Don't overthink abstract art, it comes from the soul, says Marisa Ridzuan Ng

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 21 Sep 2019

Most often, I’m seeking balance between chaos and control,' says Ng. Photo: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan

Marisa Ridzuan Ng believes that the beauty of abstract art is that it gives a person the freedom to see what the “heart’s eyes wants to see.”

“You don’t have to decode abstract art. Don’t overthink. It is something that comes from one’s soul,” says Ng, 42.

When you look at her 17 works on display now at Zhan Art Space in Petaling Jaya, you will see how emotions are laid bare in Ng’s art.

In Ng’s exhibit Bunga Di Hati, selected works from two previous exhibitions ONG: It Came From A Place Of Love (2017), which was shown at the National Art Gallery, and The Secret Garden (2018) are also included.

An untitled piece, measuring 2.4m x 2.4m, finished this year, points to Ng’s new sombre style.

Ng was also part of the recent Malaysia Day themed Sama-Sama: Same-Same group exhibition in KL.

The Shah Alam, Selangor-based artist mentions that Bunga Di Hati is a “very personal” collection, which was put together by Zhan Art Space co-founder Desmond Tong, who spoke extensively to Ng about exhibiting heartfelt works - past and present.

Ng's Untitled (mixed media on canvas, 2019). Photo: Zhan Art Space

Works from her The Secret Garden series, which make up the bulk of Bunga Di Hati, offers viewers a survey of her bolder brush strokes, with darker contrasts.

Ng, who was trained in figurative art at Aswara and later studied under well-known Malaysian abstract artists Suzlee Ibrahim and Ismadi Sallehudin, has come a long way since she started painting in 2009. She is also one of the few female abstract expressionist artists in Malaysia.

This single mother says for her 2018 series, she drew inspiration from American abstract expressionist painter CY Twombly in “mark-making and structure” while Joan Mitchell, another American abstract expressionist, inspired her “with her prominent brush strokes and use of colour.”

As for her works from the ONG series (only two for this exhibition), they are a celebration of her late grandmother.

Ng reveals that the title of this new show was inspired by the flowers people sent during her grandmother’s funeral.

As a token of comfort in difficult times, sympathy flowers have always been a major part of saying goodbye.

Dreams Come Alive (mixed media on canvas, 2018). Photo: Zhan Art Space

“The flowers remind me how precious, fragile and temporary life is. When you look at flowers, they make you smile, although they will eventually wilt and die.

“Likewise, we too, as long as we are still alive, should make people happy and smile, from the heart. That’s where Bunga Di Hati comes from,” explains Ng.

When it comes to her art, Ng says everything lies between subconscious and spontaneous actions. Her style has never been viewed as a painterly, conventional or commercial one. Instead, there is a raw-nerve essence to her works, which might not appeal to mainstream collectors.

Ng is not someone to pander to mainstream tastes. As an independent artist, who has never been bound by gallery demands, she has remained a rare outsider, expressing her freedom the best on canvas. In her studio, she works with tools such as pencils, charcoal sticks, crayons, brushes and pallet knives, giving life to her oil works that are intense, volatile and sublime - in equal measure.

“Most often, I’m seeking balance between chaos and control,” she says.

Ng's Bunga Di Hati exhibition at the Zhan Art Space in Petaling Jaya. Photo: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan

This is very evident in the new untitled piece. The heavy brush strokes of black, dark grey and purple in the middle of the canvas alludes to something stormy and chaotic.

A white blotch at the top of the canvas provides a certain calm to the chaos below.

“My mind was going through a lot of struggle and I was trying to stay positive, to stay strong despite the grief. Someone told me the artwork is like war and peace, and I think that’s a very good description,” shares Ng.

Since last October, she has also been attracting attention in the Jakarta art scene, with an art dealership there selling several of her works.

"I can't say much at the moment. We are looking into the possibility of entering into a formal representation there," reveals Ng.

The artist also says she is currently working on her fifth solo exhibition, slated for next year. She intends to produce a new series, which she hints will be a continuation of working on larger canvases.

Bunga Di Hati is on at Zhan Art Space, Block J, The School, Jaya One, Jalan University, Petaling Jaya in Selangor till Sept 24. Opening hours: 11am -7pm daily. More details:

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