There's something about contemporary artist Annabell Ng’s artwork that exudes a delicate fragility, yet when you step forward to view it up-close, you’ll see that it’s far more resilient than it looks – like a dandelion growing through cracked concrete.
You get a similar impression when meeting with the artist herself. Though soft-spoken and not one for many words, Ng’s passion for her work and its messages shine through.
“I see the environment as something that shapes who we are,” says Ng, 41.
And indeed, Inland, her debut exhibition at Wei-Ling Gallery, showcases a series of experimental artworks that capture the essence of nature, prompting us to contemplate our close, yet complex relationship with the environment.
Ng’s innovative use of organic materials serves as a tactile representation of the tenuous balance that exists within ecosystems, reminding us of the interconnectedness that binds all living beings and encouraging us to revere and protect it.
The 11 pieces featured in the exhibition uses a mixture of mediums, comprising materials natural and man-made, such as flowers, leaves and bark to wax, glass and metal.
Ng’s works primarily use an earthy palette of creams and browns that are contrasted by splashes of colour – the pieces have an luminous quality, inviting you to gaze into the play of textures and hues.
Apart from this exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, she is also currently a resident artist at independent arts centre Rimbun Dahan in Selangor.
Her residency work explores her practice focused on mark-making reminiscent of minute fragments, as well as developing her concepts of mycelium cultivation.
Hanging in a delicate balance
It’s not common for an artist to focus on one specific issue, but to Ng, her art is not only a way to express the beauty of nature, but to also highlight the major environmental issues of our time.
At the Wei-Ling Gallery, visitors can marvel at her works surrounding these topics and how humans affect the Earth's system.
Luminous Matter, for example, is a fascinating piece comprising laboratory instruments made of glass and microscope slides with plant and animal specimens that have been meticulously labelled.
Ng carefully put the materials together into chandelier-like light fixtures, representing a smaller scale version of our universe.
“In this piece, I wanted to show the biodiversity of our world, which is often overlooked. The lightbulb in the centre is the energy source, like our sun, and the specimens in the slides are all the organisms that rely on that light to survive, forming an intricate support system,” she says.
In the large, circular piece Rhythms, Ng intertwines gestural mark-making with natural materials, harnessing the raw essence of the natural world to evoke a profound connection to our shared human experiences.
Ng shares that choosing which materials to work with is a crucial part of her process, revealing that it’s often a spontaneous choice, driven by instinct and whatever catches her eye.
“I like working with wax. I imagine that life is like a river – there are times when it’s moving and flowing, and there are times when it hardens into something solid. Wax is similar in that way, that it can be liquid one moment, and solid the next,” says the multi-talented artist, who has degrees in classical music and the fine arts.
Dreaming of a better world
Born Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Ng has always shared a deep connection with her father, both driven by a mutual passion for plants.
“I was never a particularly boisterous child, but I’ve always liked to spend time in nature. I think in its own way, nature speaks to me. When I’m out among the trees, I feel free and at peace,” she says.
In turn, this love of nature is something that she now shares with her four-year-old son, whom she tells us is also a source of inspiration for her work.
“I often think about what I can do to make a better world for him, which is reflected in my artwork,” says Ng.
For the piece Resemblance, made from preserved plants frozen in time between glass, much of the materials that were used were collected by Ng and her son during their walks out in nature.
“This piece is a reminder of the times I spent with my son as we gathered the flowers and leaves. There are a lot of memories and experiences captured in this work,” she shares with a smile.
“Ultimately, I hope visitors will be able to see nature’s possibilities through my work,” she adds.