The Art Gallery Penang, an interesting little gallery on the 4th floor of Belissa Row always provides its viewers with an eclectic array of contemporary artists and this show is no exception. “Figural” features paintings of figures by ten different Malaysian artists in various media. The wonderful Ee Lene greets you at the door and she can tell you all the amazing stories that accompany each artwork, which may even encourage you to like pieces that aren’t normally your taste. There is definitely something for every kind of art enthusiast here though.
I was drawn straight away to Yew Souf’s work at the back; Layered textural nudes embued in mystery. They were quite the departure from his normal work but I have to say I prefer them. His works are priced around rm3600.
Then to the right my eye was caught by a quiet and subdued older lady drawn in pastel. It takes quite some skill to develop that level of realism in pastel and she was hauntingly quiet and incredibly beautiful. According to the artist she is a lady’s maid waiting for her orders from the Queen, but she could be anyone’s mother or sister after a hard day’s work. She was drawn by Jeremy Lee and is accompanied by two very different fast expressive pastel pieces, which were also glorious in their mark making. According to the curator Ee Lene, Lee will be having a solo show at this gallery next year.
Another highlight was the beautiful illustrative stylings of Lee Eng Beng. He gives us a brief glimpse into his life as a painter in Penang, with traditional games being a key element of his work displayed here. This show also includes Alex Leong’s work, which bares remarkable resemblance to Lee Eng Beng’s work and that is no surprise as the two are apparently great friends. Leong’s work in this exhibition demonstrates a refreshing use of negative space, as well as having a very retro feel. As someone who grew up in the UK in the 90s, looking at Usborne illustrations, his style really makes 90s Penang feel accessible, like it could have been my childhood too.
One last favourite of mine in this show was the female artist Shen Ying. Her work is not normally figurative either but she wanted to challenge herself for this show and the result is magnificent. Her traditional Chinese brush line work is so confident, the proportions perfect, and the image exquisite. The concept behind the work is equally as beautiful, as she wants to encourage us to remember to dance as often as possible, for fun as well as for our health and for meditation… something I’m sure many of us forget to do quite often.
There are other great names to mention such as the up and coming Rais Azmi, and the skilled Chan Kai Lun. There are also great stories to hear and the variety of styles means most people are likely to find something they like.
It should be noted though that there are several nude pieces. A common sight in the artworld but not so common in Malaysia so it is worth mentioning. Lastly I must thank the gallery owner, Ee Lene for the photos and for her generousity of spirit and time in helping me write this piece.
The Art Gallery Penang is open Friday to Sunday from 2pm-5pm or by appointment booking through Ee Lene at email@example.com. “Figural” is open until 2nd June. The address is The Art Gallery Penang, 368-4-8, Bellisa Row, Pulau Tikus
By Lusy Koror