WATERCOLOUR is deemed to be the most difficult painting medium – a fact acknowledged by artist Lok Kerk Hwang.
“The hardest part is to create the transparent effect that the medium is known for.
“There is no room for error when it comes to watercolours, so a lot of planning is involved before taking the brush to canvas.
“Mistakes done in acrylic and oil paintings can be ‘covered’ with another layer of paint or gesso, but that cannot be done with watercolour painting.
“So it takes a lot of learning and experience to get the hang of the watercolour medium,” said Lok, who humbly admitted that he makes less mistakes now although he does not consider himself a master.
In some paintings, he said, he has to finish the background within eight to 10 minutes and not make any mistakes within that short time, as the background is very important and its success sets the tone for the rest of the artwork.
Lok was speaking at the opening of his fourth solo exhibition called The Magic of Light III at Wisma Kebudayaan Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM).
The 44-year-old from Batu Pahat, Johor, described the event as a “dream come true”, as it was also his first solo exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.
The Magic of Light III showcases 50 of Lok’s watercolour creations over the past 24 years.
They feature a variety of subjects, including locks, bicycles and rusted objects that have become Lok’s signature.
Playing with light and shadow as well as composition, Lok paints what may seem like the mundane to highlight the beauty in the ordinary things around us.
For example, Lok said the painting called Symphony of Rust No. 14 focused on the play between light and shadow, as well as the contrasting geometric shapes of an abandoned metal-cutting machine.
“It was originally a very dull and dirty machine. In addition to using different colours to highlight the contrasts, I also used a metallic pigment to create a rust effect,” he said.
This painting won him the Combined Cash Award #2 in the 95th International Exhibition organised by the National Watercolour Society (NWS).
NWS receives over 1,000 paintings every year for their exhibitions, but less than 10% are selected to be displayed, let alone win prizes.
“After several attempts, I was lucky this piece that I sent in 2015 was selected and even won a prize.”
Symphony of Rust No. 14 was included in NWS’ travelling exhibition last year, and will be kept in a private collector’s home.
Meanwhile, Symphony of Rust No.1 is a painting that has great sentimental value to Lok as it was painted in 1993, at the start of his professional career when he was looking for a signature style.
This artwork of iron bars behind a metal gate is kept in his personal collection.
“It is only exhibited for two reasons – to show the evolution of my painting style and to educate collectors that watercolour artworks can be preserved, using the best-quality materials and storage methods.”
He combines his interest in photography when he works.
“He will take photos of objects or settings that catches his eye, then return to his studio to think of the composition for his paintings.
“I will omit unnecessary elements and focus on the details of the objects,” he said.
Lok revealed that he plans to end his Closed series, and move on to different subjects and painting techniques.
Closed has paintings of different closed doors, locks and knobs from different places and generations.
The artworks encourage guests to imagine the stories behind the doors while at the same time reigniting their own memories associated with those objects.
“I am experimenting with different methods, subjects and direction, but it will take time to evolve my style.
“Right now, I am exploring new compositions and including abstract elements in my paintings, such as with Tales of Wheel No. 9 that has a round frame with less defined details in the painting,” he said.
National Visual Arts Development board member Philip Wong officiated at the exhibition’s opening ceremony.
Also present were SGM president Michael Kok and SGM general director Koh Sia Feai.
“Lok’s skill is superb as he has great mastery of brush strokes and his paintings invoke inspiration and feeling,” said Wong, who expressed admiration after viewing Lok’s artworks for the first time.
Wong congratulated SGM on their efforts in promoting arts and culture. He also encouraged parents to take their children to art galleries to nurture their creativity.
The Magic Of Light III will be held until July 16 at SGM Exhibition Hall, 7th Floor, Wisma Kebudayaan SGM, No. 243, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
The gallery is open daily except Mondays, from 11am to 5pm. Admission is free.
For details, call 03-2144 8686 or visit www.sgm.org.my