In the hallowed halls of Wei-Ling Gallery in Brickfields this month, Cheong Kiet Cheng embarks on her second solo exhibition to date. And what an ambitious leap it is for the emerging artist, whose works feature a cacophony of symbols, making each and every painting a playground for the eyes. Très fun. One piece in particular, ‘We Have No Happy and Sad’, is an animal-filled composition that Zoo Negara ought to consider using in their marketing collaterals; and in ‘Fly With Wolf’ a woman rides the eponymous beast through mountainous terrain with an assortment of fairytale creatures hovering close by.
Still, these cheeky (and surface) interpretations aren’t indicative of Cheong’s true purpose behind this range of pieces. ‘Kiet Cheng’s latest body of work explores the laws of the universe where all beings in this space go through the impermanent process of birth, ageing, sickness and death. She uses images of humans, animals, flowers and plants to convey love, beauty, and life and death,’ explain the gallery; impermanence, to be concise, and life’s fleeting and transitory qualities. Sound Buddhist to you? Cheong’s colourful paintings certainly seem to carry the religion’s teachings, and this tangent is confirmed by the artist herself: ‘The world we live in, what we see, hear and feel, they are a projection of the mind.’
Rest assured, these aren’t temple paintings and Cheong’s mind projections are contemporary delights to savour. At once surreal by way of Leonora Carrington and with rings of references to the works of Malaysian artists Tan Chin Kuan and Eng Hwee Chu, Cheong’s paintings carry the whimsy of illustrated books and a style that’s truly her own. With this exhibition, we’d even go so far as to say that your heart might sing a little.