When Choong Guey Syuen was announced the winner of the 2021 Spotlight Art Competition, her first thought – despite her elation, was: “I need to get to work this very instant!” understanding that she had only six months to prepare for the solo exhibition which accompanies the winning prize money. Thus the title of her first ever solo exhibition was set.
The win came at a particularly poignant time in Choong’s life. She had just graduated from college in a difficult year for the nation. Most of her last year of college was conducted in isolation in which she had devoted most of her time making art. During these pivotal last few months of institutionalized practice, Choong found herself increasingly drawn to experimentations of other mediums and texture of art. She sees this as a departure from her traditional training in oil. A new beginning in tandem to her graduation.
This exhibition is a continuation of her oil practice as well as her new experiments from her last days in college. Here, her sentiments have been spread across twenty four works, further divided into six series, namely: Personal Portraits, Scenery, Sculpture, Bride, Past of Beauty Pageant, and Past of Golden Flowers.
In Personal Portraits and Scenery, the artworks consist mostly of oil paintings. Traditional as it may seem, placed together, they tell a very personal and intriguing story. The portraits are not mere portraits, they tell of the dreams of a girl who loves dancing, a girl who wears many faces in all her complexity. Her winning piece in Spotlight is a self portrait titled ‘Dreaming Encircled by Isolation’.
It is her most notable work to date and it perfectly encapsulates a young woman’s restlessness in the seamless brush strokes and colour toning of a skilled painter, by which she is both.
The sceneries painted in Choong’s Scenery series are not mere still life studies. They are from personal photographs taken by her. They are little stops and little sights she passed by on her daily route to her studio. A route she has recently ceased to take upon her leaving college. Fragments of memories she wishes to preserve by giving them physical forms.
The Sculpture piece, ‘Ballerina on the Furniture’ is a representation of her past childhood in the form of constructed memorabilia. Another form of preservation as well as a reminder.
In the series Bride, Past of Beauty Pageant and Past of Golden Flowers, Choong has chosen to be more experimental in her medium. The subject might be seemingly reminiscent of the past but her experimentation in texture and medium, as well as her graphical prints in the Bride series reveals a sense of curiosity. While painting her grandmother’s wedding portrait, she acknowledges the tradition women of her past had adhered to. By remixing it with mix media and print, she questions the future of that very tradition.
Upon further reflection, the six mini series can be arranged into two main lines of thoughts. One of revival of things past; one of contemplation of things to come. Some works speak of both, a conversation between past and future. Throughout this exhibition of self discovery, the audience is gently led by the artist’s gaze which is inherently feminine with a sense of innocent curiosity.
Text by Eeyan Chuah
The Instant Charms booklet is available for download.
06 till 18 January 2023
Daily: 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. (Closed on Thursday)
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