Former architect turns to art to find a sense of personal renewal


  • Arts
  • Wednesday, 26 Sep 2018

"I didn't arrange them (the artworks) with a specific theme in mind. I just hung them intuitively and in the end, they balance each other out,' says artist Lian Kian Lek about his exhibition Das Wollen. Photo: The Star/P. Nathan

Take a long break, hit refresh and reboot. Lian Kian Lek can relate to that.

He spent nearly 14 years working as an architect in Berlin and Beijing. The daily routine of creating the overall aesthetic, design and look of buildings and structures did take its toll.

In the end, Lian was burnt out and decided to take a sabbatical.

During this time, Lian decided to try out new things, including art by playing around with some paint and paper.

“I folded a piece of paper and then applied paint on one side. By folding the two parts together, it created a mirror image on the other side, thus forming a symmetrical abstract shape as a whole,” says Lian, 43, in a recent interview at his design studio Putticoop in the Zhongshan building, Jalan Kampung Attap in KL.

The idea of Lian's Das Wollen exhibition was conceived here. The small show is currently on at Putticoop, which specialises in architectural projects, scenography and costume design.

Das Wollen, which is German for the will, is a result of the KL-born’s experimentation with repetition (of process and colours). It is essentially a culmination of works Lian started in Berlin in 2012 before moving back to Malaysia.

“This technique allowed me to paint without knowing what I want to paint. Conventionally, you have a vision in your mind and you draw it out. For the works in Das Wollen, every time it was a surprise since I didn’t know what the result would be,” shares Lian, an architecture graduate from Melbourne University.

This is Lian’s second solo exhibition in Malaysia, following his first solo Annehman held at Aku Cafe & Gallery, KL in 2014.

Upon returning to Malaysia, Lian worked as the art director for the 2014 Kakiseni International Arts Festival in KL.

Two years later, he was awarded the Best Costume Design, Styling & Make Up at the 13th Boh Cameronian Arts Award for Joseph Gonzales’ Becoming King:The Pakyung Revisited interactive dance show. He was nominated for the best set design award for the same show.

At present, the Das Wollen exhibition sees Lian broadening his art career. It features an assemblage of abstract figures – 45 in total – made of red paint on paper, spread on one side of the walls. On another wall lies a combination of works (24) made of white paint on paper.

“I didn’t arrange them with a specific theme in mind. I just hung them intuitively and in the end, they balance each other out,” he says.

At the gallery space, many visitors will have different interpretations of his new works.

To his surprise, the artist says “people resonate with them. They make stories from what they see. It occurred to me then that my work is very open. The observer completes the work by projecting meaning to it.”


Das Wollen is on at Putticoop, Zhongshan building, Jalan Kampung Attap in KL till Oct 7. Opening hours: 12pm-5pm (weekends). Weekdays by appointment. For more information, call 018-280 4683.


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