Written by: Lum Triny

Edited by: Supriya Sivabalan

Figure 1: Horse sculpture and neon sign outside the entrance
Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Malaysia is bursting at the seams with talent and culture, a hub for artists all around the globe to meet at annual art related conventions, expos and galleries. Some examples such as Comic Fiesta, Tattoo Expos and, of course, the famous Art Expo Malaysia. 

Art Expo Malaysia 2019 13th Edition, ‘The Best Edition Ever!’ (AEM) was held on the 11th to the 13th of October 2019 at MATRADE Exhibition and Convention Centre (MECC) Kuala Lumpur which displayed paintings and sculptures from artists all over Asia and certain Western countries such as Spain and the United States. AEM this year included an expansive collection of 1,500 pieces of artwork from 60 reputable galleries based in 15 different countries, particularly focused on Southeast Asia. The pieces on display ranged from contemporary to classic and trendy styles. Each section was given a spunky name so it would be easily identifiable such as Southeast Asia Art Lab, Southeast Asia Art Now, Japan Pavilion and Art Town. There were also Art Talks from notable artists and art collectors that are held in conjunction with the exhibition on October 12th. Below is a list of topics, details and speakers:

12 NOON – 1 PM

Jesus Curia: Contemporary Spanish Sensation (Thomas Cherukara)

1 PM – 2 PM

How to collect art when you do not have a lot of money. (Edward Soo)

2 PM – 3 PM

Artist Talk: A conversation between Mella Jaarsma and Beverly Yong (Mella Jaarsma, Beverly Yong)

3 PM – 4 PM

In conversation with Dr. Melani Setiawan and Hiroko Ishinabe. (Dr. Melani Setiawan, Hiroko Ishinabe)

4 PM – 5 PM

The Tarik with KHAI & MAT ALI. (Khairudin Zainudin, Mat Ali Mat Som)

5 PM – 6 PM

A Japan Ceramist’s Story (Yoshihiro Nishimura)

On the 12th of October, the exhibition opened its doors at 11:30 a.m. but the queue that was lined up in front started as early as 10 a.m. As you approach the entrance, it’s hard to miss the large red and white neon sign, and even harder to miss the gigantic horse torso bulging out from the wall. The ticket line was somewhat empty as most attendees bought their tickets online prior to the event. With phones in hand and virtual QR ticket codes ready to be scanned, the line started moving and into the exhibition we go!

Figure 2:Attendees buying Art Expo tickets

Instantly you’ll come face to face with large pieces of oil paints by Segaris Art Center from Malaysia. As you progress through each exhibit, there were signs plastered above each divider with its country of origin. To the right is Japan Pavilion, showing artwork from Gallery Ishikawa, Gallery UG, Sankeido, Soei Gallery, Gallery Hanakagesho and many more. 

Further in, there is a cafeteria serving Malaysian delicacies such as nasi lemak and various other ‘kuih’ finger foods. There were tables set up with art enthusiasts and curators, some taking a break to rest their feet while others are chatting away while enjoying a cup of coffee. Right outside it is a small booth selling artbooks that contain the full collection of the pieces that were displayed at AEM 2019 along with short descriptions and the names of the artists. 

As you continue walking, you can’t help but be entranced by this collaboration piece by Kamwei Fong, titled ‘The Furry Thing’, depicting a bunch of cats in humorous, imaginative and often meme-ful positions. Kamwei Fong is a Malaysian artist who works mainly on the subject of animals, and his creations are often times described as poetic, humorous and imaginative. The description below  is by Laura Staugaitis from This is Colossal’s interview with Kamwei Fong perfectly encapsulates ‘The Furry Thing’.

“Despite their contextual isolation and uniformed style, each of Kamwei’s cats display unique personalities: some are fluffed and puffed into self-contained balls; others look with curiosity or wariness at fish that dangles or waves that crash from the animals’ own tails. The artist builds each feline form using innumerable short thin lines, varying the density of the marks to create volume as well as a palpable sense of furriness.”

Figure 3: The Furry Thing by Kamwei Fong

Another eye-catching piece was an acrylic on canvas painting titled ‘Origins (2019)’ by Lisa Wong Sook Kuan, who displayed pieces from her Vivid Pastoral and Wild/Warrior collection. The artwork depicted what seemed to be three Chinese cranes, with two that are mid-flight, surrounded by plants. The piece gives off a soft yet strong impression due to the cool toned pastel feel on the background while the colour contrast and thick linework of the cranes make it pop out while complimenting the gorgeous background and minute details. 

Figure 4: Origins (2019) by Lisa Wong Sook Kuan

Ashley Bickerton, one of the original members of the group Neo-Geo also presented his pieces at AEM this year. A 2018 piece titled ‘Apex Species, Apex Moment. Before The Fall. Mother.’ was also on display.

Ashley Bickerton, one of the original members of the group Neo-Geo also presented his pieces at AEM this year. A 2018 piece titled ‘Apex Species, Apex Moment. Before The Fall. Mother.’ was also on display.

The more you stare at it, the more things you notice.

As promised, there were many artworks by Southeast Asian artists as well, some notable ones include ‘Jonker Street, Melaka, 2018’ by Lui Cheng Thak from Malaysia and a contemporary piece by Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew from Thailand. 

Lui Cheng Thak is a well-known fine artist from Malaysia who uses oil paints to create beautiful scenic paintings using soft and small brushstrokes. His paintings often show scenes that many people don’t pay attention to, such as a back alley wall with the paint peeling off and a few empty bird cages hanging by the veranda, or maybe the front of an old shop lot in Melaka that was built during the colonial times. 

Figure 6: Jonker Street, Melaka, 2018 by Lui Cheng Thak

Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew on the other hand, is a contemporary artist who uses many layers of fine, interwoven fabric that are painted, printed or shaped to give off an illusion. His works are 3-dimensional and it leaves the viewer feeling the ‘mental chaos’ it’s trying to project.

Figure 7: Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew

There were also some sculptures of enlarged animal heads carved out of wood and bronze by Quentin Garel on display. When looked at closely, you can see the intricate line and curves and how he adds texture to the heads.

Figure 8: Mask of Rabbit, 2017  by Quentin Garel

Many more paintings and sculptures were for show, from the entrance to the exit. There was not a single wall or corner that was not used to display the carefully curated pieces. AEM is definitely an annual event that art enthusiasts and artists, both professional and amateur, can enjoy. 

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