27 August 2014

鸿•图 -- 吴亚鸿60回顾展 @ Wisma Kebudayaan SGM

Goh Ah Ang's retrospective involves five series displayed across three floors, a non-chronological outlay for 42 years of art. Raised in Klang and tutored by Chuang Kim Siew in his secondary school days, Ah Ang's teenage output includes oil paintings and etchings that contain expressionist backgrounds, and compositions that recall Khoo Sui Hoe. Upon graduation he worked in advertising, and took the opportunity to submit a Chinese ink work ('荷花') to the renowned Chung Chen Sun for review, whom praised his technical prowess. Without a formal art education, Ah Ang proceeded to open his own art school and has 12 solo exhibitions to date. This inspiring story about one self-made man that did it all for passion, is part of the exhibition's kitschy appeal, apart from some fantastic works on show.

混乱中的宁静 Peace in the Midst of Turmoil (1997)

Groupings of displayed works cater to the popular, or perhaps what the artist regards as most significant. Western notions of exhibition hanging are non-existent, evident on the ground floor where Ah Ang's famous "蚁之旅 Life As Ants " series is presented alongside the newer "生生世世 Time After Time" series. Metaphorical creatures are not new in Chinese painting, but to highlight an insect for its strength en masse, is rare for a culture whose art inclines towards heroic subjects. Ant drawings are paired together with crumpled paper, which tactile surface projects visual depth, utilised to great effect in works like ‘缝隙 The Gap’ and ‘混乱中的宁静 Peace in the Midst of Turmoil’. Formication is mercifully not felt while appreciating these works, because of its artful presentation and stated analogies.

怀古 Cherish I (2001)

Bronze script 鐘鼎文 is copied as a personal reflection in the latter series, its juxtaposition of black background and copper patina unexpectedly enchanting. Archaic characters stimulate the cultivated longing for ancient wisdom, an intrinsic sentiment manifest withini works like ‘怀古 Cherish I’ and ‘对语 Conversation’. Oddly hung among the introspective pieces is ‘生命。希望 Life. Hope’, which seductive silhouette hints at more figurative works to come. The next section “方框与窗 Frames and Windows” employs a simple yet highly effective pictorial device. Spiders and cockroaches hang from painting frames, while moths and birds flock around windows. Such scenes are easily infused with metaphor, via its title. An admirer of Piet Mondrian, Ah Ang’s use of grids and colour blocks are few but interesting, denoting a potential area for further artistic development.

窗里窗外 Outside And In (1999)

Exhibited upstairs are more expressive swirls, and a number of outstanding paintings done in the early 90’s, upon the artist’s visit to China after travel restrictions was lifted. ‘祈求 A Prayer’ and ‘龙的传人 Descendants of the Dragon’ demonstrate the power of one fluid monochromatic medium, while Chinese ink’s transparent qualities contribute to the wistful serenity in ‘钟声的沉思 Bell Toll Musings’. Commenting about his practice as a traditional ink painter, “I have always thought of tradition synonymous to the winds of yesterday. They could not move today’s trees but the rain falling down today is the cumulative result of yesterday’s winds.” Adept at analogies and technically sound, Ah Ang’s success as a Malaysian artist is a well-deserved one, as I purchase a catalogue out of goodwill.

钟声的沉思 Bell Toll Musings (1991)

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