21 May 2016

Words Become Art @ Wei-Ling Gallery

“道成了肉身,住在我们中间,满有恩典和真理。我们见过他的荣光,正是从父而来的独生子的荣光。”
- John 1:14, Chinese New Version (simplified)
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
- Hebrews 11:3, English Standard Version

Charity (1Co. 13:4-7) (2003-2015)

Transforming verses from holy books into artworks is not new. Islamic calligraphy has a significant representation in Malaysian visual art history, while I recall Indonesian A.D. Pirous’ exhibition at Universiti Malaya last year that still evokes a spiritual resonance. What is new here is the individual artist reconciling his globalised artistic viewpoint, with an adopted religion adapted for a diasporic community. Sun Kang Jye picks out biblical passages from the Chinese translation, and imbues the verses with his sculpture-influenced inverted painting technique. Looking at embossed lines, charred marks, scraped-off paint, and colour fills, the emerging visual effect is done successfully, although its overall impact is hindered by stylised ideograms. 

Self (Artist verse) (2010)

Chinese characters are abstracted from pictorial representations, and to further abstract its curves into geometric lines, dissolves its legibility into a forceful design. Add to it an insistent approach on incising the characters – creation via subtraction – and one is left with a pictorial riddle. Deciphering the verses, the most effective presentations belong to the monochromatic and the colourful, as seen in the works utilising iron and cartridge paper. Absence of acrylic paint in these smaller creations, denote a stripped-down background for reflection. Conversely, larger works with vivid painted colours project a contemporary glossiness, which render spiritual meaning more unattainable. 

(Gal. 5: 22-26) (2010)

The standout work ‘Everlasting Covenent (Mt. 19: 5-6)’ recalls a sentimental time during one’s marriage ceremony, a binding verse recited before the church’s altar, and a life-changing moment. Impasto effects created from coloured outlines and cut-outs, coalesce with hidden embossed strokes, to signify a multi-dimensional richness that comes with married life. The Bible features prominently as a source material within the Western art canon, although typical references are stories and allegories, not verses and quotations. In Muslim-majority Malaysia where figurative depictions remain a contested approach, Kang Jye’s method in projecting his religious faith is culturally sensitive, yet invigorating in its steadfast adherence to a personal belief. 

Everlasting Covenent (Mt. 19: 5-6) (2016)

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