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Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 9:18:39 AM
by qishin tariq
Yearning To Know Why We're Here by Michael Cu Fua.
Impressions of opposite gender shine at Singapore-based artist Michael Cu Fua’s Klara exhibition.
THE ideal woman is often what painters of the female form aim for.
In his latest solo exhibition, Philippines-born Michael Cu Fua takes a cue from his homeland’s vision of the ideal woman, María Clara.
Clara, the heroine of author/national hero Jose Rizal’s classic novel Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not), is described to be the epitome of virtue, obedience, self-sacrifice and all those overbearing traits that make feminists grit their teeth.
With society’s change, the tradition-bound image portrayed by Clara has become outmoded.
Cu Fua says he wanted to update this ideal in his series of paintings titled Klara.
“Klara is a celebration of the modern woman. Times have changed, women have changed,” says Cu Fua.
To find the right muse for the series, the artist asked around for a Filipino model, and even interviewed candidates to make sure they were on his wavelength.
“The person I found was the perfect Klara, long haired and dark skinned. More importantly, she was well travelled and had a strong sense of who she was ... an independent individual,” shares Cu Fua during a chat at Feeka Coffee Roasters in Kuala Lumpur. The cafe/art space in town, which begun its own art exhibition programming recently, is hosting his first exhibition here.
Apart from questioning artificial gender demands, he also spoke about the mainstream celebrating female role models, self-identity and empowerment.
For the 44-year-old artist, his model’s choice to leave her motherland in search of work abroad was something that connected with him.
“I Ieft the Phillipines 24 years ago and moved to Singapore in search of greener pastures,” says Cu Fua, who is now a Singaporean citizen. He has been married to a Singaporean for the last 14 years.
The notion of detachment and the sense of “place” is important narrative, as seen in Cu Fua’s figurative pieces.
While an architect by trade, Cu Fua made a point to focus on figure painting for his art, almost exclusively painting women.
“I’m not sure why, but it’s just comfortable for me. It’s more challenging to paint women,” he adds.
Cu Fua says he applies the same style to his art as to his architecture: seeking clean lines and using fine pens to create 3D texturing on his figures.
He reveals the Klara series also questions taboo and superstition, like how skulls are believed to be symbolic of death.
“My parents say skulls give bad luck, but for me they’re a reminder that you only live once,” he says, pointing out how several of his artworks – I’m Not Afraid Anymore, Only One Life and Here I Am – all featured animal skulls. For the Klara exhibition, which features 10 pieces, he kept most of the pieces “conventional” in terms of art material used (oil, acrylic, ink).
Meanwhile, the inclusion of The Smiths’ lyrics in various pieces was a nod to the fact he had the legendary British indie band’s music on loop while finishing this series.
Cu Fua reveals that he chose to have his exhibition at a cafe as it is a casual place to enjoy art and less elitist than a dedicated gallery.
“Like Morrissey, an artist needs to do small gigs and build a fan base before you have a concert. Or in a painter’s case, a museum exhibit,” jokes Cu Fua.
Michael Cu Fua’s exhibition Klara at Feeka Coffee Roasters, No.19, Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur, runs till June 28. Feeka opens daily (9am to midnight). The gallery opens 9am to 7.30pm. Browse: www.facebook.com/feeka.coffeeroasters.
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