23 December 2015

From Little Things, Big Things Grow @ Lostgens’

An upside-down wind-up toy dinosaur sucks the head, off a dismembered torso covered with spectral bodies traversing into a fluorescent river. The fist-turned-snout lies upon a zipped-up chessboard, where a hand clutches the blue sky as ransom, and a rat looks ready to pounce. Nightmarish cartoon creatures are partially consumed by a giant white bunny, its steel bells ringing an imaginary cackle. Lollipops and one inflatable human doll float past; more sweets are found in the belly of a pink torso spouting out heads from its neck. Beside it is a swirling design that denotes the origin of this apocalyptic landscape. Various ghastly beings patrol the whole area, littered also with familiar and superbly-scaled objects from Super Mario Bros.  We are at the gates of hell. Except, there is no heaven.

Cycledelic (2011–2015)

One paragraph is insufficient to describe Tey Beng Tze’s four-year-in-the-making ‘Cycledelic’, as is the typical issue in naming all the symbols present in his works. Despite the multitude of things illustrated, Beng Tze’s creations are never cluttered. Taboo images and garish colours distract from his multi-planar compositions, which along with a nifty use of scale, project effective metaphors about being within more than one dimension. Psychedelia and surrealism are conventionally easy interpretations, but these works neither look like hallucinatory nonsense, nor make associations based on automatism. In the cosmic web of ‘Life Time’, a flooded river and burning forests hint at contemporary concerns, but decaying apples, an outward projecting clock, and stylised flowers and children, all point to a general meditation of life.

No More Fukushima (2014)

The exhibited works consist of various mediums. A constant reference to childlike innocence, l'origine du monde, social stratification, sounds, ghosts, and Japanese manga, present the artist’s areas of interest. In ‘Same Hole Shit’, deity-like characters and sinuous lines populate a forest, all the while unable to mask the obscene form outlined. The slime of purgatory is constructed bit by bit in ‘Kill the Poor’ – a pen drawing on 25 sheets of A4-sized paper – and its many dismembered limbs can be a repulsive sight. Abhorrence to a capitalist society is most prevalent in ‘Fucking More (Mall)’, its structural elements propping up or concealing lost souls. With its crowd of human bodies and a grand presentation, the three aforementioned pictures recall religious murals and painted fables. Where do you come from? Who do you see? What do you believe in?

Fucking More (Mall) (2014)

‘Fact’ displays hazy angst with muddled lines and vivid contrasting colours. In its visual simplicity, this 2010 painting is similar to the smaller exhibited works, which have been used as posters in concerts organised by Findars, the collective Beng Tze founded. ‘Drawing Sound’ presents a spontaneous collage of musical references, which broken records seem spliced by one masked deejay from the accompanying piece ‘Cut, Cut’. The latter illustrates a serene Japanese landscape interrupted by a giant robot, its round gleaming eyes, a shamisen 三味線, and drawn tree branches, anchoring the four pictures that make up the work. Opposite, three touched-up antique posters amuse via referencing the menace of mosquitos and masculinity, although the fiery spectres in ‘No More Fukushima’ point to a more sinister episode.   

[l] Drawing Sound (2014); [r] Cut, Cut (2015)

At a time when popular Malaysian art consist of isolated figures with a misplaced sense of scale, or abstracts with overt gestural brushwork, Beng Tze’s creations are refreshing for its accumulated details. Feelings manifest in physical representations, and its correlations traced over time, as hinted by the exhibition title. Some drawings may be indecent at first sight, but there is minimal shock factor, because we all know that real life is more ridiculous. The result is a splendid visual display, even an uplifting one, without the need of wall statements to describe singular notions or specific moods. Putting pen to paper as a first step is a potent act, and what transpires later on can lead the viewer to a different space or state of mind. As artists grow with their art, it is a joy for me to adapt and grow with their art too.

Same Hole Shit (2014)

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