30 July 2013

Jojo in the Wonderland @ White Box

The Malaysian Chinese-educated community is inspired by Taiwanese perceptions of beauty, who in turn draw on Japanese culture as an influence. One experiences this particular aesthetic, during a stroll in the Pipit or Kaka craft markets (held 2-3 times a year), or when having coffee at Poco Homemade or Typica cafĂ©. The current generation of this demographic are encouraged to express their fears - contradictions of life, love, and social identity, are common themes in popular books and song lyrics. Among young local artists, Siund Tan and Chong Ai Lei display traces of this sometime-saccharine sentiment; Now Cheong Kiet Cheng has burst onto the scene, and claim this aesthetic as her own.

Tree House (2012)

Bright-eyed figures, cute & furry animals, and a large tree, cohabit the space in 'Tree House' like a surrealist collage. Its protagonists, assuming the artist and her muse, gaze upon past & future situations, while perching upon the branches of the Tree of Life.  Left alone, the female character faces her fears in 'We Neither Happy Nor Sad', a similarly crowded painting covered with wild animals, humanoids, and flowers. More intimate is the scene from "Raining Soon', where Miss red-riding-hood looks out to the viewer, seeking encouragement before she leaves her Wonderland. Sentimental and depicted as busy pictures, these works downplay the artist's considerable skill at drawing plants and animals.

In a Morning (2013)

With its elements placed in the right context and composition, 'In a Morning' stands out as the masterpiece in this collection. The girl holds on confidently to a mythical bird, releasing a multitude of other flying creatures, that head off to the limestone mountains in the background.  Rocks and trees contribute to this allegory, but it is the phoenix's soft orange feathers, and the curvature of the birds' flight path, that attract the viewer's attention. 'Butterfly Kiss' depicts our protagonist with fairy wings, showing off a brazen impertinence while crouched upon, a floating log in a washed up landscape. These works by Kiet Cheng emit an emotional turbulence, denoting a constant interrogation of her deepest feelings.

Butterfly Kiss (2013)

Maturity prevails in the pale hues of 'Sunflower', standing out as the hidden gem among other visually attractive works. A Malaysian-Chinese girl, recognisable from her sleeveless laced blouse, gazes downwards in a gloomy landscape of dying flowers. Erected beside her is a decaying sunflower, rendered in exquisite beauty despite its pastel palette. Juxtaposing perfectly with the girl, with its curling petals and thorny stem, the picture states that there is beauty in decay.  It also mocks the popular notion of beauty, referring to the vibrant sunflower, and the pretty Asian. A similar theme is portrayed in 'We Sleep Under the Starry Sky', although in a morbid turn of events, an animal skeleton (her zodiac, perhaps?) is present as a sleeping companion.

Sunflower (2013)

Sharing the White Box space is husband Hoo Kiew Hang's garish and shallow works of pop art, a persiflage on religious spirituality that only dwells on surface matters. Lucky him to have a wife that recognises her inner feelings and deep thoughts, whom then is able to transplant those reflections vividly onto canvas. The illustrated world view are allegories of omnipresent human concerns, and are most importantly, painted beautifully. At the exhibition, the Wonderland atmosphere is enriched by polyform and cement sculptures, lying among piles of dry leaves. Shown also are quirky small assemblages made of leaves, that explore the same themes, but with a discernible Taiwanese / Malaysian aesthetic, that belongs to Cheong Kiet Cheng.

Polyform + cement sculptures @ White Box

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