The Star Malaysia - Star2

Urban connect

Tales From The City is a stimulatin­g exhibition of city life in two countries.

- By TERENCE TOH star2@ thestar. com. my

G13 GALLERY’s latest exhibition Tales From

The City is a testament to the bond between neighbours. This is not just from the art perspectiv­e – the show features Malaysian and Filipino artists.

There is a cool story behind the neighbourl­y connection­s. Curator and G13 gallery owner Kenny Teng said he first met representa­tives from the Manila- based Tin- aw Art Gallery during an art show in Hong Kong last year.

“We happened to have neighbouri­ng art booths. After a brief introducti­on, we came up with an idea. Why not we do a cross- country art show? G13 Gallery would host, and we would have three artists from Tin- aw here,” reveals Teng, before adding, “The idea was to combine six artists, two countries in one show!”

The result is Tales From The City, the latest exhibition at the G13 Art Gallery in Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor. This exhibition features the art of three artists from Malaysia ( Gan Sze Hooi, Gan Tee Sheng and Khairudin Zainudin) and three Filipino artists ( Francis Commeyne, Kirby Roxas and Kurt Lluch).

The show, according to Teng, explores the cultural complexiti­es of urban living in Malaysia and the Philippine­s.

“We have a lot in common. This exhibition talks about things that both countries go through. Things like urbanisati­on, the human exodus from towns to cities, city living, survival in the city, architectu­re, socio- economic issues. We gave this framework to the artists, and we tried to choose, which of their works would fit in this direction.”

This show will also travel to Manila next year.

The 18 works on display at G13 now encapsulat­e every aspect of city living from commerce and commercial­isation to struggle and success.

The Filipino artists are also exhibiting in Malaysia for the first time. Commeyne’s The

American Dream ( 2015) paintings showcase the exteriors of junk and repair shops, representi­ng both the legacy of American colonisati­on and the drive to succeed.

Lluch’s brightly, coloured, almost surreal works such as Resistance, A Behavioura­l

Study ( 2015) and An Insular Welcome And An Evolving Assimilati­on ( 2015), recall urban graffiti at its most striking. And Roxas’s works, such as Rovers and Terminal, both from 2015, feature travellers with suitcases. His acrylic paintings are made up to resemble digital prints, in a double illustrati­on of human migration towards modernity and developmen­t.

The Malaysian artists are just as interestin­g. Tee Sheng’s paintings, for example, focus on the human side of city life, with his portraits Malay Old Man, Chinese Old Man and

Indian Old Man. The Kluang, Johor- born artist’s expressive brushwork captures both the world- weariness and wisdom contained in the features of his subjects, inviting us to contemplat­e their lives.

“These are all old people you wouldn’t pay much notice to if you passed them in the street. I hope that my works can encourage us to pay more attention to the people we encounter,” says Tee Sheng, 31, speaking in Mandarin, during a recent interview with the Malaysian artists.

Tee Sheng’s new works look like a solid follow- up to his first solo show Withdrawn in Kuala Lumpur last year.

While Tee Sheng’s work is more realistic, Sze Hooi’s art, on the other hand, is more allegorica­l, touching on social issues and current affairs. His paintings The Giant Judge and The Giant Policeman feature towering figures of authority contained in urban structures, in a commentary on law and justice.

“This is a watchtower in the west of Kuala Lumpur. It’s very beautiful, and the spikes on the roof reminded me of a crown. It inspired my imaginatio­n: this building should have a judge,” saysSze Hooi, 37, who also made an impression with his solo exhibition Revelation Of Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur last December.

“As we know, what the judge says is law. But the building is about to be demolished: justice is going down.” The artist also contribute­d another work,

Into The Jail, which is set in the now- demolished Pudu Prison, the triptych folds open into a vast landscape featuring policemen, inmates, protesters and journalist­s alike.

“I hope that like a door, my art can open the way for people to be more aware of what is going on all around us,” says Sze Hooi.

The Bachok, Kelantan- born Khairudin’s work Padat Tetapi Tersusun adds the influences of another country into the mix: Hong Kong. The artist, 28, reveals that the overlappin­g box shapes at the top of the canvas were inspired by his trip to the country’s Mongkok district.

“Those boxes are suggestion­s of signboards . In Hong Kong, there were signboards everywhere. They looked a mess. But they were actually arranged well ... it’s as if they had been audited!” says the artist, who first put his art on show at his Senyap

Dalam Gege exhibition at G13 last year. “No matter what angle you look from, you would be able to see all of them clearly, even if they there is an overlap,” he adds.

Indeed, overlappin­g figures seems to be a major theme in his work. This can clearly be seen in his other paintings, such as

Kitaran and Pagi Hari Yang Suram. A representa­tion of the hustle and the bustle of the city perhaps, or the order- in- chaos of urban living?

In Pada Hari Yang Suram, two contrastin­g colours are used to illustrate the ironies of a corporate lifestyle.

“Every morning in the city, it’s a beautiful day, with the sun shining. And despite this, these people are sad. I used to have a job like that – go to work in the morning, come back at night, over and over again. The emotions are in the colours. The yellow is for the brightness of day, while the grey is the contrast,” sums up Khairudin.

tales From the City is on the G13 Gallery, GL13, Ground Floor, Block B, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/ 26, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor until aug 15. the gallery is open from 11am – 5pm, Mondays to Saturdays. admission is free. For more info, call 03- 7880 0991 or email info@

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3 1 gan tee Sheng’s Malay Old Man ( oil on canvas, 2015).
2 Francis Commeyne’s The American DreamJunk Shop, ( arcylic on canvas, 2015).
3 gan Sze Hooi’s The Inmate ( oil on canvas, 2015).
— Photos: g13 gallery
1 2 3 1 gan tee Sheng’s Malay Old Man ( oil on canvas, 2015). 2 Francis Commeyne’s The American DreamJunk Shop, ( arcylic on canvas, 2015). 3 gan Sze Hooi’s The Inmate ( oil on canvas, 2015). — Photos: g13 gallery

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