A candle flame evokes certain childhood memories for visual artist Kelvin Low. He remembers them well. His early years were spent in two places – Cameron Highands (to spend time with his grandparents) and Kampung Melayu Subang in Shah Alam. The blackouts Low refers to happened in Kampung Melayu Subang when he was living in a wooden house with his family.
Now, he says the area is unrecognisable since it is developed.
With frequent blackouts back then, his family would scramble for candles and kerosene lamps to light up the house.
“Candles – kept at the ready – would be brought out to save the day,” recalls Low, 43.
For the Klang Valley-based artist, light equates illumination and it signifies hope.
Illumination is an apt title for Low’s first solo art exhibition, which is now showing at L’atelier Rouge in Petaling Jaya.
The exhibition, featuring 35 mixed media works, is abstract-inspired. It is a visual delight, with Low channelling his creative energy through art and furthering his fascination with the wonderful world of bioluminescence (the production and emission of light by living organisms).
Between works with a ghostly glow and shimmering radiance, Low is in his element. He creates “bursts of light and energy” with colours and textures.
In terms of exposure, he has been steadily building up for a solo show, having exhibited in five international group exhibitions, including the Art Salon Carrousel du Louvre (France).
“This Illumination show is a sampling of my different techniques and experiments along the way,” says Low.
In the studio, he reveals his creative process includes holding the frame of the canvas and tilting it after pouring acrylic paint on it. Then, he guides the paint’s free flow. He calls this “fluid art”, adding the technique works in one particular direction.
It gets more challenging when he wants to create “curves” on the canvas.
For someone relatively new to the art scene, Low talks about artistic processes and styles confidently.
Low, an art graduate from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, became a full-time artist last year.
Before turning to art, he started multiple digital companies and took on roles in business development/managing and as a creative director.
But art is his main thing now, and Illumination offers viewers a broad range of his works in abstract form.
In Great Migration, a series linked to bioluminescence, Low splashes out a spread of “moving” colours and “glowing” creatures. Elsewhere, The Lick Of Fire Earth offers a burst of deep emotion, with dominant tones of red. Red, if you notice, is a forceful colour in this exhibition.
“Initially, my works had no red in them,” admits Low, who is no stranger to dark, foreboding hues in his art – as if he had dived into the deep sea.
For a contrast, his Pink Beach series has a romantic feel, a sense of surrealism. The pinkish sand is mainly from foraminifera (a microscopic organism). His Pink Beach and Lick Of Fire Earth series are abstract works. In both, he maintains a link to the actual subject such as the beach and sea in Pink Beach and the volcano and lava, a fiery combination in Lick Of Fire Earth.
Low is overwhelmed to see all his works done since February last year up on the walls of the L’atelier Rouge gallery.
“The exhibition allows me to incorporate my earlier and latest works and, to show the progression of my journey in art.”