“Have you been to Temenggor? You should, it is beautiful there,” says Malaysian artist Gerald Chong. His oil painting of the lake in Perak by sunrise is a serene one, his take on a quiet day touched by the early rays of the sun.
However, not everything at this art exhibition in KL is as contemplative as his.
Yes, there’s the quintessential ink paintings of mountain peaks skirting the clouds and a lotus-filled pond, but then there are also giant digitally-drawn teddy bears peeking through high voltage transmission towers.
It is obvious that the works in More Or Less: Malaysia + Taiwan International Art Exhibition And Exchange Dialogue come from different places, not necessarily geographically – although this is true as well – but from a different point of departure.
The exhibition is currently showing at the Oriental Art and Cultural Centre (OACC) in Kuala Lumpur. Here is a show that marries the classical and modern, a world juxtaposed with handheld gaming devices, old train stations, dancing leaves and coffee tumblers.
It is co-organised by Trilogue Malaysia, Yunlin County Vision Development Association Taiwan and the OACC.
More Or Less is curated by two Malaysian graphic designers and two Taiwanese artists: Trilogue co-founders Lew Tau Fei and Samantha Cheah (who goes by her pseudonym YueYue), and Yunlin County Vision Development Association president Ren-Tong Ding and Albert Wu.
“More Or Less was conceived based on life experiences. As artists, we often refer to our life’s work as pursuing a passion. We experience pain that leads us to our purpose, and from pursuit of this purpose, passion is born. With this passion, we constantly seek perfection in our work,” says Lew.
The exhibition ponders on the meaning of, or the search for, perfection. It is informed by the belief that there is always something to add or omit in the process of creating the “perfect artwork”.
“Perfection is found in the midst of our imperfect art. It is through our imperfect art that we start to understand ourselves more and learn to see perfection in our imperfect selves. It takes humility to truly appreciate who we are,” he adds.
More Or Less presents over 60 works by 24 artists from Malaysia and Taiwan at OACC, a non-profit art space founded in 2010 under the auspices of Elken Foundation to enrich lives through education, art and culture.
It is a colourful show, diverse not just in medium and technique, but also subject matter. The Malaysian group (12 artists) is relatively young, with ages ranging from 21 to 43; whereas the Taiwanese side (12 artists) has veteran artists up to their 70s sharing their work with audiences here.
“Despite knowing that the attainment of perfection is an impossible goal, we must use a lifetime to pursue it and to prove its existence,” says Wu.
Such ideals can only exist where there is drive, perseverance and a keen sense of the need for self-improvement. It takes commitment to pursue the unattainable, but also insight to understand that it is the journey, and what you make out of it, that matters the most.
“To integrate art and life as one has always been the goal of art studies. I believe this integration can be achieved through the knowledge and mastery that has been passed down from generation to generation,” muses Wu.
For the Taiwanese artists, there is much seasoned skill and soul to investigate. Rong-Yuan Hsieh’s Bright Cloud of Mountain is an ink painting that transports you into a sea of clouds, while Yueh-Tan Chen’s oil rendition of Glittering Of Lotus is a vibrant floating world and Ding’s oil and acrylic Bull And Host is a scene lifted from the gritty everyday.
The Malaysian artists, however, tap into their graphic design background to present works with a more modern and experimental feel. Many works are giddy on fantasy and pop culture, although there are quiet exceptions, like Ken Peng Lim’s stoic Eight Winds Do Not Move.
“Both Malaysia and Taiwan’s cultural heritages are rich and diverse. We live in an increasingly globalised world, so the act of sharing, collaboration and exchange of cultures and knowledge is one way that we can bridge the world. We hope More Or Less will shed light on new perspectives on art studies and life,” says Wu.
Lew is clearly on the same track, commenting that it is through collaboration and exchanges that an understanding of cultural nuances can be nurtured, resulting in stronger ties between artists, communities and partners abroad.
“Such an exchange is fundamental because it creates a environment for genuine compromise and conciliation. It also fosters tolerance of diverse cultures, and prepares us to contribute both artistically and economically within the global society,” Lew concludes.