Wei-Ling Gallery is pleased to present Chin Kong Yee’s latest exhibition #tomorrow, which sees him pushing his boundaries as an artist, by experimenting with wearable paintings, video work, and performance. Moved by his experience of “Acqua Alta” in Venice, a natural disaster which saw sea levels rising, causing the city to flood, Kong Yee felt the need to retell the story through his paintings, hoping to amplify an awareness of the pressing need to preserve our environment and society, to the detriment of our future if we leave it unattended.
In November 2019, Venice suffered its worst high tide in 50 years. Over 80% of the city was submerged by water, and residents had to flood-proof and barricade their homes and businesses. Many houses, hotels, and restaurants were destroyed. This phenomenon coincided with the Venice Art Biennale 2019, and as a result, some National Pavilions had to close their doors to visitors. Chin Kong Yee found himself in the middle of this situation, being in Venice to carry out his performative work, which saw him walking into the various exhibitions in his wearable painting. As a painter and a traveller, Kong Yee puts himself in the position of an observer when going to a place, rather than merely visiting as a tourist. Instead of avoiding the flood, he put on a pair of waterproof boots, and continued immersing himself in the city, one that he has always been fascinated and moved by. He recalls, “After the deafening alarm noise to warn us of the water rise, there’s always a peaceful silence”. Interestingly, the artist finds an extraordinary beauty in the scenery of the flooded city, and decided to paint what he witnessed.
Flood was also what Kong Yee experienced upon returning from Venice, to Kuala Lumpur. The artist claimed that he has been dealing with flash floods in his home in Ampang for over 48 years. “It is something that you would only understand, if you live in this area. The problem occurs almost every year, but is always ignored,” he explained. Parallel to this solo exhibition, the flash floods in Selangor reached their climax point, causing 71,000 residents to be displaced. With environmental catastrophes taking place one after another, affecting him on a personal level. It became clear to him that if we do not come together and channel our efforts towards addressing this pressing situation, our lands will gradually sink and disappear.
Views of Venice during the high tide are painted, not just on canvas, but also natural-tanned leather; a material that he has been exploring and working with over the past 3 years. This choice of medium, once again, relates to the floods that he has been experiencing, and how he decided to navigate around it as an artist. As he explained, “I personally had experienced quite serious flash floods a few times, and from what I learned, all of the artworks made from paper would not survive, and canvas paintings will get a few water stains. I then thought of a more suitable and resistant material; leather.” Compared to canvases, leather is also easier to roll and stored at higher areas of the home, in order to avoid the floods. Since his exploration of leather work, Kong yee has also been experimenting with the idea of ‘wearable art’, in which he would cut and stitch pieces of the leather based on a pattern before painting on its surface, enabling his paintings to be worn. His signature style of adopting a fish-eye lens perspective and combining the past, present, and future through his “Actually Accorded Painting” (AAP) technique, is yet again present in these recent paintings on leather.
The concept of presenting the past, present, and future is also reflected through the different periods of time that are presented through this exhibition, in relation to the pandemic. To a true traveller like Kong Yee, the experience of staying at home for the past 20 months was life changing. Isolated throughout the lockdown, he took himself back to the feeling of being surrounded by people, through 360-degree paintings of market scenes such as Pasar Seni (2019-2021) and Pasar Ubud – Bali (2014), as well as the night scenery of Venice. Consisting of two interchangeable panels, Summer Night in Venice (2021) allows multiple display arrangements; a technique that he started developing in 2010.
Despite the movement restrictions in Malaysia, Kong Yee never stopped being an observer of the present times. His 360-degree video piece, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee (2021) documents the absence of reality and interaction during the pandemic. Last but not least, being under lockdown has forced Kong Yee to roast his own coffee beans. Finding enjoyment in the process, and believing in the importance of experience and interaction within an exhibition space, the artist decides to demonstrate coffee-making and let visitors enjoy their coffee over a conversation, perhaps discussing, “What will tomorrow bring?”
‘#tomorrow‘ is featured at Wei-Ling Gallery from 16 December 2021 – 29 January 2022.
Wei-Ling Gallery is located 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm.
Exhibition is open by appointment only. For appointments and further assistance, please contact +60322601106 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org