A relentless whirlwind- from inside, looking out

Wei-Ling Gallery is happy to present ‘A relentless whirlwind- from inside, looking out  a suite of 7 paintings by established Malaysian contemporary painter Yau Bee Ling. This series sees the artist unveiling her personal feelings and internal struggles during the pandemic through narratives presented within the work. While her previous series Interwoven Terrains delved into the idea of release and moving on, these new paintings see her confronting  and facing up to the challenges and changes that the lockdown brought with it-amongst them relearning and readjusting  to living e in close proximity to her loved ones during  the lockdowns, while at the same time learning to distance herself from those, outside her immediate circle

At first glance, this body of work possesses an innate sense of freedom-they are rapturous, bountiful, insouciant, embodying a sense of delight while enriching the soul with the dance of life. As you confront the paintings, they each reveal to you varying conflicting expressions and emotions of Hope-Beauty that is born of struggle, Love that is born of Loss, and Joy that is born of Pain. For we are born of Love, yet through life we have to experience all forms of emotion in order to become truly formed.

Yau’s works have become synonymous with multi-layered textures, defty combining constructions of paint through, varying brushstroke applications and lines, which eventually present themselves as dynamic compositions that resonate with an immeasurable depth. As a painter, she has moved from an early figurative style, into a form of figurative abstraction that we see today, by slowly unlearning and opening up to a new form of expression. In recent years, she has found comfort in painting abstract landscapes that represent her emotional and mental state. A cathartic release pf sorts, that has been influenced by her life story and the multiple interactions she has had as a woman; wife, mother, sister, daughter. Despite the absence of human form in Interwoven Terrains, in this series she felt the need to subtly reveal outlines of the figure, to reference the experiences and challenges she encountered over the past year, on a social-relationship level.

As an artist and educator, the artist had lived a healthy balance between her professional life outside of the household, and her personal life at home. Yet since early last year, like many of us, she had been forced to co-exist within the scope of her family and neighbours. As she stated, “When people come close together (during the lockdown), oftentimes conflict cannot be avoided.” It is generally within the confines of one’s home that one feels comfortable enough to reveal their trueselves, and it is this rawness of human behaviour that Yau Bee Ling captures and expresses through her new paintings. Ironically, in a time where we talk about being disconnected from physical interactions, Yau felt more connected to her family than ever before, as she discovered different sides of her children that she had never encountered before. Their fragility, distress, anxiety, way of thinking, and hopes for the future came to the surface -and through this period, she came to a better understanding of them as human beings. An important revelation to her as a mother.

This shift of feelings and redefinition of views that her children experienced also made her realise the importance of sitting alone to  reflect on her own life..  In times when she had to be strong, to be there for her extended family, to support them through the trials and tribulations of life-illness, death, loss, disappointments- she found herself inadvertently being the figure that they leant on. Her continuous compassion and empathy towards others, earned her this role. Over this period, she began to realise that it was imperative for her to retain her sense of well-being and self worth, in order to continue giving and being an anchor to all those around her . And it was through the act of painting and making this series that Yau Bee Ling managed to regain her personal space and sense of being; with every touch of her brush on the canvas, she acknowledged all the emotions that had long been hidden away, avoided, and never recognised, which had been trapped deep inside her heart. This series can be described as a personal awakening -to regain her self-worth and to prioritise herself. The authenticity of the soul can only come through, after we have released ourselves from all that holds us back. After all, how can one give support and be a pillar of strength, if one is crumbling away inside?

Through this period, Yau Bee Ling also witnessed a significant change in the way we connect as a community. As an artist who is observant of human behaviors, she noticed the fact that there is so much loss of authenticity when it comes to interacting through our screens. “It feels like communicating with the unknown; as if they are anonymous.” This anonymity is translated through the lines that form faceless human figures across some of the works in the series, such as Convalescing (2021), Transcending Battles (2021), and Unfettered Turmoil (2021). Although these intuitive lines can be seen similarly in her previous series such as ‘By Hands’ (2016) and ‘The Women’ (2013), this time, the lines serve only as outlines, offering no details, making it impossible to identify the subjects painted. “When it comes to conversing online, so many of our senses are filtered, and there is no exchange of energies.

This idea of not knowing what lies behind the screen also emphasises the question of uncertainty. And in these uncertain times, she came to realise how strength is a crucial quality that we must seek to have. It is imperative. In fact, as she expressed, “Only those who believe, and who choose to have strength, are the ones who will go forward.”

About Yau Bee Ling
With a career spanning more than 25 years, Malaysian artist Yau Bee Ling’s work have consistently echoed her observations on the world while reflecting on autobiographical themes. Her works are deeply personal and profound in their symbolism, as she struggles to reconcile the broad gambit of human experiences and the complex roles of contemporary women in present-day society. Highly regarded as one of the country’s foremost painters, her work pays homage to a life lived. Over the years, Yau Bee Ling’s practice has closely echoed the evolution of her own life – moving gradually from one phase to another: from that of  single woman, eager to discover what the world has to offer, settling down and adjusting into that of wife and partner, (and the at times, complicated accompanying ‘in-law’ roles this encompasses) , fulfilling the nurturing role of motherhood, to that of dutiful daughter-each aspect of her personal, emotional and mental journey questioned and uncovered as she progressed through life  . Each move, each curve in the winding road leading to where she is today, is a journey of searching and looking for answers. Answers to the conflicts brought on by the transition from one phase of life to another: of being a woman, a wife and a mother.

Yau has exhibited extensively in exhibitions across China, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia and represented Malaysia at the Asian Art Biennial in Dhaka, Bangladesh and at the Fukuoka Triennale. Her works are in the permanent collections of numerous private and public collections including Mulpha, Maxis Berhad and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum.

A relentless whirlwind- from inside, looking out‘ is featured at Wei-Ling Gallery from 10 August to 30 September 2021.

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 siewboon@weiling-gallery.com