Malaysian artist’s first NFT addresses issues affecting women during the pandemic

  • Arts
  • Tuesday, 07 Sep 2021

Ng’s new work 'Reveal' does not shy away from the darkness of the pandemic’s effect, but it also speaks of hope and a brighter tomorrow. Photo: Niuniu’s Gallery

There are many firsts for visual artist Vivian Ng Suet Yuan with her newly launched artwork Reveal.

This is Ng’s first NFT work (non fungible token) and the first time she is auctioning one of her works on OpenSea, an NFT marketplace.

Known for her cheery and vibrant art, this is also the first time Ng has created a piece with what she calls a “negative emotion” theme.

As she waits for the pandemic situation to improve, Ng keeps her loved ones close, even if socialising is limited to online conversations and virtual meeting points.

“My friends and I meet on Zoom to chat and support each other during this period. We talk about our emotions and things that are happening in our lives. This painting is inspired by these conversations,” says Ng, 29.

It was inevitable that she ended up working with this theme, especially when Covid-19 cases in Malaysia were on the rise and people she knew contracted the disease.

“A few of my friends tested positive for Covid-19. One of them died. This makes me feel like death is actually very near to me. I feel that there is so much more that I want to tell to the world, especially to reveal our inner feelings during the pandemic, so that people can understand how we feel,” she says.

Ng, who is from Bentong, Pahang, is the founder of Niuniu’s Gallery. She studied architecture and design, and holds an MA landscape architecture from Leeds Beckett University in England. She also lectures on art at a college in Petaling Jaya while also concentrating on her “speed and spray” painting projects.

Last year, she created a Merdeka Day portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister, using only thumbprints. The work, titled Hargai Keharmonian, comprised thousands of her right hand thumbprints to complete.

Coping with the pandemic

In this new work Reveal, she reflects on the common emotions and feelings that plague most of us during the pandemic: fear, emotional breakdown, tiredness, speechlessness, hesitation and despair.

Most of the characters in the painting are women.

Ng’s abstract work also discusses issues affecting women during this pandemic such as greater burden of domestic work, spikes in sexual, physical and domestic violence and exploitation, increased risks of pregnancy-related deaths, reduced financial independence, future prospects and more.

“Many women are in desperation during home quarantine. The dark blue tone background implies sadness and melancholy. The iron chain symbol zentangle that runs through the three paintings representing the lockdown: we are being forced to stay at home for a long period of time, and thus, we lose our physical freedom.

“On a deeper level, this painting doesn’t just express the external shackles, but also the demons in all of us. Even those who are not sick are affected... we worry about the situation and we live in fear,” she says.

But while working on this painting, Ng found a way to find clarity and peace within herself.

In giving shape and form to the emotions we often keep hidden, she started on a journey of healing.

“There is a hidden detail in this painting that I want to deliver – the white triangles scattered in every corner, which symbolises hope. Hope and faith are very important for us to have the motivation to live.

“Suffering is just a beautiful process to lead us to a better life.

“It is easy for us to give up when we are suffering, but this is also when love resonates more deeply. No matter how bad and terrifying the current situation is, we have to be faithful and firmly believe that we can overcome this hard time together,” she adds.

Part of the proceeds from the artwork sale will be donated to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

Also on the art front, Ng plans to continue creating more NFT art.

“This is the future of art, I think it is something so exciting to explore,” she says.

NFT is a form of crypto asset which uses blockchain (a digital public ledger of transactions) to record ownership details and provide proof of authenticity.

All kinds of digital objects – images, videos, music, text and even tweets – can be turned into an NFT. In contrast with many other digital creations, which are often infinite in supply, NFTs have unique identifying codes, which makes them one of a kind. This means that its provenance can be traced, thus differentiating the original from all subsequent copies.

In the context of NFTs in the digital art world, this makes it possible to now truly own and sell digital works.

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