The Chinese American architect I.M.Pei once said: “a city, far from being a cluster of buildings, is actually a sequence of spaces enclosed and defined by buildings.”
This is exactly what you will see in the Liku-Liku exhibition, which is showing now at the Creative Space 3, National VIsual Arts Gallery (NVAG) in Kuala Lumpur.
The duo exhibition, featuring a total of 35 artworks by Muhammad Hafiz Azizi and Nicholas Choong, offers an interesting study of what it means to live in the city, without being too protrusive with edificial elements.
The Liku-Liku exhibition, with recent works on display from Azizi and Choong, runs till Sept 23.
“The word liku-liku itself means a bend in the journey of life and that’s what both the artists looked at. For Azizi, he is quite fascinated with the KL lifestyle as he is from Teluk Intan (Perak).
“His focus is more on people and their livelihood and day to day lives in the city,” says Raja Annuar Siffudin, managing director of Pelita Hati, the gallery representing both the artists.
“As for Nicholas, he has always worked in KL. His paintings are more on the KL landscapes but his interpretation is abstract in nature,” he adds.
The contrasting approach taken by the duo in their interpretation of the subject matter makes this a thematically engaging and visually stunning exhibition.
Azizi’s oil paintings are large and towering, featuring expansive views of the KL cityscape. The breadth and scope of the 10 artworks by the 26-year-old offers wide shots of the city, which he immediately balances in many of the paintings by grounding it in a human subject.
Interestingly, Azizi’s early artworks underscored the congestions of the city life. This time around, he decided to focus on the difficulties of living in the city instead.
“Survival is the thread that runs through my artworks. It tells the story of how we build our lives in the city and how difficult it can get,” says Azizi.
Take for instance his Lone Ranger 1 painting.
The 305cm x 183cm oil on canvas artwork spotlights a man in a short-sleeved grey shirt and a sarung, resting on his crutches, tucked under his armpits.
This lone figure, whose back is to the viewer, is standing on elevated ground, overlooking the city.
The warmth of the colours invites you in, affording you the chance to stand, contemplatively, just like the figure, and look over the cityscape, as the expansive sky offers a solitude of sorts from all the customary busyness of the city.
“I want to show how it is for that person to survive in the city when he is disabled and lives all alone,” shares Azizi.
This duo exhibition is not the first for Azizi, a graduate from Universiti Teknologi Mara, Seri Iskandar Perak. His first show was a collaboration with Ng Kok Leong in 2015 called Then and Now, held at Pelita Hati in KL.
As for the 42-year-old Choong, a deejay-turned-visual artist, his captivating paintings are smaller and offer snapshots of city life.
Interestingly, his series of painting for this exhibition also charts his two-year evolution as an artist. The earliest paintings in this series dates back to 2016, with acrylic being the choice medium. That changed to oil paint in his most recent works.
Choong had been featured in group and solo shows in various galleries in the Klang Valley, notably Artemis Art, Pelita Hati and Atelier Art Space.
“I used to work in KL for so many years and I’ve seen a lot of the cityscape, the busyness, the traffic jams and thousands of people on the street.
“Until today, these had left a big impression on me. So in my work, I want to document this kind of mood. The paintings are not realistic but more impressionistic or mood constructs,” explains Choong, a self-taught artist.
His oil and acrylic paintings feature city scenarios of KL and the artist used a variety of colours and tones to highlight the dynamic development and environment of the city.
This can clearly be seen in his Composition In Blue, oil on board piece. The 91cm x 91cm painting offers an abstract view of the city. The blue hues are darker and heavy at the bottom and gets lighter as it ascends, accentuating the vertical developments in KL.
Their style and approach may be different but one thing is certain. Life in the concrete jungle is invariably a byproduct of rampant development and that will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark in one’s psyche, as it did on these artists.
Liku-Liku is on at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur till Sept 23. Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily. For more information, call 03-4026 7000 or visit artgallery.gov.my. Free admission.