Ambiga Devy • 檳城
Ch’ng Kiah Kiean has travelled a long way from the young person who honed his artistic skills under the tutelage of Tan Lye Hoe. Today he combines his architectural training and his keen, intuitive eye to produce works that can only be described as haunting in their depiction of a city in the transitions of change.
Taking a journey, very much with his father in mind, he has captured George Town with a stylish freedom in his lines and spaces, remembering the footsteps taken by his father – from the Swatow Lodge in Armenian Street where many of his Teochew clansmen frequented to the shop house where he stayed when he first arrived in the then Malaya – picturing a soul on its quiet journey, remembering and memorizing every tone and shade of that life.
Sentimental sweeping lines, sometimes colour washed, sometimes in shades of grey accentuated with black ink and different thicknesses of graphite, are used to create his expressions of streets, lanes, buildings and cityscapes with elegant style.
Here is an artist who also has a quirky sense of humour – look for his juxtapositional use of shop signage in his street scenes, be it in calligraphy or typography, often telling a story of its own. His depth of skill emerges with his use of improvised equipment like sharpened bamboo and chopsticks to get finer details when using Chinese ink.
Kiah Kiean’s love for the city and its heritage is conspicuous in this book. By representing the nooks and corners often ignored by the passer-by, he accentuates and thus elicits thought-provoking questions from the viewer of his works.
These sketches are also wonderful reminders of what George Town was and sometimes still can be today. A diary in graphite, they have captured the essence of childhood experiences in the streetscapes of his present life.
Ambiga Devy • Penang