Kim Ng joins the enduring debates that define and inspire our country.
Like guardians of the night, they keep watch. The three faces. Their countenance is fierce and intimidating and altogether otherworldly.
Where there should have been eyes, one had none. And where there should have been mouths, were markings words forming questions. Seemingly unimportant questions. But deep inside, in the dark recesses of your mind, you know that there’s more to it than meets the eyes.
So, mustering your courage, you stand right in front of the faces and stare deep into those haunting eyes. You could almost hear tribal chants drumming from afar and the longer you hold your gaze, the more spellbound you become.
Suddenly, a list of questions start to form in your mind … questions about the policy makers, the community and even yourself. But no answers come to the fore.
You are left standing there, with no closure at hand. And it dawns upon you. Many matters are left unanswered in this country and that’s how it may remain. For better or for worse, no one knows. And for Kim Peow Ng, an award-winning printmaker and multi-disciplinary artist, this is exactly what he desired to evoke when he made the three faces, the three masks.
“Many things happened in our last election and people had questions but there was never a proper solution or answer,” explains Ng as his eyes wandered around the gallery space.
“So, I wanted the viewers to immediately confront (them) with these three dimensional masks, which project the questions … apa lagi (what else?) and siapa lagi (who else?). This is why the masks are placed at the entrance. However, there may not necessarily be answers to these questions.”
The Johorean was quick to note that this artwork, called Apa Lagi, Siapa Lagi? is not entirely inspired by the Malaysian politics. It can be applied to other aspects of life in the country too.
Indeed, these masks and the other diverse works of Ng’s latest solo exhibition called In A Place Of Wonder at the Wei-Ling Gallery, seeks to engage the many issues, political or otherwise, which occurred in this country through the eyes of the artist.
“Although I’m not particularly interested in political matters, last year’s election did change my perception on how I look at the country. In a way, this exhibition is my very first active participation in something related to politics,” adds the 49-year-old artist, who finished 44 varied works for this show.
Ng has been working on this exhibition, his sixth solo, since the Wei-Ling Gallery in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur approached him last July. Incidentally, it was a conscious decision on his part to work with a range of mediums for In A Place Of Wonder and not limit himself to printmaking, a discipline he is well known for.
Thus, the three floors of the gallery are lined with paintings, prints, installations and even some clay sculptures, offering the viewer a chance to enjoy Ng’s art through different forms.
Ng, who lectures at the Dasein Academy of Art, Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, took it upon himself to curate the exhibition and tailored it in such a way to create an experience for the visitors.
He mentions that visiting galleries and viewing paintings (or any form of artworks) just hanging on the wall can get a little boring.
“It was important for me to create an environment for the viewers. I believe they need to experience something … to be confronted by different types of art disciplines as they move from one floor to the other,” he points out.
One of Ng’s most intriguing works is called Our Blanket. Made from the inner linings of car tyres and other types of rubber, the artwork seems nothing more than … well, a black rubber blanket! At first glance, it will not mean anything to ordinary eyes. One may even wonder if it is part of the exhibition. Such is the simplicity of the piece.
Should one take the title into consideration, however, a deeper meaning may be derived. It could be a nationalistic statement (made by the artist), alluding to the “blackness” that may result if the struggles of the country are not shared. Of course, Ng has his own reasons behind this work.
“When I first conceived the idea of Our Blanket, I knew I wanted to do something that would reflect the nation’s situation. If you were to put this rubber blanket on, you will realise how heavy it is. And it looks rather solemn as well.
“It reflects on the heavy pressure put on our shoulders living in this country, what with the price hikes and what not. We are carrying the burden. So, if you look at it, this rubber blanket is the nation’s blanket,” explains Ng.
Another of the artist’s arresting works in this collection is called Contented Joke. A wall installation of sorts, this piece features three wooden boxes with a tablecloth inlay. In each of these boxes are soap-shaped objects made from clay, with fishtail-looking appendages protruding from the four sides. Carved on the objects on the right and left are what look like silhouettes of people.
This is Ng’s personal take on notorious sex bloggers Alvin and Vivian, who hit the headlines for their blatant disregard of Malaysian sensitivities with their raunchy videos.
“The entire thing was like a joke. Some people may have liked what was going on while others found it disgraceful,” he adds.
It is always an enlightening experience to look at things through the eyes of another, especially via the eyes of an artist. Familiar situations present themselves in most interesting and intriguing ways and just when we think we have matters figured out, more questions crop up. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing for, at least, you can seek the answers along the way.
“Hopefully, the viewer or even I, as the maker, will get the answers,” concludes a hopeful Ng.
Kim Ng’s In A Place Of Wonder is on at Wei-Ling Gallery, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur till July 7. Free admission. Open on Mondays (10am to 6pm), Tuesdays to Fridays (11am to 7pm) and Saturdays (10am to 5pm).