Whoever said Instagram was killing art should think again. At least according to the article “How instagram is keeping art alive” featured in PolicyMic on January 6th 2014. The article states smartphones have an undeniable positive effect on the art market. Indeed, as people continue to take “selfies” in front of masterpieces or other contemporary art exhibitions, they are in reality promoting individual artists and galleries, rendering them as popular artistic sites to visit.
Consequently, as I performed my daily rituals of looking through Facebook and Twitter, I stubbled upon an eye-catching artist on Instagram while typing #asiancontemporaryart. The photographs featured an opening reception at Wei-Ling Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, presenting the Malaysian artist Wong Chee Meng. The artworks were captivating for their bright colours, and more importantly for their intriguing composition. These two elements will turn out to be his strongest points within his pieces, giving them a unique look.
Wong Chee Meng was born in 1975 and has an MA in International Contemporary Art and Design Practices at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia. Before that, he obtained a Bachelor of the Arts at Curtin University in Australia. This was Wong Chee Meng’s first solo exhibition at Wei-Ling Gallery entitled “The Urban Abyss” which ran from the 10th April until the 8th May 2013. Wei-Ling Gallery believes this exhibition presents a stronger development from the artist’s previous body of work.
He believes art has a strange presence in our daily lives, which explains the materials he uses to create his works. He employs stencil art and paper cutting to present art today. Before proceeding with the design, he conjures story lines or tag lines rendering his artworks as fictional compositions. Interestingly, he experiments with different image-making techniques through additive and subtractive transformations as he interlaces random subjects together. His works thus becomes an image-play as elements were removed and new images were formed by hand during the artistic process. Additionally, the design and composition of his pieces are influenced by contemporary sources such as advertisements. He inspires himself with the colours, arrangement and composition of advertisements to communicate with his audience. Consequently, colour become his strongest point due to the cacophony of colours directing the gaze of the audience to comprehend the message the artist is trying to transmit.
However, the message is not that easy to decipher, hidden beneath the materials and techniques used. His art is actually layered under three visual surfaces: unconventional line cuts, mix of hard-edged painting approach with dramatic figurative reinterpretation to show complex meaning he wishes to reflect; and thirdly interlaced composition with a mixture of urban culture visual representation. Yet, to facilitate the interpretation of his works, thanks to his inspiration from advertisements, through these three layers he uses symbolism, iconography and allegories to communicate to his contemporary audience. More importantly, as Chee Meng’s subject matter lie in history, myth and allegory, we can notice elements of influence from the works of Caravaggio hidden underneath the layers of remixed and recomposed images. He was appealed by the tensions, gestalt and vivid expressions they possessed. If you look closely, they seem to be represented on the first layer. You can view the process of the artistic process and see the images in detail to observe the Caravaggio influence in this press release from the gallery’s website.
The stories and layers behind these pieces are responses to our contemporaneous existence such as social development, freedom, temptation, culture and revolution.
Wong Chee Meng’s works thus become a fun visual puzzle as the audience has to detangle the pieces, reshuffle them and put them back together to get the whole picture.