TWO skilled purveyors of an age-old craft have reunited to showcase their gorgeous hand-sculpted clay works in Studio at Straits’ ongoing ‘A Contemporary Ceramic Exhibition’.
Alex Tan, 58, and Cheah Yeow Seng, 55, both full-time potters and long-time friends, are exhibiting 60 pieces in their second joint exhibition in Penang, which runs until Jan 15.
Though they both share the same masterful touch and enduring passion towards their craft, their works display contrasting styles and approaches, and are testament to the unique individuality of each artist.
Tan, who has been shaping masterpieces out of lumps of clay for the better part of three decades, engraves whimsical images of people and animals onto his pieces, in honour of the beautiful things that exist around us.
Among them are several pots with feline subjects, which nicely encapsulate the frisky animals’ cute demeanour. It is a subject close to his heart, and he intends to use proceeds from sales to help care for homeless animals.
“All living things are God’s creations. They’re beautiful in nature and deserve to be protected and admired. I’ve always had a fondness for animals and being around them gives me a good feeling,” Tan opined.
Contrastingly, Cheah imbues some of his works with a touch of femininity. The figurine-like series captures the elegance of female forms and outfits through an interplay of colours, patterns, imprints and glazes.
“The fairer sex has varying characteristics, and my pieces are designed to give viewers their own mystical interpretations,” Cheah explained.
Another series, which he lovingly calls Tactile, is notable for its crackled, textured finishes achieved by burning and pushing the pieces’ inner and outer surfaces with different intensities as they dry.
Regardless, they are both glad to be teaming up again for the exhibition, following a successful one at the same gallery a year before.
“Birds of the same feather flock together. We share a common interest and speak a common ‘language’,” Tan enthused about their collaboration.
Both of them find clay the perfect medium of expression due to its versatility and ease being shaped into various forms. Moreover, the hands-on nature of sculpting allows them to feel the masterpieces taking shape.
“When it’s soft, you can mould it into whatever you want. And once you fire it, the form remains for good.
“The touch is the most important aspect – you really have to free your mindset from everything, and be as one with the clay. But it can be very therapeutic and helps relieve stress,” Cheah pointed out.
Tan, who started off with more rigid cement sculpturing before making the switch to clay, found himself in a world of possibilities after making the transition.
“It has been a wonderful journey of discovery, self-improvement, expression and satisfaction. As an artist, you can never be contented and always strive for even better things going forward,” Tan added.
Studio at Straits is located along Armenian Street, and opens daily from 10am to 7pm. For more information, call 04-2627299.