Art is the process of transferring thoughts from one’s mind to the canvas. So says visual artist Yuki Tham, 25, who reveals that though she studied art, she continues to be a big fan of psychology. Now she combines the two passions, using her oil paintings as a way of exploring the conversations in her head.
While studying her diploma at the Dasein Academy Of Art in Kuala Lumpur, she discovered her love of the figurative genre under the guidance of her lecturers, award-winning Cheong Tuck Wai in particular.
“In college I did paint male figures, but now I prefer to depict female figures, it’s much more personal,” says Tham, adding that she sees the figures as herself even if they do not share her face.
“I’ve done self portraits. But for me, it feels far better to be the photographer and not the model. What another photographer captures might be different from what I want, as the beauty we see might be different,” she says.
“Plus, I’m camera shy,” quips the petite young lady.
Though she has been drawing and sketching since young, Tham almost did not enter art school due to some unsupportive influences in her life. Drifting between jobs for two years in Kuala Lumpur, she realised she didn’t want to be stuck with an office job for the rest of her life.
Since graduating in 2014, Tham has become a fixture of the G13 gallery, taking part in eight group exhibitions there. Most notably, she featured in the gallery’s annual figurative exhibit Configuration in 2014.
In her first solo exhibition titled Beauty Behind The Madness, now showing at G13, she continues her signature style of pensive-looking women posing with their doppelgangers in old, grey-shaded high-rise buildings and apartment towers.
As with previous series, Tham explains, the use of two versions of the same model in the same piece reflects different aspects of the person’s personality.
For the Beauty Behind The Madness show, Tham roped in a pair of Dasein juniors to model around her home, an apartment complex in Wangsa Maju in KL.
While her previous series focused purely on the figures, Tham introduces more architectural and background details in Beauty Behind The Madness, a 12-piece series, which sees her growing as an artist.
So are the larger pieces also meant to help fill up the cavernous G13 gallery space? In this exhibition, she replies that size did not matter to her as much as the content and details. Tham believes that the added scenery – at times, hazy days – also provides more stories to the images.
This new series took her eight months to complete, consuming a lot of time in the studio.
“The difficult part is the perspective, I had to keep measuring and referring to the photos to make sure it wasn’t senget (distorted),” she says.
Her choice work is Self Delusion, which depicts a woman dancing in the view of a surreal fog-coated Kuala Lumpur skyline.
“It’s all very stressful for me living in the city, the streets and constant buzz of it. I’d want to run away and live in my own world,” says Tham who grew up in Gemas, a small town bordering Negri Sembilan and Johor.
She admits though the big city can be intimidating, she still prefers the freedom it gives her. To compensate, she retreats into her work.
“My friends joke that I live in a cave when I do my projects, and worry I’ll forget how to socialise.
“I prefer to stay home over going to a party. Every time!” says Tham, the self-confessed introvert, with a giggle.
Yuki Tham’s Beauty Behind The Madness is on at the G13 gallery in Kelana Square, Kelana Jaya, Selangor till July 28. For more information, go to G13 Gallery.