27 August 2013

Figurative Trajectories @ G13

With a catalogue essay titled "The Figurative in the Figure" that praises the "clever selection" of the gallery owner, "...to counter the usual expectations we have of figurative art", one is bewildered when the author ends the essay by surmising that "The human form in figurative art and other approaches never ceases to amaze as it and the various trajectories pursued..." Assigning a title to a group exhibition is difficult, but when the works displayed include Yeoh Choo Kuan's abstract paintings and C.K. Koh's box-headed cartoon character, the figurative theme becomes a conceited falsehood. This lack of purpose is amplified in Choo Kuan's 'Mad Rush', a diptych that gives off a strong odour of oil paints and aims to capture ephemeral feelings, which intention is better served in his two smaller grattage works. 

Seah Zelin - Phase 3 (2013)

Chong Kim Chiew's fanatical marks forcefully map a printed Malaysian identity onto male torsos, while the accompanying 'Hole' comments on national borders via cut-out rectangular blanks. Patriotic fervour is depicted more subtly in Seah Zelin's "Phase 1-4" series, with its dream interiors and dense smoke drawn onto fragile linen, each phase depicting a sentiment pre- and post-General Elections. 'Phase 3' stands out with its powerful sense of authority, the large chair cut off at the left, striking a balanced pictorial depth in a composition expertly illustrated in black & white. Sun Kang Jye experiments with portraiture by painting negative spaces at the back of the canvas, resulting in bland and creepy images that resemble brain scans. In this age of rampant photography and digital manipulation, artists naturally embrace less conventional approaches to represent real-life objects. 

Gan Tee Sheng - Auty & Boy (2010)

Seniority prevails in this exhibition, with its most accomplished works contributed by Gan Tee Sheng, whose 2011 paintings follow in Chan Kok Hooi's footsteps. Misplaced limbs, chequered surfaces, and naked legs, dot his despairing canvases that project a pessimistic view of human nature. Surreal ugliness taxes the viewer, but when the perspective is tilted upwards even just a little, like in 'Auty & Boy', one is momentarily given the authority to judge the perversity that pervades the picture. Contrasting this gloom is the opaque yet luminous paintings of Siund Tan, whose 'Together' employs a welcome change of medium, that retains his style without compromising a beautiful aesthetic. In art, expectations are meant to be betrayed. Perhaps it is this quality that every artist should incessantly practice, instead of pursuing the meaningless definition of artistic trajectories.

Siund Tan - Together (2013)

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