EVERYTHING changes. Life happens and nothing stays the same. At many points in life, we’re confronted with the reality of change. Births, deaths, break-ups, friendships — everything flows and shapes our reality, adding to our individual stories or a collective tale as a nation.
“That’s how stories happen — with a turning point, an unexpected twist,” wrote Haruki Murakami in his book Kafka on the Shore. Turning these experiences into works of art is a potent act, springing from the artist’s longing to bridge his/her private truth and transmuting it into a public form.
After all, being an artist isn’t simply what happens when you’re at a studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth, the size of the world you make for yourselves, your ability to influence the things you believe in, your obsessions, your failures — all of these components can become the raw material for the art you make.
For the artists of the latest exhibition [email protected] Turning Points at Wei Ling Gallery, the adage “life imitates art” perpetuated by poet and playwright Oscar Wilde rings true. Delving deep into their experiences and reflecting on their own individual “turning points” and stories, the artists have come up with an evocative body of work.
There are many stories told and experiences shared at this exhibition. Individually, they’re powerful but collectively, they create an extraordinary human story about resilience and change.
For viewers, this is the opportunity to witness an unfolding of stories and narratives and be comforted in knowing that while the tides of change can come and unsettle the best of us, we are not alone.
Title: A Garland for My Father
Medium: Lightbox with painted canvas insert
In our family, whether as a child or an adult, the VW Beetle has always represented a kind of starting and then turning point in our lives. My father's first car was a brand new VW, which cost him RM 3600 in 1958 and was one that took 18 installments to pay off. Coincidentally, my first car was also a VW, not brand new but a 1963, which I lovingly restored with my dad and kept for many years. I learned to drive, dated my wife, carried my dog, joined a club, changed jobs, bought a house, and had a child against the backdrop of this car — BP7200.
In researching this project, it struck me that my entire family and extended family, along with my wife's family, all drove VWs. It was the ultimate family starter kit — affordable, reliable, timeless and always trendy. They even featured as a prop in so many family photographs!
My father died two months ago. To remember my dad, I decided to make a portrait of him surrounded by a light box emblazoned with collected archival photos of various family members and extended family with their VWs. For me, the VW Bug has been the veritable turning point in all our lives — it marked the moment when we grew up, from children to men. The work is called A Garland of VWs for My Father (2019).
Chin Kong Yee
Title: Bersih? Stop Lynas
Medium: Acrylic on veg tanned leather
The “Bersih” social movement definitely marked an important turning point for all Malaysians. It brought us both hope and courage for change. Eventually, for the first time in 60 years, the historic change in Government happened.
This brings me back to the time my grandmother told me stories about the Japanese occupation in Malaya. My grandfather died during that perilous time. My grandmother was so happy when the Japanese finally left, but the British returned and initiated the “Briggs Plan”. She and her two children were placed in Kampung Baru, Ampang, where I have since been living. An important turning point for the nation, I believe, happened then — race differentiation.
The turning point for my father was Malaysia’s independence day. On Aug 31, 1957, he travelled to Merdeka Square for the celebration. His brand new motorbike was stolen that day, but that didn’t dampen his excitement. However, that wonderful historical episode was overshadowed by the dark episode of May 13th, just 12 years later.
Fast forward to 2018, Pakatan Harapan won the general elections and became the new government of Malaysia. However, there still doesn’t seem to be any urgency in making the “Bersih” aspirations come true. Instead, there are attempts to make people hate each other again using the same old British trick. I’m really at a loss at this seemingly turning point.
All I know is that people from my generation love each other. More than ever, NOW represents our turning point! We should build our country up with love instead of hate: “I am Malaysian and I love everyone else.” This wearable artwork will travel around and will continue to question the movement: How far has the “Bersih” movement progressed? When should Lynas be stopped?
Cheong Kiet Cheng
Title: Butterfly Effect, 2001 at Cameron Highlands, 2019 at Butterfly Park
Medium: Ink and water on canvas
Butterfly Effect, 2001 at Cameron Highlands, 2019 at Butterfly Park depicts the phenomenon that is the butterfly effect, which is something that I found myself experiencing. About 20 years ago, I met my husband as a classmate at the art college we both attended.
Prior to that, I had never attended a painting school before. If I hadn’t chosen to join that particular school, I would never have met him and spent all these years with him. We’d never have had our two beautiful little daughters. The butterfly effect describes the occurrence of a tiny thing that continues to affect your life because every little thing that happened in the past is what constructs your present.
Title: Into the waves of memory
Medium: Industrial paint on canvas
This work traces my experiences in the UK. It depicts my early stages in creating abstract work and also marks the in-between phase that is my past and current practice as an artist. I’ve chosen to exhibit this work as it captures the past, present, and future aspects of my artistic journey.
The idea and styles that you see on this painting represents the urge in letting go of my worries. Before abstraction, my works have always been figurative. Abstraction has taught me so many things, including my view of art itself. An artwork doesn’t have to depend on a narrative story. Personally, what became important to me was how the use of certain materials and technique could illustrate my life.
When finishing my Masters in the UK, I faced many obstacles, which included economical challenges. As the rent was high, I had to come up with alternative solutions. In parallel, I discovered that abstraction is a style that best describes my life because it touched me more than any other styles. Based on this experience, I learnt that in order to overcome challenges and survive, one must be creative.
Title: A U-Turn
Medium: Mechanical weighing scale, matt art paper, steel alm bowl, perspex, vinyl sticker
I view turning point as a U-turn in the nation’s history. I feel that the nation’s political situation is going back to what it used to be, with broken promises and unfulfilled obligations. U-Turn (2019) consists of a bowl placed on a stack of posters, which in turn is placed above a scale.
Each poster represents a manifesto of the current (new) government. The quantity of the posters corresponds to the exact number of days that the current government has been in office, with the countdown starting from the beginning of the exhibition.
It reminds us of the bygone days where actions have still not been taken to fulfil the promises made by the new government. Visitors are invited to take a poster each, and in return, to put something within the bowl. The decreasing weight of the scale throughout the course of the exhibition is akin to an urgent call for us to shed our apathy and care about what’s happening to our nation.
[email protected] Turning Points
Where: Wei-Ling Contemporary, RT01, Sixth Floor, The Gardens Mall, KL
When: Until Jan 15, 2020
Admission: Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7pm.
Call +60322828323/ +60322601106 for info.