Liew Kwai Fei’s Solo Exhibition
மிருகம் என் நண்பன் | KAMI BUKAN HANTU | AH PULL & AH DOOR | 我们一家不是人
The exhibition features paintings as well as multimedia and sculptural installations. As a continuation from his previous solo exhibition ‘Painted Words and Written Paintings: For the Refined and For the Masses’, (Valentine Willie, Kuala Lumpur in 2012), Liew continues to expand his contemporary art practice by reconstructing meaning through cultural symbols and mono and multilingual textual references.
Yet, in this new series Liew exposes himself to new materiality and medium apart from painting and chooses to engage the infamous political ideology ‘We are all one family’ (a piece of Chinese calligraphy written by Anwar Ibrahim in the ‘90s), as his point of departure. Liew has taken a self-reflective approach by concerning himself with the issue of identify, exploring the rift within the grandeur of political ideology against individual daily life experience.
Liew’s affinity with multilingual textual reference is present in this series. Just as how the multilingual exhibition title(s) would suggest a way to engage with the show. In a multicultural society, one cannot help but rely on the translator for a faithful interpretation of another language, but one might not be as fortunate if the translator is Liew. As a sceptical social commentator and a dilettante polyglot, Liew attempts to disrupt the hierarchy of information related to social class and ethnic groups through his own self-invented system. Perhaps, these individual ‘translations’ are to be perceived as one homogeneous idea or concept whereby each of it is autonomous yet depends on one another to make sense.
Some of the works in this series serve as critiques to the intrinsic moral values, where the artist was brought up through and influenced by formal educational system and mainstream culture. Liew attempts to penetrate these supposedly canonized and commonly accepted social conducts by subverting them with individual interpretations through references from popular culture, vernacular slangs and puns.
Liew is admittedly abusive and at times his crude handling of materials and subjects results in creative chaos where he synthesises contrasting objects into new associations and meanings. His work permeates with a sense of instability, with unfixed meaning, function or use. He sometimes treats his works as props, which are only activated through improvisation and cohesive when they are misunderstood.
This series of works carries a visual quality that resembles mix-matched flora and fauna fabric patterns from the 60s, or mass-produced plastic toys with faulty designs, all put together and arranged in a seemingly Chinese folk religion altar formation. With all these unresolved contradictions, in all its complexity, Liew invites us into his poetic and kaleidoscopic world of chaos.
Text by Hoo Fan Chon.
Liew Kwai Fei was born in 1979, graduated with a diploma in Chinese ink painting from Institute of Art (MIA). His solo exhibitions include: ‘Painted Words and Written Paintings/For the Refined and For the Masses’, (Valentine Willie Fine Art Kuala Lumpur 2012), ‘Colour, Shape, Quantity, Scale’, (15 Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur, 2010); ‘Paintings For All Ages/ Paintings With Extended Space’, (19 Jalan Berangan, Kuala Lumpur, 2009) and ‘The Rhythm of Doing’, (ProjectRoom @ Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, 2008), amongst others. He has also participated in various residencies which include, The Australia-Malaysia Institute (AMI) Visual Arts Residency Programme, (Getrude Contemporary, Melbourne, Australia, 2011); The Khazanah Artist Commissioning Programme, (Mumbai, India, 2010) and was one of the artist in residence at Rimbun Dahan for 3 months, (Selangor, 2010).