Artistic portraits of fruit date back 3000 years to Ancient Egypt. Fruits may act as representations of the ephemeral nature of human existence. When portrayed as fresh and ripe, the fruit stands as a symbol of abundance, fertility, youth and vitality, whereas a fruit in a state of decay resembles our undeniable mortality and the inevitability of change. In conjunction with Penang’s durian festival this year, The Art Gallery has created an incredible exhibition which encompasses all the tropical fruits of Malaysia.
A fantastic range of paintings is on display, with the works of 13 different artists beautifully arranged in one vibrant collection. What makes this exhibition particularly interesting is that the exhibited paintings are not chosen for how stylistically or thematically they fit into a specific framework. As a viewer, you will be astonished when you look at the paintings and realise how each painting represents an entirely separate entity and its own individual artist.
Take Jeremy Lee’s Oriental Dragons for instance. Attention to detail in the work of this artist makes all the difference. Mr. Lee explains how he has used a yellow-ish theme in the Chinese bowl (Famille Rose) with the rooster design in order to indicate that the bowl may be as old as 60 years. If you look closely, you see that the fruits in the bowl are painted in the shape of a dragon or even a Phoenix, an important Chinese symbol. Another reason why the artist decided to go with the shape of the dragon, is that his name means dragon in Chinese! In his other painting, Combs of Gold, Mr. Lee uses different textures and techniques to show how old the door and the bananas are. The artist explains how bananas represent good fortune especially when hanging on a door. As a viewer, the more you look at this painting, the more you understand the reason behind the name Combs of Gold: the yellow theme on the canvas, and the representation of gold and good fortune, makes the title of the piece very apposite.
Among the artists, Koay Sheng Tat and Shaparel Salleh have chosen the pomegranate as their fruit of choice. The fascinating story behind the pomegranate is that the ancient Greeks associated this delicious fruit with fertility. Hence, looking at Shaparel’s work, you see a lot of seeds which refer to the saying “The more seeds, the more children”. Similarly, some artists such as Sing Chai have chosen to focus on the watermelon. Watermelons stand for the shape of a pregnant woman’s body and again, the seeds inside the watermelon represent fertility.
Looking at Alex Leong’s works, you will be transformed to the streets of Balik Pulau, Penang’s tropical fruit-growing heart. No matter what part of the world you live in, having one of his pieces hanging on a wall at home, will bring you right back to the wonderful Malaysia, warming your heart, and bringing a wonderful smile to the face. The beautiful Alice Chang also showcased her works in this exhibition. Ms. Chang is known for her portraits of elephants but this year she is taking her style to a whole new level; Using the concept of surrealism, she shows you an elephant playing with a durian. The artist explains how her inspiration came from watching children playing with silk ribbons. Somehow, marvellously, in her works you can see the elephants dancing with a ribbon and playing with the fruits.
The full list of artists whose works have been showcased in the exhibition are: Alex Leong, Alice Chang, Chia Seng Chai, Ethen Ng, Jeremy Lee, Koay Sheng Tat, Lok Kerk Hwang, Nasir Nadzir, Shaparel Salleh, Dato’Tan Chee Khuan, Tang Mun Kian, Woo Seng Non, and Yew Souf. The exhibition period is until 7th of July 2018. The viewing hours are Friday to Sunday from 2pm to 5 pm and Monday to Thursday by appointment (Contact Ms. Tan Ee Lene by calling +6012 604 14 34 or email@example.com. The Art Gallery is located in 368-4-8, Bellisa Row, Pulau Tikus, 10250, Penang, Malaysia.
By Mojdeh Zarbakhsh