Ho Mei Kei’s new series of works will definitely play tricks on your mind if you look at them from a distance.
Her four large paintings that are on display now at G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya are part of the Axis By Praxis: A Meeting Place group exhibition.
They may look like beautiful mosaic patterns.
But upon closer inspection, the viewer will realise they are not pretty patterns at all. Instead they are repetitive images of plastic cards.
Yes, you will find Malaysian identity cards, the Touch ‘n’ Go cards, mobile SIM cards and various credit cards in Ho’s latest series.
This is signature Ho, an emerging KL-based artist that uses familiar logos, school badges, cute images and loads of repetition in her art.
Ho’s artworks, together with those from four other artists, tackle issues like identity, unity and mortality. The other participating artists are Nik M Shazmie (Malaysia), Natisa Jones (Indonesia), Anchalee Arayapongpanich (Thailand) and Kittisak Thapkoa (Thailand).
Axis By Praxis: A Meeting Place is a loosely curated show, with an accessible vibe to attract new collectors.
For Axis By Praxis: A Meeting Place, Ho’s playful yet decidedly pointed paintings are arguably the highlights.
The 26-year-old Ho’s debut solo exhibition called 100 Marks = A+? last year questioned the pressures of school life and the state of local education system. The backstory to her current works has gone beyond talking about Malaysian education.
“Social commentary is never far from Ho’s art. These new works are her way of questioning our identity … and spending habits,” says Kenny Teng, G13 Gallery’s director.
Ho, who is a music and art teacher by trade, says she uses easily recognisable daily items – such as the MyKad and credit cards as they are more relatable to the masses.
This is how the Dasein Academy Of Art graduate draws in the viewers before hitting them with a dose of reality.
“I wanted to explore topics like identity, finance, transaction and communication through the important cards in our daily lives,” explains Ho.
How much credit card debt is too much?
Ho’s sobering work Fikirkan Perbelanjaan Dan Pendapatan Bulanan Anda brings the discussion of living in debt to the table. It’s a fine balance between the harsh reality of living paycheck to paycheck and the temptation of using the credit card to solve financial woes.
With the Pilih Kad Telekomunikasi Yang Ada Gunakan painting, Ho wants to show how free data has drawn people away from what’s important in life, namely family and friends.
In Ho’s Siapakah “Malaysian”, she painstakingly painted rows and rows of cards … 224 MyKads.
“I wanted to look at the spread of fake identity cards in Malaysia. When I read the news on the distribution of such cards to enable people to vote, the question I wanted to ask was ‘who is a Malaysian?’
“Just because someone has a MyKad does that make that person a Malaysian?” she concludes.