THE thrilling thing about still-under-the-radar-artists is the fact that their works tend to surprise, in a way a child’s wonder is upon discovering Santa brought her everything she asked for plus, all the cookies are eaten and milk downed.
In a taxi heading home after an interview with artist Abdullah Jones, an easy conversation with the driver turns heavily animated as the subject shifts to art.
He tells me that his brother is studying in Dasein Academy of Art and elatedly queries if I knew who Yuki Tham was. Her works, he says, is so beautiful and so sad.
It’s strangely wonderful when this kind of serendipity happens, and when it does, it must be pursued, especially when thoughts of writing about her have occurred often.
In her recent works It’s Better For You This Way and I Want To Be Perfect Just Like You, Yuki magnifies pain and longings, of people broken and disintegrating.
Pain is a thing difficult to articulate, a thing unseen, and doesn’t show up in X-rays or blood tests.
These two paintings, although grim and brink on bleakness, carries within them the blaring subtext that “I am in danger of losing this fight but I will not give in, even if it is true that I am completely alone and my agony means nothing.”
Maybe these are her love letters to the world, of veiled lusts, violent emotional meetings with fate and unavoidable horrific accidents.
But there’s also an element of the whimsy, as seen in No One Was There and If I Have Wings. The artist knows that it is vital to be able to laugh at ourselves.
In anticipation of her July solo, some words on pain by poet Emily Dickinson: -
I wish I knew that Woman’s name —
So when she comes this way,
To hold my life, and hold my ears
For fear I hear her say
She’s “sorry I am dead” — again —
Just when the Grave and I —
Have sobbed ourselves almost to sleep,
Our only Lullaby —
Yuki Tham’s works can be viewed at
G13 Gallery, GL13, Ground Floor, Block B,
Kelana Square, Jalan SS 7/26, Selangor
Tete-a-tete with Yuki Tham
1. Where did your early interest in painting come from?
I have been scribbling, drawing, painting from a very young age; portraiture being my obsession. There is something about painting expressions and gestures I find deeply satisfying.
2. Did anyone help/ inspire you to find your distinctive style?
My lecturers, yes, absolutely. I studied at Dasein Academy of Fine Art, and they taught and guided me on the varying ways of thinking and understanding things from varying perspectives.
One particular teacher, Cheong Tuck Wai, has been instrumental in shaping my artistic approaches. His passion is palpable, and I learnt so much from him.
3. What themes will you be exploring in your upcoming July solo?
They are mostly introspective works, exploring emotions through conversations with myself. This new series is a deeper investigation or expansion of my past works and experiences as an artist.
My works are my world. I see art as a process of seeking answers, and a way of ‘fixing’ myself. We are after all, broken in some places. I am predisposed to creating dialogue in my paintings as a means to communicate with viewers.
4. How do you ‘imprison’ genuine personality?
It is all based on personal experiences and the books I read. I’m an avid fan of psychology. I have spent my entire life studying the body, the mind, the soul and paint analytical studies of character traits of those in my age demography. I usually work with female models who are able to ‘achieve’ the expressions relevant to the current mood I am seeking.
5. Artists who have inspired your work?
So many! Edward Hopper, Vilhelm Hammershoi, Jenny Saville, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Lo Chan Peng, He Duoling. They are all so skilled and produce works which radiate power.
6. Which of your works are personal favourites?
All of them as they’re my diary. What you see are fragments of my life amplified in colours. Each time I revisit a piece of work, I am made painfully aware of what instigated it. It overwhelms.
7. We can be full of hate or full of love or both. What do you think?
Love and hate are potent words, and the very two things I still grapple with. I have yet to discover them fully. My paintings are done in ambiguous, contradictory ways, stimulated largely by my own travails.
8. What does being ‘human’ mean to you?
It is about doing what you like with the ones you love.
Selected group exhibitions
• Art Kaohsiung 2017 with G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• Art Expo Malaysia Plus 2016 with G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• Transit A2, HOM Art Trans, Malaysia
• We R Gen Y, G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• G13 Bali Residency Program Showcase 2016, G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• Young Malaysian Artists — New Objection III, Galeri Petronas, Malaysia
• G13 5th Anniversary Show, G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• Configuration 2015, G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• Figure Out! Four Young Figurative Artists, HOM Art Trans, Malaysia
• Contemporary Propulsion: Influenced and Evolution, G13 Gallery, Malaysia
• UOB Painting of the Year, Menara UOB, Malaysia
• Tanjong Heritage, Maya Hotel, Malaysia
• Catalysis, HOM Art Trans, Malaysia
• Art Expo: Breaking Down the Wall, Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre, Malaysia
• Configuration 2014, G13 gallery, Malaysia
• Tanjong Heritage, Maya Hotel, Malaysia
• 2014 Silver Award, UOB Painting of the Year, Emerging Artist Category
• 1st Prize in Oil/Acrylic Category, Tanjong Heritage National Art Competition
• Outstanding Achievement Award, Dasein Academy of Art
• 2013 3rd Prize in Oil/Acrylic Category, Tanjong Heritage National Art Competition
• 3rd Prize in Printmaking Category, Tanjong Heritage National Art Competition