Minstrel Kuik’s Light Ticking (2015) occupies a very small space at Richard Koh Fine Art (RKFA) gallery in Kuala Lumpur.
It hangs on a lonely wall, quiet and inconspicuous, like a wallflower. The framed photograph of a clock assumes a rather unassuming role in comparison to its louder and more vibrant counterparts hung at the gallery.
This is one of Kuik’s six works on display at RKFA’s Only A Fragment exhibition, together with works by her peers Eiffel Chong (five photographs) and Sherman Ong (four works).
One may wonder what the 39-year-old photographer had in mind when she captured the image of the clock, its hands barely seen for the reflection of sunlight on its face.
“When you look at that image, you will see that time is not linear. It’s a (concept of) suspension,” says the Perak-born artist/photographer during an interview at the gallery recently.
Kuik, last year’s winner of the UOB Painting of the Year (in the Established Artist category) for her charcoal artwork titled 16 Sept 1963, says that she moved the clock from her living room to the balcony just to get the effect of the reflection. And perhaps, it is the reflected sunlight that holds the key in unlocking the piece.
With the hands of the clock obscured by light, the time of day is not known. After all, how else can one tell time?
Does time then become non-existent because one cannot tell it? Where does time start? Where does is end? These are the prodding questions Kuik posed when asked about the piece, lending a philosophical touch to her piece.
In sharp contrast to this melancholic work is her Luminous Objects (2015) triptych. This psychedelic piece is an explosion of vibrant colours in the form of organic beings and amorphous objects. It is as if Kuik had captured dancing fairies. She says she started photographing the moving wallpaper on her computer screen one evening.
For the technical-minded Luminous Objects, she points outthat she explored “speed and colour” as she photographed the wallpaper.
“It is light as well, but artificial light,” says Kuik, a fulltime artist, who has exhibited in Malaysia and abroad.
One of her early works Cosmic Matter (2005) also makes its appearance at this Only A Fragment show. A hint at Kuik’s fascination for basic life-forces, planets and astrology, perhaps?
Elsewhere, Chong similarly explored the notions of time and light in his series. His 1.8m x 1.5m photographs of the sea is an infinity of blue, almost like the marriage between the sky and the sea. There is a sense of silence and isolation, a place detached from reality or even existence and all one looks at is a sea of nothingness.
To achieve that effect, the 38-year-old photography lecturer at Limkokwing University visited several beaches along the west coast of Malaysia and parts of Hong Kong during different hours of the day.
The master’s degree graduate in International Contemporary Art and Design Practice from the University of East London points out that the colour of the sea changed under different light, depending on the position of the sun.
“One of the beaches I visited was Port Dickson and I went during the higher tide when it’s usually hot. Because of the heat, the beach is usually deserted and it didn’t look like PD at all. It gave me a very bizarre and uncanny feeling,” recalls Chong, who began this beach front series in 2013.
Some of Chong’s past exhibitions include Under Control (2013) at Singapore’s 2902 Gallery, This Used To Be My Playground (2012) at Hong Kong’s Artify Gallery and Art13 London (2013) at London’s Olympia Grand Hall.
However, in this Only A Fragment show, Ong’s series takes a completely different approach. Called Shape Shifter, the series presents three photographs of green moths and one of a cat in the dark. Can they be metaphorically linked?
“The series is an assemblage of text and images whereby the juxtaposition of the text and images creates narratives that are not found within the text nor the images, if seen individually,” explains Ong, 43, who won the 2010 Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu Photography Award.
He adds that this juxtaposition creates “another layer of reading of the image and text” and brings a person “on many possible narrative journeys depending on how one wants to see the series.
“Is it about my meeting a stray cat? My encounter with a shapeshifter? The moth as shapeshifter? Are we living among shapeshifters? Or are we all shapeshifters one way or another? Is it all deja vu?”
Ong’s past exhibitions include Lost In Landscape (2014) at Italy’s Museum of Contemporary Art of Trento & Roverto and Sherman Ong (2009) at Australia’s Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia. One is also a founding member of 13 Little Pictures, a film collective based in Singapore.
When asked why Only A Fragment was chosen as the show’s title, gallery owner Richard Koh says that “when they submitted their work, there was a common thread. It’s all about time, that moment, that little second. That’s how the title came bout.”
Only A Fragment is also RKFA’s first homegrown photography exhibition. Koh reveals that the gallery is keen to work on more of such shows.
For KL-born Chong, Only A Fragment, took on a slightly different meaning.
“Minstrel and I have been friends for a very long time now and we know each other’s works. But when I looked at her work for this exhibition, I realised they were not like her usual style and I told her that. She said she has been doing this type of work but doesn’t really show them. Then it made me realise that I’ve seen only a fragment of her work,” Chong points out.
Both Kuik and Chong’s works were previously shown at Shalini Ganendra Fine Art’s group exhibition called My Country in New York last year.
Kuik, conversely, believes that artists are “granted the power of being a creator. When you are a creator, you know everything. But as artists, we should know that we can only represent a small part, a fragment of reality.”
As for Ong, all the photographs exhibited are like “fragments of our daily life, the people we meet, the encounters we make, the dreams we yearn, the regrets that we harbour, or the nightmares we have, which all leads us back to the question of the human condition and the connections we make between each other.”
Only A Fragment is on at Richard Koh Fine Art in Bangsar, KL, till May 21. Opens daily from 10am to 10pm. Call: 03-2283-3677.