Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ant-ique impressions

Life · Hope (III) 2009 68cm x 68cm



By THO XIN YI
thoxinyi@thestar.com.my Photos by MUHAMMAD AKIF MASRI


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.