The upcoming Penang Art District project, envisioned as the northern state’s creative hub of contemporary art and culture, has already started to benefit Malaysian talents.
Last September, it ran the Spotlight 2018 Art Competition for young artists below 30, with grand prize winner Yap Ley Min earning herself a month-long solo exhibition titled The Human Form at the Hin Bus Depot.
It features the 21-year-old Butterworth native’s older artworks from her time in college alongside new pieces produced under the Spotlight mentorship programme with Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Dr Tetriana Ahmed Fauzi.
There are 15 pieces of various sizes. One is a wax sculpture, while the remainder are paintings done with vibrant palettes of oils, acrylics and pastels. They portray subjects with bold expressions and energetic movements.
These are inspired by observations of incidents and happenings which Yap found intriguing. All connected to one another, the works are her way of sharing the beauty of natural morphology and the emotions of humankind.
“I take pleasure in observing the interactions between humans when they are in their most natural and habitual conditions – scrutinising their emotions and physical movements in various scenarios, be it a perilous state or cherished moment.
“These grant me the opportunity to see the beauty and imperfections of their world. As the moment occurs, the atmosphere can either be tense or joyous.
“My eyes record my impressions of the scene, and I bring them back into play in my artworks by memory,” the young woman highlighted in her artist’s statement.
Visitors are sure to be drawn to Burning District, the mixed media painting which won her the Spotlight competition.
It depicts an unfortunate fire she witnessed from her home during the Chinese New Year period in 2017. She recalls sirens breaking the air of festivity and fire fighters battling the flames.
Equally eye-catching are pieces like A Walk To Balathandayuthapani Temple showing devotees in a festive ritual, Scene On A Ferry depicting the daily commute between the island and mainland, and Morning Market with characters from all walks of life going about their daily shopping.
“When lots of people get together, you can better observe their differing movements and gestures,” reveals Yap on why her works mostly depict social settings.
“The lively atmosphere just draws me in. I also emphasise on the face, in particular the eyes, as it best conveys the subject’s emotions.”
Tetriana, chairperson of the Fine Art Department at USM, praised Yap’s creative spirit and maturity.She says, “She is practising like a full grown artist. At such a young age, she already has a distinct style.
“For some artists, that takes years to acquire.”
While the show is Yap’s first solo, she has participated in several group exhibitions previously. She aspires to be a full time artist, and intends to experiment with other subjects such as landscapes or still life, next.
Spotlight 2018 was the Penang Art District’s first ever nationwide art competition. The Penang Art District – a state government initiative – will be located on a 3.8ha, L-shaped plot of land along the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway near the island’s eastern coastline. Its tentative completion date is in 2021.