Rabu, 20 November 2013

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion


An artistic guiding light

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Veteran Penang artist's restropective exhibition represents a life's passion for art.

A TEACHER'S work is never done. While many people his age are slowing down and enjoying their retirement years, Tan Chiang Kiong, 81, is still nurturing students to become accomplished artists.

In fact, the veteran artist is still guiding students and teaching at the Chung Ling Private High School in Penang as the Dean for its arts faculty.

"My early involvement in promoting art education has helped the development of children's art education in Penang. My students and their success, especially in art, have also brought me great pleasure," says Tan, who is also the co-founder of the Penang Watercolour Society.

Penang-based artist Tan Chiang Kiong' 'Wooden Hut' (1969).

Wooden Hut (1969)

"Most of all, the development in my own paintings have brought me great satisfaction," he adds.

The octogenarian, who is currently the subject a solo exhibition entitled The Retrospective Of Tan Chiang Kiong: Through His Mind's Eye at the Penang State Art Gallery in Dewan Sri Pinang, is known for his skills in combining Chinese and Western painting techniques. Apart from this retrospective, Tan also received the Salut 55 award from Balai Seni Visual Negara during the gallery's 55th anniversary celebrations in early September. The award recognised his pioneering academic work and contribution to local art in the last five decades.

Tan's restropective at the Penang State Art Gallery is a major exhibition designed to represent his life's work in art.

The exhibition, featuring 81 pieces, revisits his watercolour work and landscape view of Penang in the 1960s right to the man's 1990s career rejuvenation and his present day acrylic projects. Interestingly, Tan made his solo debut in July 1996 (aged 63) in Penang. Over the years, he has kept himself closely involved in the art, academic and exhibition worlds.

"I can draw and paint at any time at any place, be it in the school or at home. When the inspiration comes, I would just start painting," he says.

It can also be said that the spirit of Tan's work is tied to the identity and vibrant culture of Penang.

"I feel that this retrospective is very meaningful because it allows the new generation to understand the growth and development of my art."

The artist, who was born in Machang Bubok near Bukit Mertajam (Penang) in Sept 1932, mentions he wants to continue sharing his knowledge of art with his students.

Penang-based artist Tan Chiang Kiong' The Beauty Of Geese.' (1965)

The Beauty Of Geese (1965)

After graduating with an art degree from National Taiwan Normal University in 1961, he has never looked back.

Tan notes teaching also enables him to remain active and alert. In many ways, he has adopted a sustained practice of a life in art.

The affable artist mentions that the process of art is still an integral part of his daily life.

"My daily life is very routine – go to school to teach painting, my evening walk day in day out. However, I will still paint until I'm not able to do so. The process of producing and painting is very enjoyable and satisfying. From the inspiration comes the need to express," he explains.

Penang-based artist Tan Chiang Kiong' 'Thaipusam' (1985).

Thaipusam (1985)

But does he have any particular period or era that he is particularly fond of?

"I love all my art throughout all eras. At the moment, I like the paintings with acrylic. I find it easier and more effective to convey my message, express my feelings and emotions through this medium," he points out.

A book containing 203 of Tan's selected paintings is also on sale at the exhibition at RM80 each. It will be priced RM100 after the exhibition. Tan donated three of his paintings – In Praise Of Nature, Tranquility and Happy Hour – to the permanent collection of the gallery during the opening ceremony last weekend.

* The Retrospective Of Tan Chiang Kiong: Through His Mind's Eye exhibition ends on Dec 22. The Penang State Art Gallery is open from 9am to 5pm daily except Fridays and public holidays. Admission is free. For details, call 04-226 1461.

Malaysia on show at Singapore Biennale 2013

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A unique curatorial model allows the Singapore Biennale 2013 to feature more Malaysian artists this year than ever before.

THE works of the Malaysian artists showing at the Singapore Biennale 2013 (SB2013) share very few similarities, except perhaps for a common geographical point of origin. Yet, this is exactly what makes their presence at the biennial contemporary art event so exciting: the multiple Malaysias being shown – whether overtly or subtly – through these pieces.

Organised by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) with the theme If The World Changed, the fourth edition of the Biennale features works by 82 artists and art collectives from 13 different countries.

With nine Malaysians displaying the works at the SB2013, it is the biggest representation of our country at the event thus far, and certainly the first time artists from East Malaysia are specifically highlighted. The Malaysian artists showing currently showing at SB2013 are: Adrian Ho, Chi Too, Chris Chong Chan Fui, Jainal Amambing, Poodien, Sharon Chin, Shieko Reto, Tan Wei Kheng and Zulkifli Yusoff.

"Voices Of Hope" by Tan Wei Kheng is showing at the Singapore Biennale 2013.

Ethnic identity: In Voices of Hope, the Marudi, Sarawak-born Tan Wei Kheng expresses the modern-day perils faced by tribal communities in his home state. The piece is showing at the Singapore Art Museum during the Singapore Biennale 2013.

This large presence was made possible by a collaborative curatorial effort where 27 curators from South-East Asia were brought together to allow a focused look at each country in the region – as such, 93% of the works on display are from South-East Asia. This panel of curators included Malaysians Faizal Sidik and Yee I-Lann.

Yee says she saw her postion as a curator as an opportunity to include as many "worlds" from Malaysia as possible, and was particularly excited about introducing artists from Sabah and Sarawak.

"Personally, I wanted our selection to be as wide and inclusive as it could. I was brought on board because the SB2013 organising committee didn't know anything about art from Borneo, it was a black hole in their research. So I got very excited. This is the first time a Biennale has visited East Malaysia ever," says the Sabah-born artist.

"Longing" by Chi Too is an installation and video work that is currently showing at the SIngapore Biennale.

Longing by Chi Too is an installation/video work. At the Biennale, Chi Too extends the work by inviting
visitors to enter a small, empty room and attempt the spirit level balancing act.

"In the previous Biennales, we didn't have a Malaysian specifically looking out for Malaysian artists, so it is very exciting to see so many Malaysians showing their works this year," she ├Ądds.

What she looked for when selecting artists to be showcased, she shares, were works that had resonance, were current and dealt with real and contemporary issues. This has resulted in a diverse range of works, from those that scream avant garde to those that people may even question is contemporary art.

"The word contemporary is contextual," adds Yee. "I think it's contemporary to include works that may not appear contemporary. We must always have space for work that doesn't fit neatly into categories."

Jainal Amambing's works, for instance, which are naive art paintings of his memories of growing up in a longhouse in Kudat, Sabah, are those don't readily fit into these categories.

"However, within a larger context, Jainal's My Longhouse Story (pic) recognises South-East Asia's tribal component, and is so very contemporary in terms of the experiences it speaks about," says Yee.

For Jainal, showing at SB2013 was an opportunity to share and reflect on his own culture and lifestyle.

"I don't think about what style I paint in; instead, I look at the theme. And the SB2013 theme, If The World Changed, inspired in me thoughts of how the world of my childhood has changed," he says, adding that he is immensely happy to be able to show his works at such a prestigious event.

Artist Chris Chong Chan Fu working on his

Working with professionals from Institut Sains Teknologi in Malaysia, Sabah-raised Chris Chong Chan Fu has made detailed, cartographical illustrations of various 'species' of artificial flowers available today in his Botanic series.

In contrast, Chris Chong Chan Fui, who hails from Kota Kinabalu, merges art and science in Botanic. a series of botanical illustrations that are in fact of artificial flowers. They appear deceptively simple yet provoke thought on the increasing presence of the artificial in our lives.

"Having so many artists from Malaysia showing here is great, because it allows us to show so many different aspects. There's still much more art in Malaysia that needs to be highlighted, and this is a step in that direction," says Chong.

For Shieko Reto, showing at SB2013 was a platform to highlight an issue close to her heart: the plight of the transgender community. Her mixed media installation, Waiting Room (pic), is a recreation of a clinic waiting room, and is a tongue-in-cheek yet poignant reflection on the many episodes of "waiting" a transgender person faces.

"My work is a voice from a minority group, to shine a light on the situation in Malaysia, and being able to raise these issues in an international platform is very important," says Shieko.

The wide array of works by Malaysians, she points out, speak of a variety of experiences and concerns.

"Sharon Chin's Mandi Bunga (Flower Bath), for example, is a very important work. (Chin organised a mass flower bath where participants wore yellow costumes they had designed themselves). While it is about the colour yellow and how it has become politicised in the last few years, she also doesn't want to impose her politics on anyone; it's almost like a group hug," she adds.

Other perspectives include Adrian Ho's paintings, Fruits Of Life and Full Production, which ruminate on the nature and progress by contrasting the benefits of oil palm plantations with the potential damage, while Tan Wei Kheng's Voices Of Hope expresses the threats faced by tribal communities in Sarawak through a large composition of paintings that are both visually-striking and symbolic.

Poodien's digital collage mural Long Live Food! has also been given a new lease of life as it features prominently at the Singapore Art Museum cafe. For reasons unknown, the piece was taken down from the feature wall of the E.A.T. Food Village hall in Publika, Kuala Lumpur last year.

To conclude, Yee says the best thing Malaysians can do for our artists is to engage with these works, and visit the SB2013.

"The exhibits are so South-East Asia. It's all about what's happening in the region, and how Malaysian art joins or doesn't join in that dialogue. For our art to grow, we have to participate, and that includes the audience."

> The Singapore Biennale 2013 is being held until Feb 16, 2014, in a number of arts spaces in the Bras Basah, Bugis precinct, including the Singapore Art Museum and National Museum Of Singapore. Tickets, priced at S$10 (RM25.40) for adults and S$5 (RM12.70) for students and senior citizens, are available at the exhibition venues and online at SISTIC (www.sistic.com.sg). For more info, visit www.singaporebiennale.org.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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