There is a painting at the gallery that shows a woman in batik finery, going about her chores early one morning. Two children trail after her, frolicking among the freshly-washed laundry fluttering in the breeze. This is one of Kam Woei Yann’s Once Upon A Time series, where women and children are the main subjects. The artist draws on her Peranakan heritage and showcases a love for traditional textiles and its intricate designs in these works.
This series celebrates femininity through various aspects - heritage, family, kinship, friendship and the little everyday things. If a woman takes on many different roles in her life, then this series by Kam gives a glimpse into the many different hats she wears.
Kam is one of the artists in the In Her Eyes exhibition at KL East And Melawati Sales Gallery, at Sime Darby Property at KL East. Presented by A.P Art Gallery in partnership with Manggis Group, it brings together 17 artists who share their stories through art, on life, their fears and dreams, and everything in between.
This show is held to commemorate International Women’s Day and the participating artists are all women, in different stages of their lives. Curated by Nazura Rahime (who is also the director of A.P Art Gallery) and Nurul Fathma, they embraced a more inclusive approach in their search for artists, including younger individuals and those who pursue art-making on the side.
“Full-time, part-time, experienced, young, newbies...we wanted to be a platform that includes any type of artist. While we realise that this is an unconventional approach to putting together an art show, we thought, why not? We chose artists from diverse backgrounds - we have women who are fine art artists, art directors, designers, oil and gas engineers, homemakers and so on.
"The works are diverse, with paintings, sculptures, installation art and even an augmented reality (AR)-enabled work. The themes are just as varied, but we do see that self-discovery is a recurring one. As women, the roles we play in life sometimes end up suppressing the ‘real’ us. These are among the issues being brought forward in this show,” reads a joint curatorial statement.
The inspiration for this exhibition came from an earlier work by Kam, entitled Gossip, that shows two women bonding over a conversation. It is a depiction of support, through the action of lending a listening ear, setting aside time for a loved one and creating a safe space to share their thoughts and dreams.
“We think it is a beautiful sentiment that the everyday woman empowers another, unknowingly. In Her Eyes is, at its core, a life journey told through the eyes of every woman here. The creative industry is predominantly male-skewed but art is a platform where everyone can express themselves in a creative way. Through art, we are able to connect with our emotions. It also allows us to be open to new ideas and experiences. It is a powerful tool to influence our surroundings. When we have this kind of awareness, we can change our environment,” the statement added.
Anniketyni Madian’s Ataraxia sculpture - with its title meaning a state of calmness, free from distress and worry - speaks volumes without being loud. It takes on the form of a powerful bull, but one in a Zen state of mind.
“Life is full of contradictions. How can something seemingly so fragile also be strong, and vice versa? Women, for instance, are created to be nurturing, delicate and sensitive. However, we can also be the exact opposite. My work represents the state of calmness that is housed in a strong and sturdy build made from mixed woods. It reiterates the meaning of freedom without worry as one could hustle her way in this world by being herself. Enjoy life to the fullest, by being free,” says Anniketyni.
Kam’s Journey, a fabric installation that showcases the Shibori technique (Japanese resist dyeing), ponders on the different roles a woman plays in life. Drawing on her own experiences and thoughts, she weaves into her work the different elements that come with wearing different hats - as a daughter, wife, mother, friend, professional runner, avid traveller.
“I even weaved into my work the elements of resilience in women, the forgiving nature that is blessed upon us and the joy of being part of someone’s life. My hope is for my work to inspire more women to always be positive and continue to rediscover themselves,” says Kam.
Amy Nazira does some straight talking in Her, an oil painting of a female figure that represents the women of today - independent, visionary, principled and resilient.
“Responsibilities and challenges have the ability to transform a woman’s world. In many aspects of contemporary living, competition becomes part and parcel of daily life. Every woman has a unique story to tell, one that makes her who she is today,” she says.
In Elly Nor Suria’s Tujuh Belas Pari-Pari Imaginari Suri, she portrays herself as an innocent child, finding her way in the world through an exploration of her rural surroundings and roots. Her imaginary friends fill up the space on this canvas, a metaphor for her daydreams and whimsical imagination.
Another artist who taps into the mental plane is Alexdrina Chong, who tells her story through a series of ceramic sculptures representing the state of drowning in a sea of dark thoughts, and digital prints from journals she started during the pandemic to navigate the uncertainties and isolation of the lockdowns.
The curators hope that this exhibition will inspire visitors to be their authentic selves and never stop chasing their dreams.
“We want to encourage the right to express yourself the way you want. Life happens, but don’t let that stop you from pursuing your dreams. Circumstances might result in having to put your dreams on hold, but the moment life gives you another opportunity to chase it, you should do it. You just might be surprised by what you are capable of,” the curators conclude.
In Her Eyes is showing at KL East And Melawati Sales Gallery in Taman Melawati, Kuala Lumpur, till April 3. Opening hours: 10am to 5pm daily. More info here.