How meditation has made Cheong Kiet Cheng a calmer, better artist

Art and spirituality are central themes in Cheong Kiet Cheng's life and her new solo show at Wei-Ling Gallery in KL invites viewers into her world of art, meditation and spiritual connection. Photo: The Star/Shaari Chemat

In her fifth solo exhibition The Last Star Before The Dawn at Wei-Ling Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Cheong Kiet Cheng invites us into her world of art, meditation and spiritual connection.

Inspired by the concept of enlightenment and the impermanence of all things, her work captures the essence of existence and encourages introspection. Through her unique artistic process and connection with her spirit guide, she brings forth intricate details in her art that embody the beauty and fragility of life.

In a recent interview, she shares how the connection between art and spirituality is a central theme in her life.

"I read lots of spiritual and religious books, and I believe everyone has a spirit guide. I believe my spirit guides are there to protect me, like if I meet with trouble. Likewise, when I am stumped for ideas, I turn to them for help, like you would with a teacher. The answer comes to me in an image, like when I close my eyes before sleeping, the message will come to me in an image, almost like a movie. This is where a lot of my ideas come from,” she says.

Cheong Kiet Cheng's 'Cosmic Wanderings' (watercolour and acrylic on canvas, 2023). Photo: Wei-Ling GalleryCheong Kiet Cheng's 'Cosmic Wanderings' (watercolour and acrylic on canvas, 2023). Photo: Wei-Ling Gallery

For this 42-year-old artist, the act of creation is a meditative process.

Rather than sketching her ideas, she concentrates and meditates, allowing the images to guide her hand on the canvas.

Her creative process becomes a spiritual and transformative experience, helping her to translate her thoughts and emotions onto the canvas.

“The creation is like a meditative process to me. I start with a big idea, and as I progress with the artwork, the ideas start to take shape and the details come to me," says Cheong about her intuitive approach to painting.

Cheong Kiet Cheng's 'Twins Flowers' (oil on canvas, 2023). Photo: Wei-Ling GalleryCheong Kiet Cheng's 'Twins Flowers' (oil on canvas, 2023). Photo: Wei-Ling Gallery

She also finds solace in her daily routines, which she considers meditative. Her husband works abroad and she raises their two young daughters here.

"All days, months and years, it is the same thing over and over again. My daily life routine is very important to me. Prepare breakfast in the morning and send my daughters to school, do the marketing and then get back home, switch on music and work on my art until it is time to pick up my daughters. It is almost like meditation all the time. My life is very simple and I think it suits me very well," she explains.

In this simple yet structured routine, she finds space to allow her mind to wander through past, present and future, finding sources of inspiration for her art.

The Last Star Before The Dawn mirrors the complexity of human emotions and experiences.

It showcases a balance between black and white works, which convey a sense of depth and contemplation, and watercolour pieces that infuse the exhibition with an optimistic atmosphere.

"The show has balance. I have the black and white works and also the colourful ones, which impart a more cheerful feeling," says Cheong.

One of her artworks in this show, titled Seed, is a deceptively subtle piece. Yet, she highlights it as “special”, partly because of her affinity with trees.

"The tree artwork is the most special to me. No matter where I am, I feel connected to trees. It gives me a sense of calm. Sometimes when I go hiking in the jungle, I will take pictures of trees to give me inspiration later. A seed has great power: contained within it is the whole universe, and you can see the whole world in a leaf,” she says.

Cheong Kiet Cheng's 'Seed' (ink and acrylic on canvas, 2022). Photo: Wei-Ling GalleryCheong Kiet Cheng's 'Seed' (ink and acrylic on canvas, 2022). Photo: Wei-Ling Gallery

In another piece, Cosmic Wanderings, she draws inspiration from her tai chi practice.

“I have been obsessed with the practice of tai chi for my whole life. When I am in the midst of practising, people and things in my mind and in the world around me seem insignificant, as if they are floating in a vast sea of stars. As I move through the postures, it feels as if I am flying amongst the stars and everything around me fades away into emptiness,” she says.

The Last Star Before the Dawn presents a collection of work that is filled with a sense of wonder for the world we inhabit. Is it a peaceful one? You be the judge.

The Last Star Before The Dawn is showing at Wei-Ling Gallery, No. 8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur till July 8. More info here.

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