05 April 2014

Drops of Colour @ Sasana Kijang

Artworks from the national bank's collection are casually exhibited at its spacious gallery - batik and watercolours on one side, and a random assortment on the other. The level of abstraction is a useful gauge while appreciating these wall hangings. School art classes recall a familiarity with handling watercolours, leading to typical admiration of realistic renderings, be it colonial buildings or tropical birds. Its simple preparation and immediate effect makes watercolour a useful choice in sketching modern life. Tan Choon Ghee crops lively street scenes, while a charming grocery store front is painted by Chin Kon Yit. Illustrated nostalgia is further compounded when the diluted properties of this medium is utilised. Mansor Ghazali's 'UKM Lake' captivates with marvellous colour blends, the picture evoking the essence of its depicted landscape, the impressionistic impact not unlike the works of Alfred Sisley.

Chin Kon Yit - Kedai Runcit 1991 (II) (1991)

Khalil Ibrahim projects bright orange hues onto batik, masking a newspaper print, its block-like shapes suppressing any political intention. In contrast, protégé Ismail Mat Hussin draws detailed scenes of fishing boats along the beach, his limited palette advancing the romantic characterisations of a rural landscape. More adventurous is Lee Kian Seng, who combines a photographic print with batik painting. Multiple silhouettes of the 'Railway Station K.L.' accentuate the presence of this iconic building, while a moody skyline augments the visual drama. Hung nearby are a number of Chuah Thean Tengs that showcase the master's unparalleled composition skill, yet what drew my attention was located at the opposite wing. 'Mother and Child' portrays a classical pose, its medley of geometrical patterns, tie-dye lines, and garish colours, amplifying the figurative forms instead of debasing it, resulting in wonderful elegance.

Chuah Thean Teng - Mother and Child (1993)

Malaysian modern masters and their collective abstraction are displayed in full force at this end of the gallery, none more powerful than Latiff Mohidin's 'Pemandangan 5'. Thick brushstrokes of primary colours depict a vigorous flow, its dark contrasts painting a ceaseless vitality beyond the frame. Older works including those by Latiff, Syed Ahmad Jamal and his distilled luminosity, or the sinuous lines of Ibrahim Hussein, look dated upon comparison. At the opposite end of the abstraction gauge sees the beautifully painted sleeping baby by Yeong Seak Ling. Surprisingly more enchanting is the 'Rubber Plantation Series', where the kampung house is now located within a rubber estate. Representations of this scene/environment are strangely uncommon in Malaysian art, despite the rural landscape being a favoured subject matter.

Yeong Seak Ling - Rubber Plantation Series (2000)

Successfully differentiating himself from the abstract expressions of fellow modern masters, Khoo Sui Hoe's endearing style is encapsulated in the magnum opus 'The Rainbow Day'. A rainbow, a parasol, and a metallic arch, combine with the artist's characteristic naive figures and water reflections, to form a magnificent landscape. First seen at Rimbun Dahan, Wong Perng Fey's 'Shadow of My Dream' recalls a vague memory via black, and thick but fluid paints. As one who thinks and remembers in an abstract manner, Perng Fey's intentional blur, and his depictions of an ethnic Chinese upbringing, resonates deeply with this visitor. Colour is a visual code, and drops of it are sufficient to trigger the deepest recollections. In my search to decouple general taste from personal taste, the process of unlearning and dispelling the sources of knowledge, proves to be the most unsettling one yet.

Wong Perng Fey - Shadow of My Dream (2008)

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