Sunday, 10 August 2014

'Equilibrium' exhibits texture of memory

Kuala Lumpur-born Wong Perng Fey, an experimental and versatile painter, is always suited up for the studio. His new abstract works are informed by his experience of living in Beijing.

Kuala Lumpur-born Wong Perng Fey, an experimental and versatile painter, is always suited up for the studio. His new abstract works are informed by his experience of living in Beijing.

Beijing-based Malaysian artist Wong Perng Fey’s new show is a richly layered lyrical script of urban life.

Equilibrium, an abstract art exhibition by Beijing-based Malaysian artist Wong Perng Fey, explores surfaces, balances and layers.

It is said that the hardest part of doing anything is beginning. A new project always needs a solid start.

As it turns out, even veteran artists such as Wong Perng Fey feel trepidation when beginning new pieces of work.

In a recent interview, the artist shared how the initial stages of creating art were the most challenging for him.

“For me, it’s looking into a blank canvas, before the initial move to start a new painting. The white plain surface is very nice and also imposing, because it is so perfect ... as if I am staring into the unknown,” explains Wong, 40, about the feeling of worry when he hits the studio.

“The emotion (I feel) is a mixture of fear and stress. Am I about to destroy the beautiful white space? What if this particular work isn’t up to my expectation?” he adds.

“So, with this hope, tension and anticipation, I step forward and that’s why my next painting will always be the most challenging one to make.”

Despite the pre-show worries, Equilibrium, Wong’s latest solo exhibition, is bound to put him in a better frame of mind.

It will open at the Richard Koh Fine Art, Bangsar Village in Kuala Lumpur this Tuesday and will showcase many of his most recent abstract paintings. The exhibition will be curated by Shanghai-based Ronald Kiwitt. Part of this exhibition series will also be launched at Art Seasons Gallery in Beijing late next week.

Left: 'Untitled # 025', oil and enamel on linen; centre: 'Untitled # 007', oil and enamel on linen; right: 'Untitled # 007', oil and enamel on linen.

His Kuala Lumpur exhibition will feature 17 pieces, all of which have basic titles such as Luminous Silver #11, Untitled #004 and Untitled #010.

As hard as beginnings might be, Wong is certainly adept at handling career expectations as his wide body of work suggests.

A graduate of the Malaysian Institute of Art under the school’s scholarship in 1998, Wong has been featured in many solo exhibitions, including I’ll Wait For You To Come Back (2010, held in Sydney), Recent Works (2010, Kuala Lumpur), and Role Play (2009, Jakarta). His works, which range from traditional landscapes and portraits to abstraction, are in many prominent public collections such as the National Visual Arts Gallery, the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery, and the Petronas Gallery.

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Wong is currently based in Beijing where he has been living since 2010. He lives close to the 798 Art Zone in Dashanzi, a vast area of disused factories built in the 1950s that over time, somehow turned into Beijing’s leading concentration of contemporary art galleries.

“The art scene here is far bigger (than Malaysia) with more international galleries and exhibitions. The chances to interact with international and local artists are also much more ‘intense’,” says Wong.

Left: 'Untitled # 006', oil and enamel on linen; centre: 'Untitled # 04', oil and enamel on linen; right: Luminous Silver #1, oil and enamel paint on linen.

While his life and surroundings have changed, the artist feels he has never truly left Malaysia.

“Despite the change of geography. I still feel very connected to Malaysia. I am glad that art is something without boundaries. That is the great thing about it. Beijing, for me, is like a vast space for (career) expansion and creativity. Yet it offers an extended continuity for my (past) creative process and the content of the works,” he adds.

“All said, I have never felt the notion of leaving (Kuala Lumpur). Actually, I have been looking into the possibility of setting up a studio in Old Klang Road (in Kuala Lumpur) next month.”

Wong is keen on the idea of having a studio in Kuala Lumpur. However, his sensory experiences (and art) these days is mostly tied to his present homebase.

According to Wong, many of the works in the Equilibrium show were inspired by his life in Beijing, with the Chinese capital’s grey urban landscape and inner city desperation framing up his textured creations. He captures how the modern Beijing is a riot of sensation, while the themes of “surfaces” and the passage of time are familiar fixtures in his work.

“The city itself is an organism, which will feed you with a lot of information in the present instance of what happens around you. And these observations will be absorbed and translated into a personal language, or like a lyrical script into my works,” explains Wong.

Wong’s art, composed of reflective enamel and oil paint on linen, is created through the acts of image erasure and layering, known as the process of “palimpsest.” The building up of surfaces and layers, as well as their gradual reduction, are allusions to the rise and fall of cities over time.

One interesting detail about Wong’s richly coloured artwork is that they reflect the colours and light of their surroundings, resulting in their original appearance being slightly altered when placed in different environments.

“I feel society never consists of a singular stratum. It is always multi-layered. This pluralism is the backbone of my beliefs of how society functions and co-exists, and although it is not my wish to stress this belief, it might have influenced the appearance of my works,” says the artist.

Wong Perng Fey’s Equilibrium will be showing at Richard Koh Fine Art (Lot No. 2F-3, Level 2, Bangsar Village II, Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur) from Aug 12 to 27. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Call 03-2283 3677 or visit for details.

Tags / Keywords: Wong Perng Fey


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