Newcomer artist Liew Sze Lin has a knack of turning unwanted fabric and grocery shop material like gunny sacks, paper, cardboard and mesh into abstract collages. She combines them in interesting ways, giving a shine to the ordinary.
To Liew, 31, however, her works are more than just “collages” on canvas. It also helps that her husband owns a grocery shop, which makes it convenient for her to source for art material.
“All of them represent my relationships with my family members. You can say they are like an abstract family portrait,” says Liew with a smile during the recent launch of the A-Res Graduation Exhibition 2018/2019 at Ken Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.
Last year, Liew participated in art gallery Hom Art Tran’s A-Residency (A-Res), a residency programme established in 2008. She also presented works at the Emerging Women Artists Show 2018 exhibit and Pure Painting: An Exposition of Non Figurative Art group show. Both were held at Balai Seni Maybank.
That’s not a bad achievement, especially for someone, who at first, was uncertain if she wanted to be an artist. Despite loving art since an early age, the Kuala Lumpur-born Liew hesitated in taking up an artistic career. She admits she wasn’t sure if she could do art as a full-time thing.
After graduating from the Dasein Academy of Art, she first worked a variety of other jobs, including teaching art, helping with event planning, and making craft to be sold at pop-up art markets.
The turning point came in 2016, after Liew decided to travel around Western Europe for a year. There, she survived by busking on the street, playing her violin to earn money.
“I met a lot of people there who were doing what they loved to do. I saw the passion in them. They focused on what they loved, and managed to survive, and it inspired me to them to do the same. They helped me to push myself further,” says Liew.
Liew then returned to Malaysia, where she rented an art studio. She started answering artist open calls, and later joined this Hom Art Trans residency. “It’s been a great experience. I recommend it to anyone who wants to get started in this art industry,” she notes.
If you look beyond the abstract, Liew’s works on display at The A: Res Graduate Exhibition have some telling family-related themes and backgrounds. She uses these “family portraits” as a vehicle for conveying the experiences of her relationships with immediate family.
Her husband’s grocery shop remains a good “art supply shop”, she reveals, while her piece Mother And Daughter features fabric she picked from her mother’s sewing stash. “That work is an illustration of the mother and daughter bond between us,” says Liew.
LS119/WPKL/19/AP1, on the other hand, incorporates the location of where she lives. The work’s map-like appearance is a tribute to her father, a land surveyor. The pencil outlines leave a mark of authenticity.
“I use all kinds of fabrics in my work. It’s like the texture of relationships. Different textures relate to different feelings you feel with different people. For example, linen may be hard, and materials such as satin are softer. They bring a language, a meaning to my art,” she explains further.
Liew is part of the A-Res Graduation Exhibition 2018/2019 show, which also features the works from fellow graduates Joy Ng, Wong Ming Hao, Arikwibowo Amril, Alvin Lau and Hom Art Trans director Bayu Utomo Radjikin.