18@8 Turning Points

In life, we all move in flux, continuously searching for that something which is concealed within the time and space we live in. Nothing stays in one place and as one form eternally; we shift, grow, learn and move forward. However, isn’t this part of what it means to be alive? As philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Life is a progress, not a station.” Throughout the pursuit of happiness, each and every one of us dwells in our own stories, as we unfold the different emotions that make us human. Whether sweet or bitter, joyful or sad, we never really know what is ahead of us, and what this life has in store for us-as novelist Haruki Murakami aptly wrote, “That’s how stories happen – with a turning point, an unexpected twist.

Featuring 10 Malaysian artists, 18@8 Turning Points takes you on a journey to the artists’ pasts; discovering the plot twists that have brought significant changes to their surroundings, their country, or themselves as individuals. Through different philosophical, technical and aesthetic approaches, each artist unveils experiences which have in turn, shaped, and in some cases shifted, their lives and beings.

For some, a turning point could be in the form of an unexpected encounter that marks a new beginning; for others, it could be about losing someone precious. Cheong Kiet Cheng’s watercolour and ink work takes us on a throwback to her first painting class, where she had met her significant other. She believes that there is a butterfly effect to everything, and this time, it has brought her the joy and struggle of becoming a mother. In remembrance of his late father, Anurendra Jegadeva presents a portrait of him surrounded by light boxes, featuring archival photos of family members and their VWs, a car that has always accompanied them throughout their ups and downs – witness to a family’s history. Through oil painting and a sand medium, Yau Bee Ling highlights a phase in her life where she had learnt to accept loss. The choice of combining two panels is essential as it suggests the separation between the past and present, and the act of moving forward, whilst still accepting life as a whole.

In the course of their career, artists face challenges that would testify their true intentions and persistence. Hamidi Hadi recalls a particularly turbulent period during his time in the UK. In overcoming his problems and fears, he transformed into a better self, which has in parallel influenced his practice. Since then, he has been painting in abstraction, a style that currently stands as his artistic identity. While some might consider a turning point as something immediate, Choy Chun Wei highlights the fact that sometimes, a change might not be abrupt, but achieved through a long and meticulous process of creation. In affirming his artistic authenticity, he believes in self-detaching from the superficiality of the present world, to slowly become aware and conscious of every step applied in the process of art making. Finally, TOPY criticizes contemporary society’s obsession about true facts and knowledge. His yellow mural work is an adaptation of the omnipresent do-not-litter logo, however, this time, the stick man is seen tripping over his own head, signifying how individuals, including artists, tend to be trapped in their own thoughts, at times to their detriment.

In this exhibition, ‘Turning points’ are interpreted either through a deeply personal narrative, or a wider context. Rajinder Singh’s black canvas reflects very little light, unless one observes it for long periods of time and gets close enough to the work. He depicts a traumatic moment in his life that has haunted him, and continues to do so till today, of times affecting his art output. Only time and patience will heal a broken heart. Wong Chee Meng presents a unique painting approach in which layers of images are juxtaposed to form an illusion. It is left to the audience to reveal other visuals that lie behind it, through the use of red and blue lenses: a metaphor of looking further when realising one’s goals.

Seeing a U-turn in Malaysia’s history, Ivan Lam presents an installation in which the audience are invited to take home posters of the current (new) government’s manifesto. The number of posters corresponding directly to the number of days that have passed without these promises being fulfilled, calling upon them to urgently act to make change. Lastly, Chin Kong Yee illustrates another turning point for Malaysia, as he recalls the euphoria of the Bersih (clean) movement, which promotes honest elections and governance. Wearing the leather piece as a form of performance, he spreads awareness as he continues to stand for what we truly believe.

Through all these works, the artists insist on the importance of transforming our turning points into stepping-stones – a chance to improve. “Sometimes, fate is like a sandstorm that keeps changing directions,” wrote Haruki Murakami. However, “one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

‘18@8 Turning Points’ is featured at Wei-Ling Contemporary from 15th November 2019 – 15th January 2020.

Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at RT01, Sixth Floor, The Gardens Mall, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7pm.

Please call +60322828323/ +60322601106 or email: noel.weilinggallery@gmail.com for more information.