Art of ex­pres­sion

Vet­eran artist Kim Ng’s lat­est body of work of­fers a daz­zling range of ex­pe­ri­ences and skills.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By DI­NESH KU­MAR MAGANATHAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

LIKE guardians of the night, they keep watch. The three faces. Their coun­te­nance is fierce and in­tim­i­dat­ing and al­to­gether oth­er­worldly.

Where there should have been eyes, one had none. And where there should have been mouths, were mark­ings words form­ing ques­tions. Seem­ingly unim­por­tant ques­tions. But deep in­side, in the dark re­cesses of your mind, you know that there’s more to it than meets the eyes.

So, mus­ter­ing your courage, you stand right in front of the faces and stare deep into those haunt­ing eyes. You could al­most hear tribal chants drum­ming from afar and the longer you hold your gaze, the more spell­bound you be­come.

Sud­denly, a list of ques­tions start to form in your mind ... ques­tions about the pol­icy mak­ers, the com­mu­nity and even yourself. But no an­swers come to the fore.

You are left stand­ing there, with no clo­sure at hand. And it dawns upon you. Many mat­ters are left unan­swered in this coun­try and that’s how it may re­main. For bet­ter or for worse, no one knows. And for Kim Peow Ng, an award-win­ning print­maker and multi-dis­ci­plinary artist, this is ex­actly what he de­sired to evoke when he made the three faces, the three masks.

“Many things hap­pened in our last elec­tion and people had ques­tions but there was never a proper so­lu­tion or an­swer,” ex­plains Ng as his eyes wan­dered around the gallery space.

“So, I wanted the view­ers to im­me­di­ately con­front (them) with these three di­men­sional masks, which project the ques­tions ... apa lagi (what else?) and si­apa lagi (who else?). This is why the masks are placed at the en­trance. How­ever, there may not nec­es­sar­ily be an­swers to these ques­tions.”

The Jo­horean was quick to note that this art­work, called Apa Lagi, Si­apa Lagi? is not en­tirely in­spired by the Malaysian pol­i­tics. It can be ap­plied to other as­pects of life in the coun­try too.

In­deed, these masks and the other di­verse works of Ng’s lat­est solo ex­hi­bi­tion called In A

Place Of Won­der at the Wei-Ling Gallery, seeks to en­gage the many is­sues, po­lit­i­cal or other­wise, which oc­curred in this coun­try through the eyes of the artist.

“Al­though I’m not par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in po­lit­i­cal mat­ters, last year’s elec­tion did change my per­cep­tion on how I look at the coun­try. In a way, this ex­hi­bi­tion is my very first ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in some­thing re­lated to pol­i­tics,” adds the 49-year-old artist, who fin­ished 44 var­ied works for this show.

Ng has been work­ing on this ex­hi­bi­tion, his sixth solo, since the Wei-Ling Gallery in Brick­fields, Kuala Lumpur ap­proached him last July. In­ci­den­tally, it was a con­scious de­ci­sion on his part to work with a range of medi­ums for In

A Place Of Won­der and not limit him­self to print­mak­ing, a dis­ci­pline he is well known for.

Thus, the three floors of the gallery are lined with paint­ings, prints, in­stal­la­tions and even some clay sculp­tures, of­fer­ing the viewer a chance to en­joy Ng’s art through dif­fer­ent forms.

Ng, who lec­tures at the Da­sein Academy of Art, Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, took it upon him­self to cu­rate the ex­hi­bi­tion and tai­lored it in such a way to cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence for the vis­i­tors.

He men­tions that vis­it­ing gal­leries and view­ing paint­ings (or any form of art­works) just hang­ing on the wall can get a lit­tle bor­ing.

“It was im­por­tant for me to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for the view­ers. I be­lieve they need to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing ... to be con­fronted by dif­fer­ent types of art dis­ci­plines as they move from one floor to the other,” he points out. One of Ng’s most in­trigu­ing works is called Our

Blan­ket. Made from the in­ner lin­ings of car tyres and other types of rub­ber, the art­work seems noth­ing more than ... well, a black rub­ber blan­ket! At first glance, it will not mean any­thing to or­di­nary eyes. One may even won­der if it is part of the ex­hi­bi­tion. Such is the sim­plic­ity of the piece.

Should one take the ti­tle into con­sid­er­a­tion, how­ever, a deeper mean­ing may be de­rived. It could be a na­tion­al­is­tic state­ment (made by the artist), al­lud­ing to the “black­ness” that may re­sult if the strug­gles of the coun­try are not shared. Of course, Ng has his own rea­sons be­hind this work.

“When I first con­ceived the idea of Our Blan­ket, I knew I wanted to do some­thing that would re­flect the na­tion’s sit­u­a­tion. If you were to put this rub­ber blan­ket on, you will re­alise how heavy it is. And it looks rather solemn as well.

“It re­flects on the heavy pres­sure put on our shoul­ders liv­ing in this coun­try, what with the price hikes and what not. We are car­ry­ing the bur­den. So, if you look at it, this rub­ber blan­ket is the na­tion’s blan­ket,” ex­plains Ng.

An­other of the artist’s ar­rest­ing works in this collection is called Con­tented Joke. A wall in­stal­la­tion of sorts, this piece fea­tures three wooden boxes with a table­cloth in­lay. In each of these boxes are soap-shaped ob­jects made from clay, with fish­tail-look­ing ap­pendages pro­trud­ing from the four sides. Carved on the ob­jects on the right and left are what look like sil­hou­ettes of people.

This is Ng’s per­sonal take on no­to­ri­ous sex blog­gers Alvin and Vi­vian, who hit the head­lines for their bla­tant dis­re­gard of Malaysian sen­si­tiv­i­ties with their raunchy videos.

“The en­tire thing was like a joke. Some people may have liked what was go­ing on while oth­ers found it dis­grace­ful,” he adds.

It is al­ways an en­light­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to look at things through the eyes of an­other, es­pe­cially via the eyes of an artist. Fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tions present them­selves in most in­ter­est­ing and in­trigu­ing ways and just when we think we have mat­ters fig­ured out, more ques­tions crop up. And that’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing for, at least, you can seek the an­swers along the way.

“Hope­fully, the viewer or even I, as the maker, will get the an­swers,” con­cludes a hope­ful Ng. Kim Ng’s In A Place Of Won­der is on at Wei-Ling Gallery, Jalan Scott, Brick­fields, Kuala Lumpur till July 7. Free ad­mis­sion. Open on Mon­days (10am to 6pm), Tues­days to Fridays (11am to 7pm) and Satur­days (10am to 5pm).

2 In Box 1,

1 me­dia and mixed trans­fer printed im­age on MdF, 24 cm x 16.9cm, 2014

2 Swirl, glazed ceram­ics on MdF board, 122cm x 122cm, 2014

3 Un­ti­tled (Red), wa­ter-based paint, printed col­lage, pen­cil, acrylic, oil paint, silkscreen print and graphite pow­der and var­nish on can­vas, 107cm x 132cm, 2014.

4 Con­tented Joke, slip cast with colour stain, de­cal trans­fer print, plas­tic cloths, MdF board and carved wooden box (set of three), 2014.

Ur­ban Blast I,

5 silkscreen print on acid free wa­ter­colour paper and wa­ter-based var­nish, 46cm x 56cm, 2014. Kim ng’s

6 sim­plis­tic yet sharply-loaded

Our Blan­ket is about how a coun­try can pile the pres­sure on the shoul­ders of its cit­i­zens.

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