SEATED (Jan 2013)

9-23 Jan 2013, HOM Gallery

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'A tale about F Klub'
by Rachel Jenagaratnam


F Klub’s story could be written out as a fairy tale, like so…

Once upon a time, in a fertile land called Malaysia, there were artists. They came from different backgrounds and diverse traditions, but had their hearts set on one common love – art. Some of the artists painted, some buried themselves in photography or fabricated sculptures, some allowed images to unfurl as drawings, whilst others sourced different materials to tell stories of themselves, their people, or of their environment.

There was, however, a very unique group of individuals who all shared the same passion for portraying the human figure. Their styles were wildly different, but they were drawn to each other because of this common subject matter.

And so it transpired that these individuals – men and women – decided to meet on a regular basis. They gathered in a space in a discreet area not far from the city centre, where its two gleaming tall towers could be made out against the night sky, and with the help of an unabashed maiden or two, drew the human body in charcoal, paint, and other materials.

The evenings wore on as these artists sketched and painted. Paper and canvas filled up as the minutes ticked away, and always, the artists left each others company content and inspired. Today, their story comes to life right before your very eyes.

***

F Klub, conceptualized by Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Kow Leong Kiang, Noor Mahnun Mohamed and Shia Yih Yiing, was formed about four years ago, as an informal gathering of artists who were united by their passion for figurative works. They met regularly drawing sessions, a practice that can be traced back for hundreds of years, recalling a time before photography and the very pinnacle of figurative representation by fellow man. In Malaysia, however, its practice is mostly confined to the classroom. Understandably, too. For many years, particularly those following the revival of more hard-lined Islamic beliefs, figurative representation was seen as blasphemous. And nudes, on top of that, have always bordered on the taboo.

Still, it is evident that not all Malaysian artists abandoned the figure in their art and today, it’s a widely-accepted vehicle for narration, from lifelike reproductions that stem from classical modes of representation to ambiguous figures that serve as symbols for greed, isolation, or societal maladies. Indeed, figurative art has the benefit of being a true and engaging form of storytelling, certainly more so than, say, abstraction. But all this is laying judgment on what is good or bad art, which isn’t what F Klub stands for; what the group simply believes in, is in celebrating the human figure in art.

For their latest outing, F Klub’s members began meeting about four months ago. They found a natural gathering spot in Ampang-based HOM, and the opportunity to revive the practice of life drawing has been a positive experience for all parties involved. 

What you’ll see is a mixture of styles in the artworks, all brought to the fore by their individual makers. Kow Leong Kiang, best-known for his ethereal portrayals of women, has on this occasion, proffered a rawness that hints at the time frame allowed to each artist during these sessions. (The model only holds each pose for a specific duration.)  The element of rawness can also be seen in the textures created by Kow’s paint; a mixture of wax and oil paint, there is a tactility in the surface of each stroke. 

Kow has also worked on primed linen, affording for smoother glides of the hand, which was a big help with the invisible deadlines, says the artist. The effect is obvious. The strokes that form Kow’s figures seem busy and energetic, and as you look at some of Kow’s paintings, you almost find yourself waiting for the female subject to turn her head to face you. 

Kow normally works from photographs and the same can be said for many of the other F Klub artists. Gan Chin Lee, for example. Here, he shows works that are much smaller than his norm and the F Klub sessions have been a shot for the artist at experimentation, mainly by using plywood for the first time. 

Like life drawing itself, painting on wood isn’t a fresh concept. Gan notes that his chosen material absorbs foreign mediums quite ferociously, so this posed a challenge for Gan to work quickly. A layer of gesso on the board served as a primer, and lends a touch of ruggedness to each work. This offers an unusual contrast to the actual imagery on the board; Gan’s female figures possess a classical elegance, a trait that Gan first honed in Beijing, China.

Chong Ai Lei, on the other hand, worked with pencil and charcoal during these life drawing sessions. The artist’s presence is seen in visible smudges from the swift movements of her hand, and each line of the body represents a mental task to the artist; the difficulty lies in the fact that you aren’t just drawing life, but drawing from life, she argues.

Unlike the flesh-toned oil paintings that have become her signature, Chong’s outpouring here is more robust. The figures seem fuller, there is more texture in their being, and the smoky effects of her mediums create a heavier atmosphere that is darker and more melancholy than her usual portrayals.

This is, of course, different to Shia Yih Yiing’s works. Using the F Klub sessions as a platform to try new things, the artist traipses across different styles to convey the figure. Colours have clearly exploded from her palette, whilst in some works, the same model is repeated within a single composition, creating scenes reminiscent of classical portrayals of nymphs. 

The artist’s experimentation goes further in other works, where oil is blended and transfixed in such a way as to mimic the deep contrasts of charcoal; the chiarascuro effect in these particular pieces form strong shadows and lines that create drama for the eyes of the viewer. And there is also relationship between other F Klub artists in Shia’s works; in her sepia-tinged works, she notes having responded to and paid homage to Kow. 

Experimentation has indeed been rife in F Klub, and it’s also noticeable in Chin Kong Yee’s works. Known as a painter with a saccharine and saturated colour palette, he has abandoned all hues for the monochromatic Chinese ink. Aqueous black lines swerve across the classic pairing of rice paper like gusts of wind, and the overall sensibility is very different to his norm; the works are more philosophical than premeditated.

Matching this ethos is the artist’s own energy. “The paper has a very strong character,” says Chin. “If you don’t love him, it’s very hard to deal with him, but once you become friends with him, he will help you.”

Working together has also been a theme that Marvin Chan has adopted for F Klub. Now, a united entity with fellow artist Izan Tahir, Chan’s works marry his stamps and the marks made by his artistic partner. You’ll see this deliberate collaboration in the works; Chan’s pencil and charcoal sketches replicate the model from the sessions, whilst Izan’s responses are more emotive, like graffiti on a public wall.

In the smaller works, there are also writings or text by Chan that serve as recordings of different moments during the life drawing sessions. The words are humorous, playful, or pensive, and there is also the deep sense of absence and presence in the collaboration between these two artists; only Chan attended F Klub’s sessions. Their final work is an ambitious piece that serves as a culmination of all the compositional studies. Its journey began with Chan drawing with a ruling pen dipped in oil paint, and the subsequent layers of print were executed by both Chan and Izan, representing the final union between the two.

For Bayu, the experience hasn’t been so much about experimenting than perfecting, honing, and refining his craft. Looking at his figures, already so realistic in their depictions, it’s hard to imagine this; the artist reproduces each sinew and muscle curve with a high level of detail, blending charcoal with his fingers and creating shadows with precision.

What’s interesting is the abandonment of facial features in Bayu’s drawings. The model’s face appears incomplete, like a mask shrouded in mystery, whilst her body is consummately reproduced. Bayu’s reasoning is this: faces are a whole entity on their own, and as time was of essence, he chose to focus on the bodies instead. In his pieces, large and commanding, the representation of the human body seems to reach a climax. In Bayu’s works, the human body is portrayed in all its glory and might, lifelike, and truly in the flesh. And isn’t this not what F Klub is all about, the celebration of our physical beings?

***

And so, it was that in a land called Malaysia, F Klub came with a sense of camaraderie and a united love for figurative representation. And armed with their tools, they conquered.


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SHIA YIH YIING

Return Home With Splendour (Brain Drain) 
2012 / Oil on canvas / 101 x 138cm
Ellie (Posture by BUR)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 63 x 50cm
Ellie (Posture by BUR)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 50 x 63cm
Ellie (Posture by GCL)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 73 x 52cm
Ellie (Posture by CAL)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 63 x 50cm
Ellie (Posture by CKY)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 73 x 52cm
Ellie (Posture by SYY)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 52 x 73cm
Ellie (Posture by KLK)
2012 / Oil on canvas / 73 x 52cm
Sleeping Ellie
2012 / Oil on canvas / 52 x 73cm 
Ellie
2012 / Oil on canvas / 52 x 73cm
Ellie With Accessories!
2012 / Oil on canvas / 73 x 46cm
Ellie With Accessories!!
2012 / Oil on canvas / 46 x 73cm
Ophelia in Group
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 53 x 75cm
Ophelia in Row
2012 / Cryon & soft pastel on paper / 50 x 70cm 
Ophelia Twin
2012 / Soft pastel on paper / 50 x 70cm
Distressed Girl
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 53 x 75cm 
Distressed Girl
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 53 x 75cm
Sleeping Ophelia
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 54 x 75cm 
Ellie in Group
2012 / Oil on canvas / 24 x 30cm
Ellie in Thought
2012 / Oil on canvas / 24 x 30cm
Ellie Twin
2012 / Oil on canvas / 24 x 30cm
Sleeping Ophelia
2012 / Acrylic on canvas / 61 x 91cm 
Ophelia
2012 / Acrylic on canvas / 91 x 61cm


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BAYU UTOMO RADJIKIN

Sitting Waiting Still 
2012 / Charcoal on canvas / 133 x 163cm

Seated #1
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #2
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #3
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm / Artist's collection

Seated #4
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #5
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #6
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #7
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #8
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #9
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #10
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #11
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #12
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 120 x  89cm

Seated #13
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 83 x  59cm

Seated #14
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 83 x  59cm / Artist's collection

Seated #15
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 83 x  59cm / Artist's collection

Seated #16
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 59 x  83cm

Seated #17
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 59 x  83cm

Seated #18
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 59 x  83cm

Seated #15
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 83 x  59cm

Seated #20
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 83 x  59cm

Seated #21
2012 / Charcoal on brown paper / 83 x  59cm


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KOW LEONG KIANG

Beautiful Stranger
2012 / Oil on linen / 120 x 150cm


Nude #1
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #2
2012 / Oil on linen / 44.7 x 55.9cm

Nude #3
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #4
2012 / Oil on linen / 44.7 x 55.9cm

Nude #5
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #6
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #7
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #8
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #9
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm

Nude #10
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm / Artist's collection

Nude #11
2012 / Oil on linen / 55.9 x 44.7cm


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CHIN KONG YEE


Slept #1
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 60 x 121cm

Slept #2
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 60 x 121cm

Squatted #1
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Squatted #2
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Seated
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Seating Female Figure
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Seating Figure
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Female Figure #1
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Female Figure #2
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Female Figure 
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Female Figure Ink Painting
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm

Lei Down Figure (Colour)
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 60 x 121cm

Lei Down Figure
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 60 x 121cm

A Long Hair Woman
2012 / Chinese ink on xuan paper / 121 x 60cm


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MARVIN CHAN


Di Anjung Menanti
2012 /  Lino print & resin on canvas / 91 x 91cm


Ophelia#1
2012 / Oil & lino print on watercolour canvas / 91 x 61cm

Ophelia#2
2012 / Oil & lino print on watercolour canvas / 91 x 61cm 

Ophelia#3
2012 / Oil & lino print on watercolour canvas / 61 x 91cm

Anomaly #1
2012 / Charcoal & lino print on heavy watercolour paper. Sealed with fixative / 58 x 39cm

Anomaly #2
2012 / Charcoal & lino print on heavy watercolour paper. Sealed with fixative / 58 x 39cm

Anomaly #3
2012 / Charcoal & lino print on heavy watercolour paper. Sealed with fixative / 58 x 39cm

Anomaly #4
2012 / Charcoal & lino print on heavy watercolour paper. Sealed with fixative / 58 x 39cm

 Anomaly #5
2012 / Charcoal & lino print on heavy watercolour paper. Sealed with fixative / 58 x 39cm


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GAN CHIN LEE


Frontal Reclining Nude
2012 / Oil on plywood / 91.5 x 183cm


Seated Nude Facing Right
2012 / Oil on plywood / 30 x 45cm

Seated Nude Facing Left
2012 / Oil on plywood / 30 x 45cm

The Kneeling Female Nude
2012 / Oil on plywood / 30 x 45cm

Seated Nude Facing Left with Leg Bent
2012 / Oil on plywood / 30 x 45cm

Joint Seated Nudes 
2012 / Oil on plywood / 30 x 45cm (Diptych)


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CHONG AI LEI


Flighty 
2012 / Oil on canvas / 142 x 90cm


Sleeping Nude l  
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 23 x 28cm

Sleeping Nude ll  
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 23 x 28cm

Sleeping Nude lll  
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 23 x 28cm

Standing Nude 
2012 / Charcoal on paper / 23 x 28cm

Nude 
2012 / Oil on canvas / 44 x 33cm

Kneeling Nude 
2012 / Oil on canvas / 44 x 33 cm

Sleeping Nude lV 
2012 / Oil on canvas  / 33 x 44 cm