Singaporean artist Poh Siew Wah’s works are made up of three of my favourite things in art: they are colourful, bright and playful. I was instantly drawn to the bright splashy inkworks inspired by traditional Chinese calligraphic art. These splashes rely on absorption of the paper and the artist will never fully control the final mark, relying on happy accidents and past experience. Therefore even though he has repeated similar subject matters in some of them, they each remain individual.
In the exhibition programe there is an article by Ooi Kok Chuen and he describes the work as “imbued with the cacophony of a marketplace” which I whole heartedly agree with. Whilst this is clearly Singapore, the eclectic mix and match of contemporary and heritage architecture, combined with the movement and rhythm of the line, makes this artwork feel very at home within Penang.
On the other side of the room is a more abstract and playful development of marks using acrylic. Similar subject matters but done in a completely different way even though they are by the same artist. It was refreshing to see an artist who’s work seems to pull him in two very different directions simultaneously, and even more refreshing to see that this artist is proud of that. In a world where white wall galleries tend to want artists to maintain a “brand” rather than develop their own style, it is great to see that Siew Wah is breaking the mould and working with whatever media he wants, in a myriad of ways.
It is also wonderful that Daiichi art space are helping him do that with this exhibition. His earlier works hang at the back of the room, demonstrating his path to this point nicely, as they are of the classical western “chocolate box” watercolour tradition, but with Asian subject matter. His stamp designs are also on display, although you might miss them as they are small and in a box.
With this exhibition, Poh Siew Wah is celebrating his first solo exhibition in Malaysia, and his second solo exhibition outside of Singapore. He has been exhibiting his work since 1963, aged 15, and now even at the age of 70 he is still going strong. You may have seen his work before in the Singapore MRT (Farrer Park), or on a stamp of a letter you received.
Daiichi Art Space has been open now for 3 years and is a marvellously presented space with good lighting. It is also part of a fine dining restaurant and the exhibition is continued downstairs in the restaurant space. They also have another gallery in Sungai Petani that is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.
Island In The Sun, a solo exhibition by Poh Siew Wah is on until February 24th 2019 at Daiichi Art Space, 25, Jalan Argyll. Opening hours are 1pm until 6pm daily (closed Mondays).
By Lusy Koror