Figuring out style

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 24 Aug 2013

C.K. Koh’s whimsical Tears Are Falling.

Here’s an exhibition that takes figurative art to an imaginative new level.

WHAT could you say about the human figure? That figures come in all shapes and sizes and colours? What else is there to say about something so basic?

It takes artists to see the extraordinary in what is basic to life itself, to bring forth the wonderful lines and shapes and dimensions of the human figure, to remind us that if we pay enough attention, there is beauty in both the minute and macro details of the shape of a human being.

And for one whole month, such will be the focal point of G13 Gallery’s latest exhibition. Aptly named Figurative Trajectories, the exhibition will feature artworks by seven young up-and-coming local artists: C.K. Koh, Chong Kim Chiew, Gan Tee Seng, Seah Zelin, Siund Tan, Sun Kang Jye, and Yeoh Choo Kuan.

Interestingly, the curatorial direction of this exhibition is not purely figurative art but with a stroke of imaginative art as well. On top of that, though figures may be the thread that holds the exhibition together, there is no one super-theme that was dictated by the gallery to the seven artists.

Gallery director Kenny Teng said in a recent interview, “We did not want to restrict the artists by giving them a specific theme for the exhibition. All of them have their own styles and they were free to produce artworks within their styles.”

Zelin Seah’s series of four artworks was triggered by his feelings about the 13th General Election.

Such diverse styles they are! From the moment you walk into the exhibition space, you will be able to relish the different strokes of paint, the varied interpretation of figures, the abstract and sometimes the bizarre pieces that may not come across as clearly as some of the other artworks. But then again, when did art exhibitions ever spell it out for visitors? It is the experience that is paramount.

One of the pieces that stands out to this writer is Mad Rush by Yeoh Choo Kuan. The biggest work of the lot, the painting is shades of grey, black and white and features several ghoulish looking figures that look uncannily like the Nazgul from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The white figures evoke a sense of other worldliness when you look at them, almost transporting you to a realm of the dread wraiths.

“The main idea was to capture the life, the death, and the love and the sex between the figures,” says Yeoh. “For me, when I delve into expressive paintings, I don’t usually have a particular message I want to work with and bring forth. I normally allow my feelings to influence me, and I derive these feelings from my surroundings, my friends, my family, the news that I see and read.”

But why call it Mad Rush?

“I think it’s mad because every single person on this planet is by him or herself yet we are all somehow connected. And at the end of it all, when death comes a calling, we all, each and everyone of us, become nothingness,” the 25-year-old says.

C.K. Koh’s whimsical Tears Are Falling.

While his emotions and the people in his life influenced Yeoh’s paintings, it was the 13th general election earlier this year that became the inspiration for artist Zelin Seah, 33. A lecturer at The One Academy, Seah offers a series of four paintings representing different aspects of his mind before and after the elections.

“I took the idea from the four steps of making comics: opening, developing, changing and summing. Each phase represents my state of mind during the election period. For example, the last piece alludes to the fact that this is not the end of the story. The elections may be over but it is not the end,” explains Seah.

Though furniture and windows formed an integral part of the paintings, one would notice that for a figurative artwork, the four scenes are devoid of human figures. Seah says he wanted to create scenes akin to a crime scene investigation, with the “messy interiors, liquefied fragments and growing motion – I believe this is stronger in revealing the existence of figures and their behaviour.”

Another apparent element in Seah’s set is the presence of white smoke or gas. This represents the uncertainty in himself, indeed, in all Malaysians alike, in the lead up to, during and after the elections.

Gallery director Teng promises a truly different experience for the visitors as “not only will they be able to see the works of emerging young artists in Malaysia, but they will also be able to view the different artistic styles and approaches of these artists and learn to appreciate them. After all, these young artists are the future of the country’s art scene.”

Figurative Trajectories is on till Sept 17 at G13 Gallery, Ground Floor, Block B, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/26, Kelana Jaya, Selangor. Viewing hours are from 11am to 5pm (closed on public holidays); entry is free. For more information, go to, e-mail or call 03-7880 0991 / 03-7880 0313.

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Figuring out style


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