Newcomer artist Liew Mei Toong trails the city's faceless masses


  • Arts
  • Tuesday, 02 Oct 2018

'I’m looking at the way everyday life flows ... how people deal with togetherness, parting, sadness and anxiety,' says Liew. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

Ever felt like you are trapped in one big cage in the urban jungle? For newcomer artist Liew Mei Toong, life in the city is exactly that.

As an avid reader of psychology, she got her notebook out and spent weeks studying the behaviour of random strangers on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Liew’s observations suggested one thing: most of the subjects portrayed a certain crestfallen unhappiness.

Her art is definitely not big city wall mural fodder. No shiny smiles, nor colourful street corners here.

“Sometimes, we only see what is on the outside. But on the inside, many of us are trapped and in pain,” says Liew in a recent interview at G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya.

These findings by Liew, a fulltime artist, turned out to be the inspiration for the Invisible Cities exhibition – her first solo – currently showing at G13 Gallery.

liew
The Lost Of The City II (paper, oil pastel, gloss gel and acrylic on canvas, 2018). Photos: G13 Gallery.

This Johor Baru-born KL-based artist presents nine multi-layered mixed media works, with a distinct urban backdrop.

The exhibition is part of G13’s Project Room initiative.

G13’s Project Room series, established in 2016, is a platform to promote younger artists. Liew’s Invisible Cities is the 11th show in this series.

“I’m looking at the way everyday life flows ... how people deal with togetherness, parting, sadness and anxiety,” says Liew, a fine art graduate from KL’s Dasein Academy Of Art.

She admits most of the works have some sort of personal connection or experience.

“I’m a very negative person,” she shares, alluding to a difficult episode during her childhood.

Liew
Where Are You Heading (paper, print, gloss gel and acrylic on canvas, 2017).

“We are who we are now because of our past experiences. But some things may remain unresolved and this is what traps us, such memories and trauma.”

In this exhibition, Liew takes to the canvas to figure out how to give life to these blurred out or faceless people, all of whom seem stuck in anonymous, superficial and transitory routines, especially with the stereotypical backdrop of urban living.

In the The Lost Of The City II, she paints a busy street scene, but strangely, you can’t feel the bustle.

Instead, the work captures a group of strangers, each one of them lost in their own thoughts and worlds. If you look closer, the destroyed images and the fence behind them seem to speak about a certain emptiness.

Invisible Cities isn’t the happiest exhibition in terms of themes.

However, there might still be optimism in these works. Liew doesn’t discount that.

“Through the broken images and surfaces, I attempted to present (the notion of) loneliness and helplessness. It also suggests life mending (itself) within the framework of arranging, taking away and rearranging.” concludes Liew, wistfully.


Invisible Cities is on at G13 Gallery, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/26, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor till Oct 6. Open daily from 11am to 5pm. Closed on Sunday/public holidays. For more information, visit www.g13gallery.com. Call 03-7880 0991 or 019-2114 697.


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