Be­tween the di­men­sions

A two-man show at Our ArtPro­jects con­verge and bounce ideas be­tween two dif­fer­ent medi­ums.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Culture - By ROUWEN LIN star2@thes­tar.com.my (wood cork on mdf board, 2017). — Pho­tos: Our ArtPro­jects Lee’s Home­land (wood cork on wood, 2015). — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star Liew’s can­vas, 2017). (acrylic on can­vas, 2017). (acrylic on

WHERE do we meet? It is easy to say where we meet on a map, a point that can be ex­pressed through co­or­di­nates or in re­la­tion to land­marks.

So hav­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion with a ti­tle like This Is Where We Meet sounds like it could of­fer pre­cisely this, but it does not.

The last thing this show at Our ArtPro­jects in Kuala Lumpur does is tell you where to be, or where you are.

How­ever, what it does do is ex­tend an in­vi­ta­tion to the world of two artists whose works, vis­ually speak­ing, look more dif­fer­ent than they are sim­i­lar.

It of­fers mul­ti­ple en­try points into a dis­cus­sion that re­volves partly around the idea of sug­ges­tion or sup­ple­men­ta­tion, and partly what­ever else you want it to be.

With This Is Where We Meet, the devil is in the de­tails, with more cu­riosi­ties com­ing to light the closer you look at how the show is pre­sented.

The works from Lee Mok Yee, 29, and Liew Kwai Fei, 38, look as dif­fer­ent as day and night at first glance, one ap­pear­ing to be colour blocks on can­vas lay­ered on with a shaky hand, and the other seem­ingly tak­ing a leaf out of bees build­ing their hon­ey­combs – the re­la­tion to his art be­ing the metic­u­lous craft­ing and repet­i­tive el­e­ment ap­par­ent in his works.

The dis­play is ir­reg­u­lar: some of Lee’s cork and in­cense works are placed along­side Liew’s colour block paint­ings on the white wall, pit­ting pro­tru­sions against flat sur­faces, rough and tex­tured against smooth and flat.

Some of Lee’s in­stal­la­tions find a home on the floor, while Liew’s paint­ings are seen ex­ist­ing in iso­la­tion.

The works are hung at dif­fer­ent heights on the wall, not quite mess­ily enough to scram­ble the senses, but just enough to hint at how dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives can change out­comes.

So where do they meet?

Is it where Se­lan­gor-born artists Lee and Liew’s art prac­tices con­verge? Is it where sen­si­bil­i­ties col­lide?

Who re­ally knows, be­cause one of them is keep­ing mum about what makes him tick.

Lee’s ob­ses­sion with the ma­te­rial of his choice comes through in his talk­ing about his work, while Liew seems so res­o­lute with do­ing away with def­i­ni­tions, cat­e­gori­sa­tion, la­bels and pre­con­ceived no­tions that he prefers to not talk at all.

Snow Ng, Our ArtPro­jects gallery di­rec­tor, ex­plains that this at­tempt at ab­sence of as­so­ci­a­tion is in­ten­tional, that Liew wants the viewer to be able to ap­pre­ci­ate each art­work as it stands, with­out link­ing it to cre­ator or con­cept.

Why has he de­cided to call ev­ery sin­gle paint­ing here by the same name? He has 10 works in this show, all ti­tled The Art Of Paint­ing, be­cause ap­par­ently this is what it is all about.

“His fo­cus is on the phys­i­cal­ity of the works with the en­try point be­ing just one thing, the art of paint­ing,” says Ng.

But isn’t an ab­so­lute ab­sence of as­so­ci­a­tion an il­lu­sion, no mat­ter how hard one tries? It is hard to imag­ine that no one has tried to im­press this upon Liew.

For Lee, in the be­gin­ning there was rub­ble, and it is from the un­re­mark­able and ev­ery­day that he builds his craft.

The Stack­ing Me­mory se­ries, for in­stance, is fash­ioned out of cork board cut up into small pieces, each mea­sur­ing a cen­time­tre in height, and ar­ranged to cre­ate some­thing new.

Its hum­ble be­gin­nings are hardly the stuff shiny dreams are made of, but he makes it work.

At the core of his art prac­tice is the ma­te­rial he chooses to work with, a fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment in his art that goes beyond mere phys­i­cal form and function.

“In de­cid­ing what to use, I al­ways con­sider the ma­te­rial’s back­ground, util­ity and char­ac­ter­is­tics. For me, the ma­te­rial is not just some­thing phys­i­cal, it is some­thing that binds us through as­so­ci­a­tion and knowl­edge,” says Lee.

Case in point, a cu s only a cup be­cause we as­sign it a function of a cup and call it one, he muses.

So through his works, Lee might tweak, mould, de­con­struct and recre­ate, but he lets the ma­te­rial speak for it­self.

“It has its own lan­guage, I am just the fab­ri­ca­tor and fa­cil­i­ta­tor. I am open to any in­ter­pre­ta­tion of my work but I think it is im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate it from the per­spec­tive of the ma­te­rial used,” he notes.

The ef­fect he cre­ates in The Stack­ing Me­mory se­ries cer­tainly be­comes more com­pelling with the knowl­edge that the works are com­posed of cork.

It is a ma­te­rial he has been ex­plor­ing since for about three years now, fol­low­ing a visit to Borobudur, a Unesco World Her­itage Site dat­ing back to the 8th cen­tury, in Indonesia.

The stupa and tem­ple com­plex is a breath­tak­ing struc­ture in it­self, but what es­pe­cially struck Lee was the in­tri­cately carved re­lief pan­els and the stones cut to mea­sure.

“It felt like I was look­ing at a com­bi­na­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial and or­ganic form, a thou­sand years af­ter it was cre­ated,” he says.

“Just like my work made from pieces of cork that come to­gether, the re­sul­tant form is an or­ganic one which looks like it was built spon­ta­neously,” he adds.

So where do th­ese two artists meet?

Do they meet at the half­way point, some­where be­tween rep­e­ti­tion and as­cribed mean­ing?

Or do they meet in that imaginary void where ideas drift but never re­ally take form?

Or per­haps they do not meet, and the only way in which they do meet is how they do not. And that’s okay, too.

This Is Where We Meet is on at Our ArtPro­jects, Zhong­shan build­ing, Jalan Rotan, off Jalan Kam­pung At­tap in Kuala Lumpur till Nov 11. Open Tues­day to Satur­day (11am to 7pm). Sun­day by ap­point­ment, closed Mon­day. Visit ourart­pro­jects. com for more in­for­ma­tion. Call 03-2260 1388.

The Art Of Paint­ing

Lee’s The Stack­ing Me­mory No.1

Liew’s The Art Of Paint­ing

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