In the Flesh @ Richard Koh Fine Art

Appreciating a Yeoh Choo Kuan painting used to be an engaging experience. Underpainting is seen through layers of violent brush strokes, the smell of oil paints hang heavily in the air, thin horizontal lines resemble paper cuts, and esoteric titles imbue his abstract paintings with a reticent impression. Unveiling a “flesh object” approach, the usual sensory triggers are now suppressed behind mirrored frames hung in the neighbourhood gallery. Peeling lacquered oil paint mimic self-harm, but any brutal sentiment is encased in favour of protecting the material product, where art collectors treat abstract paintings as accumulated asset. Physical manipulation of paint becomes the spectacle in a hit-or-miss show, although some hits demonstrate the considerable prowess of this young artist.

It’s Just One of Those Days (2014)

These works “anthropomorphized the canvas; moving away from mere depictions of the figure to a sort of theatrical play by treating the paintings as props to acts of mortification.” Haffendi Annuar’s catalogue essay describes the series well, his dramatic prose aping the beneath-the-skin technique of Choo Kuan’s. Referencing film dialogue in artwork titles seems contrived at first, but the raw expression on canvas indicates one genuinely moved by scripted moments. As one who has watched the majority of movies quoted, it is inevitable to associate these paintings with the silver screen. American Psycho and The Clockwork Orange are referred to more than once, and one does wonder why the colour orange does not manifest in ‘I Was Cured Alright’. 

I Was Cured Alright (2014)

A blue-purple tone and organic-shaped cuts in ‘They Were Inside Us’ recall The Joker’s narration in The Dark Knight, while blood-red feature prominently in vampire movie references. Funnily enough, Woody Allen movies influence the most attractive pictures. ‘We Came so Close to Perfection’ (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) projects a bare yet powerful aesthetic, and the bright hues in ‘I Don't Know How Much Longer I Can Keep This Smile Frozen on My Face’ aptly describe the dysfunctional romance seen in Annie Hall. Vivid colours are revealed also under a gritty white layer in ‘It’s Just One of Those Days’, bringing to mind Limp Bizkit’s opening line from Break Stuff. Quoting the other featured song lyric, “all my senses are on fire” when viewing Choo Kuan’s works, only when the reflective glass is broken.

Be Me for a Little While (2014)

"The last chord has died away. In the brief silence which follows I feel strongly that there it is, that something has happened. 
Some of these days You'll miss me honey
What has just happened is that the Nausea has disappeared. When the voice was heard in the silence, I felt my body harden and the Nausea vanish. Suddenly: it was almost unbearable to become so hard, so brilliant. At the same time the music was drawn out, dilated, swelled like a waterspout. It filled the room with its metallic transparency, crushing our miserable time against the walls. I am in the music."
La Nausée, Jean-Paul Sartre (1938) [translated by R. Baldick, 1965)

We Came so Close to Perfection (2014)