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Malaysian Artist Profile: Philip Wong

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I first met Philip Wong in 2001 with a mutual artist friend. His passion for creating new types of crafts using his impressive artistic talent really impressed me. He brought some glass jars containing candles on which he had painted an array of beautiful flowers and abstract formations. He gave me one that I cherish and still have to this day.

I have observed how he has taken his deep love of creating thoughtful ideas with his almost child-like curiosity, explored new mediums on which to paint them, and greatly expanded his portfolio and artistic interests – including theatre – to become one of Malaysia’s most renowned and well-respected artists.

In 2006, he founded ArtSeni Gallery in Starhill Shopping Centre, where he is not only an active artist but also the curator. He devotes a large part of his time in mentoring other local artists and has held several highly successful group and solo exhibitions there.

Phillip has always had a penchant for anything that is transparent. “It encourages one to see through the surface and look at the underlying meaning,” he explained. But for many years he could not figure out how to paint with transparency.

He finally found a spirit-based paint that yields vibrant hues, a luminescent finish, and most importantly, the desired transparent effect. Initially, he defined his subjects with raised black lines and filled in the paint. He also mastered the skill to apply this paint like watercolour so that the tones varied in intensity and created interesting ripple-like shadows when placed under spotlights. Then, he discovered the pressing technique whereby he presses a drop of the paint between two pieces of glass or Perspex to form a round, light, distorted patch of colour.

Philips latest works do not have defined lines like those of his earlier creations. They are characterised by harmoniously blended colours – usually blue to represent the sky and green and yellow as earth. Thanks to the transparent paint’s ability to create depth, coupled with the 3D effect given by the shadows behind the artwork, the works exude an ethereal feel that captures viewers’ attention. For the past few years, he has been incorporating all his technological findings about transparent glass onto canvas.

“My upcoming solo exhibition in May is called ‘The Human Mind’,” Philip explained, “and my intention is to explore the human mind – the very essence of what makes us human. I’ve worked on this series since 2009, occasionally showcasing various pieces at my gallery. “Initially for this series, I thought I would continue with the organic flow and curves of my earlier series; instead, though, I found myself going back to basics by drawing lines and that eventually led to me discovering and wanting to explore the human brain. The inspirations I had were turned into sketches and studies. I also did extensive research to discover more about the brain and mind while experimenting with different media to get the effect I wanted.”

Philip then combined 2-D and 3-D media to create a collection of small and larger scale paintings, culminating with an interactive installation piece called “The Brain”. The works at the exhibition will be presented in that order so that the viewer is introduced to his thought processes in creating this series. They will realise how each of the items relate to the human brain as they gradually view each piece as they move through the series until they reach the final piece – the 3-D art installation. By interacting with his work, people be pondering issues about the mind, why we behave in a certain manner and ultimately, its impact on the human condition.

“I also tried painting how the mind can be very complex at times yet simplified at other times,” Philip said. “Everyone is actually heading towards the same direction. To say it point-blank, everyone will die one day so it is really silly to fight over petty matters. Having understood this, one will be focused on things far more meaningful in their lives and others.”

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He went on to say, “My solo exhibition in May will consist of 31 works sculptures, paintings and the very first threedimensional installation art about the brain and mind that share a common message of wisdom and understanding. I want to encourage the public to observe and think through the medium of art. Each individual’s contribution with their comments and participation while viewing ‘The Brain’ is an interpretation of what they feel.”

Source: The Expat Magazine April 2014

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