FOR your information, do not attempt to squeeze the tiny ants “crawling” on Goh Ah Ang’s paintings displayed at Balai Seni Maybank.
As lifelike as they might appear, the insects were actually drawn on the canvases with paintbrushes.
The ants seemed to be passers-by on his paintings, crawling beside or over weathered glyphs, ancient characters and calligraphy.
Ribbon cut: Amirsham (second from left) launching the art exhibition at Balai Seni Maybank. On the left is Mohd Salleh.
Goh , who is the founder of Top-Art School of Art in Klang and chief consultant of the Federation of International Colour-Ink Artists in Taiwan, said he is the first artist to choose ants as a painting subject, and it had become his identity.
Thirty years ago, he painted a sparrow sitting on a window frame, looking at an ant on the curtain.
Although it was only a minor character, the ant piqued the viewers’ interest and that inspired him to continue capturing the ants on his canvases.
“I personally love Piet Mondrian’s pieces with vertical and horizontal lies forming objects in a very artistic way.
“I adopted this concept and drew window frames with ants crawling into them for a couple of years, then decided to free the ants from the frames in 1983,” he said.
Deviation: Goh and his paintings titled Contemplation (IV).
A painting Life as Ants, in which Goh painstakingly drew an army of over 3,000 ants, won him a Young Contemporaries Minor Award from the National Art Gallery of Malaysia.
Goh said his paintings portrayed the civilisation of humankind with ants present throughout the process.
“It demonstrates the strong survival instinct of the ants and shows how tenacious they are.
“We see them as a small creature, but if someone were to look at the Earth from space, humans are as small as ants, too,” he said.
On ants of two different colours appearing in the same painting, Goh explained that it reflected the different state of mind two people have when they travel on the same path.
“Imagine two people walking in the dark. One sees the beautiful starry sky while another only sees the muddy path he is treading on,” he said.
National Economic Advisory Council chairman Tan Sri Amirsham A. Aziz, who launched the exhibition, congratulated Goh for his series of works on one of nature’s most intriguing social insects.
“Ants are tiny creatures and to depict them as a work of art requires the dexterity of an expert’s hands,” he said.
Maybank vice chairman Datuk Mohd Salleh Harun, said the art community, like the ants, has an important contribution to the society.
“The artists and their arts give a balance to the life of a community. While our nation strives to be a developed society, we must also preserve and advance the rich cultural diversity we possess,” he said.
Goh’s works had been exhibited in Taiwan, China, Japan, Hong Kong, France, the United States and South Korea. Maybank had previously hosted his works in 1995 and 1999.
This exhibition will be on till Friday. The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm on Monday to Thursday and 10am to 4.45pm on Friday.
It is located at Level 1, Menara Maybank, 100, Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur.
To analyze and appreciate the works of Malaysian Artist Mr. Goh Ah Ang
by Huang Chao Hu (Chairman of the Federation of International Color-Ink Artists, Taiwan and the Visiting professor of Purlinton University, USA)
Conversation Ink on papar 2007
For the past ten years, while promoting the eastern art of color ink in the international arena, I met renowned artists from more than 30 countries. They were from different levels of professionalism such as the heads of art institutions, deans or lecturers, historical artists, commentators and professional artists. We normally met at annual international art exhibitions and the pieces displayed greatly enhanced our relationship. Among these artists is one Malaysian by the name of Goh Ah Ang. He is one of my most admired and appreciated friends.
Mr. Goh’s works titled “Ants” have made him popular in Malaysia and even in the international arena. He is highly respected and in fact he assisted in organising international art exhibitions. Hence he was awarded ‘International Award for Contribution to Art’ by the Federation of International Color-Ink Artists of Taiwan. At the same time he was invited to serve as the Honorary Secretary and Chief Consultant by the Federation of International Color-Ink Artists of Taiwan, which is very deserving of him.
The art pieces of Mr. Goh Ah Ang, are creative and have won many prizes. He has been invited to participate in the exhibitions in the US, Europe and Asia. At the same time, he is very successful in teaching art to young children and he has won numerous International Art Educator Awards. He is the Chairman of the Association of Artists, Klang of Malaysia and the principal of Top-Art School of Art. He writes art critics in the media and is considered a man of many talents.
Mr. Goh is simple and easy of approach, passionate, responsible and fully respected by other artists. He is polite and always honored his words. He is extraordinarily intelligent. Without any doubts he deserved his present achievements.
From Mr. Goh’s art pieces, we can safely categorize him as a compassionate person who cares about human beings, living things and the cultures that we live in. He uses traditional eastern ink paintings to highlight the surroundings, especially little creatures such as sparrows, cockroaches, chickens, ants etc. This can be reflected in his paintings like sparrows resting on the window, cockroaches in the frame, the ‘dancing’ chicken and groups of ants, also the combination of lotus, the surrealistic structure of art and calligraphy, which drew praises from the general public.
All these while Mr. Goh loves to draw ants, whether be it a lonely ant or in a group. Ants eventually became the main subject in his paintings and ant has become his visual language. If we were to analyze his ant series, we should be able to divide them into three stages:
The early ant paintings of Mr. Goh started back in the 80s. He adopted a very casual approach in rendering the ants. Using ants as the elements of visual art, a single ant makes a ‘point’, ants moving in lines creates ‘lines’ and the colony of ants that spread out on the painting pictures planes. All of this dominates the specific appearance of his paintings. Mr Goh has a special favor for the ants, he allows the painted ants to move on special surface that he created, where paper is creased, torn or folded. Mr. Goh wove magic with his ants. In his paintings, the ants get together from all directions, moving alone or head to head, are actually dramas of our real life. The ants in his art pieces are able to reflect the different human feelings such as happiness and sadness and even the essence of human kindness. This has greatly attracted and affected the viewers and perfected the idea of ants as the visual language of Mr. Goh.
In the mid 90s, Mr. Goh began to associate ants with cracked walls surface and some ancient writing stone inscriptions, allowing ants to appear on the void or the painted part of a painting. This create a multi dimensional effects out of a two dimensional structure. The unsophisticated look of the ancient writing together with the effects of ink marks, fill the works with imagery of cherish for the past. This series of ‘Cherish’ and ‘Legend’ became his master piece for that era.
The recent works of Mr. Goh has extended expression of three dimensional effects in his paintings. He adopts diversify ideas and techniques, using the concept of compare and contrast of black and white. He emphasize on reconstructing the appearance of his painting. Earlier, the white part of the painting was the stage of the little ants, now is the inked and painted parts. The contrast of black and white, ink marks and little ants, the echo of inked surface and writing, all contributed to a combination of eastern and western esthetics in his master pieces. This has made the imagery of ants even more distinctive and unique. And the works has clearly reflected the fact that Mr. Goh is broadening his scope.
Thirty years on, has made Goh Ah Ang, an artist as hard working as the ants, who speaks through ants, has become a creative, outstanding and philosophical artist. He established Top-Art School of Art , which is an influential and outstanding art learning institution. I sincerely hope and bless that Mr Goh along with Top-Art school of Art , will continue to flourish, just like the Ants series, for which he has painted for over 30 years.