Art is a uniting force at the Contemporary Art VI exhibition, which features individuals from diverse backgrounds.
WHAT does a photographer, a sculptor, an embroiderer, an astrologer and several painters have in common? Ongoing exhibit Contemporary Art VI suggests the answer is, regardless of genre, it’s the artists’ love of the creative process that drives them forward and brings them together.
The title of the group exhibition, Contemporary Art VI, doesn’t come from the fact it is the sixth in its series. Rather it refers to the six artists from various mediums who have come together for this exhibition.
The collection is on display at the trendy arts space d6, located in Sentul East Design Centre, Jalan Sentul in Kuala Lumpur. It features the work of Ben Toh, Gary Lim, Maxine Xie Xian Xin, Alice Yee Yuen Chin, Ellie Ng and Melissa Lin.
Toh had the idea for a group project with the other five artists whom he had worked with while curating a series of pop up exhibitions at The Refinery gallery across the road from d6.
“Curating other people’s work made me want to go back into painting, too. After we were offered a space, it seemed like a good time to put something together with a few familiar faces,” explains Toh, a graphic designer and photographer by profession.
His contribution to the collection, the One Tree series, marks his first foray in painting after a 30-year break. Toh reveals the set of 10 oil paintings were done all in a span of a month last October.
“It’s not that I’m prolific, you could say I’m brushing up on my brush technique,” he jokes. Like its title, the One Tree series features a single tree in various settings from an empty field, giving shade to an abandoned bicycle or plunked in a surreal magenta tinted world.
A frequent collaborator of Toh, Gary Lim also chose to feature his oil paintings. His Joyscape series uses calligraphy brush style to create a feeling of energy and freedom that almost jumps of the canvas.
“I wanted to give a sense of freedom, of flowing energy through the flexible strokes of calligraphy. That is reflective of life, how we need to be flexible when dealing with challenges and not stick to rigid straight lines,” he explains during a recent interview. He adds that “joy” and “freedom” were one and the same to him, as a person requires one to experience the other.
Lim admits that though he has been painting for 15 years, he only became serious about it about two years back.
“I came to realise it’s something I have to do before I die. Some people travel, I paint,” he says.
For landscape painter Alice Yee Yuen Chin, it was travel that inspired her to paint. During a holiday to Pangkor Island in Perak, Yee was so moved by what she saw that she attempted to commit it to canvas. That started her love affair with painting the sea and skies.
The result of that love, her Skyscapes and Seascapes series, are both on display at Contemporary Art VI.
“I love how the sky reflects the sea and vice versa. It is particularly beautiful at sunrise, when the sun seems to link the two bodies,” shares Yee, as she points to several of her favourites which feature the rising sun.
The idea of love for one’s art was a running theme among those featured in the collection.
Maxine Xie Xian Xin, who came from a background in advertising, returned to sculpting after she followed her heart to the Netherlands and had the chance to fall in love again with art. The daughter of a carpenter, Xie picked up the craft by literally picking up leftover wood and paint from her father’s workshop and seeing how it could translate her imagination into something physical.
Nowadays she works primarily in clay and wood, under the moniker Magical Maxine, doing what she calls “making something special from the mundane”.
Her clay sculptures and busts as pottery add to the diversity of the collection which also includes mixed media embroidery/paintings by Ellie Ng and abstract paintings by Melissa Lin.
Ng describes her mix media piece Nyonya In Red as updated version of Scents Of Mandala, one of her first pieces from her college art student days.
She reveals that the nyonya’s baju kurung was made using a collage of lace and jewellery while her make-up was painted on, in a case of art imitating life.
“I use textile and fashion elements a lot in my work. As an art teacher, I find it’s a good chance to practice what I teach and show my students what can be done with the medium,” she says.
Elsewhere, the intriguing Lin describes her work as the combination of her travels, her interactions with her astrology clients, and a cathartic release.
“For me, painting is an organic process: I begin start working on it, then see what the art says to me and from there I take the next step. There’s actually not much planning involved,” she concludes.
The Contemporary Art VI group exhibition is showing at d6, Sentul East, 801, Jalan Sentul, in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur till Jan 12. The gallery opens 11am-4pm on weekends, viewing on weekdays is by appointment. Contact Ben Toh (012-205 0716) or Gary Lim (012-218 8851) to make an appointment.