel free to add more according to taste. I find that my recipe comes out flavorful and salty enough after the many hours of cooking. Adding some carrots early on during the cooking process imparts some sweetness into the sauce.
I often serve this with slices of fresh baguette to mop up the delicious sauce.

This recipe feeds 6 adults (or 4 big eaters).


Oxtail stew, ready to eat.
Oxtail stew, ready to eat.
Add water until this level, covering the oxtail pieces.
Add water until this level, covering the oxtail pieces.
Size of cut carrots to add.
Size of cut carrots to add.
Brown oxtail pieces, rendering the fat.
Brown oxtail pieces, rendering the fat.
Use fresh oxtail, cut at joints and trimmed of fat.
Use fresh oxtail, cut at joints and trimmed of fat.

2kg fresh oxtail (chopped at joints by butcher)
1kg potatoes (I prefer yellow ones or a mix of yellow and red potatoes)
600gms carrots
2 large onions (chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 thumb of ginger
1 can of plum tomatoes
1 cup of red wine
3 dried bay leaves
1 cube of beef stock
1 tablespoon of dried Italian herb mix
4 tablespoons of cooking oil (not olive oil)
Pinch of salt and black pepper

Remove excess fat from oxtail pieces, especially the larger cuts, but do leave a thin layer.

Rinse and clean potatoes by removing “eyes”, leaving most skin on. Cut into large pieces or halves.

Clean carrots and remove tops and tips, chopping into large roughly 2 inch wedges (or cut at an angle).

Heat up a large cooking pot and add in cooking oil on medium high heat.

Add in oxtail pieces in batches to brown on all sides, turning with tongs approximately every couple of minutes. The fatty parts on the larger pieces should mostly render down. The smaller end pieces take less time to cook. Remove from pot and set aside.

Lower heat to medium and add in chopped onions, stirring with wooden spoon until they soften.

Add in pinch of salt and black pepper, chopped garlic, peeled ginger cut in half, dried herb mix and stir for 1 minute.

Add in the equivalent of 2 chopped carrots (or 1/3 of carrots, depending on their size) and stir for 2 minutes.

Add red wine and canned plum tomatoes, mash gently to side of the pot to break them up.

Add all the browned pieces of oxtail into the pot.

Fill up with lukewarm water until water level covers the top of oxtail pieces, and then adjust heat up to high. When the liquid comes to a rolling boil, reduce to medium for half an hour.

Skim off ‘sludge’ and excess oil from the top of the liquid in pot.

Add in beef stock cube and bay leaves, stirring inside the pot.

Cover pot and continue to cook for 1 hour on medium.

Stir inside the pot and reduce heat to low, cover and let it cook for 2.5 hours until tender. (Optional: Leave a gap by moving the cover to help reduce the liquid during the last hour)

After another stir, add in chopped potatoes and the remaining carrots. Increase heat to medium high for half an hour. Test potato with a fork to check if they are mostly cooked, then simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve while hot.

V’s Oxtail Stew Recipe