When two people get married, they make a promise to share their lives together. But what happens when two artists tie the knot? Will their artistic processes also combine? What kind of works would they make? And what happens if they both have two very different styles?
For artists Kow Leong Kiang and Chong Ai Lei, who got married eight months ago, they prefer their own creative paths. So they have decided to work separately on a unique group exhibition involving artist couples.
They are part of the In Sync: Artist Couples exhibition at the G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya, featuring six married artist couples. The pairings have chosen to submit individual work except for one couple, which has delivered a joint project.
The result, as you look around the gallery, is a striking exhibition filled with a broad range of techniques and mediums. The quality of works found across In Sync is undeniable. Yet the novelty factor of this exhibit cannot be denied: It does seem like some sort of TV reality show, only without the competitive element.
Kow, 49, is a mid-career artist known for his expressive figurative works and portraits. He first exhibited solo in 2003. Chong, known for her portraits of pensive and mysterious young women, had her first solo show When I See You Again in 2018. Both have come up with eye-catching works for In Sync.
Kow’s contribution is Golden Beach, captures a group of East Coast girls on the beach in Kelantan. Kow, who hails from Petaling Jaya, says the artwork is based on a random photo he took when he was visiting Kelantan a few years ago.
“I thought the photo was interesting. I think, for a lot of us (in the city), the East Coast is considered very far and a bit mysterious. But when I visited that part of the country, I liked it very much. Now I head up there every year to take photos. It’s 20 years since I have been doing that,” says Kow.
This artwork was also a challenge for Kow since he usually paints single subjects. This is the second time in 20 years that he has drawn more than one person at once.
On the other hand, Chong, 34, created a self-portrait called Girl In A Red Blanket, an oil on canvas work. “It’s a blanket from my childhood. My mother gave it to me and it’s a very meaningful present to me. I still have it with me,” says the Segamat, Johor-born artist.
The other artists featured in In Sync include Gan Chin Lee and Liu Hsin-Ying, Amy Nazira and Hidayat Arshad, Anisa Abdullah and Khairul Izham, Najib Ahmad Bamadhaj and Cinta Ayuandrea, and Yuki Tham and Nur Iman.
For Anisa and Khairul, this chance to collaborate came at a good time. “We’ve actually wanted to collaborate for the longest time. So we were very glad to be in this show,” says Anisa with a laugh.
Anisa, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, had her first solo exhibition Cebis-Cebis in 2013. She has since been featured in many local group shows. Khairul, who hails from Maran, Pahang, started out with works inspired by traditional myths and legends. Dark backgrounds are a thing with Khairul.
Anisa and Khairul, both 34, who have been married for six years, have come through with a mash-up of personal styles.
Their mixed media work called Mystery Of Love was realised through a series of arguments and playful exchanges. Both artists have styles that are contrasting. Anisa thrives on works using paper collages, while Khairul holds true to lines and drawings.
“It was a bit hard, because collages are a very solid form of art, not at all like drawing. So it was not easy putting them together, it was a challenge for me,” reveals Khairul with a smile.
“We had disagreements. We argued. I didn’t want this, he didn’t want that, but it all came together. We started with a lot of discussions and sketches. We wanted to make it bright and colourful, but had to make sure we could do to accommodate our individual styles,” says Anisa.
The results are definitely worth the arguments. Works such as Mystery Of Love and The Hummingbird offer a broad canvas filled with distinctive images from each artist. The couple said the works were sort of “family portraits”, with input – ballerinas and unicorns – coming from their toddler daughter.
“Ultimately, this collaboration has been a very special experience for us. It may be the start of something in the future,” says Anisa.