Sketching George Town

Text: Sharon Cheah @ Art in the City

ONE can see him sketching away, a pencil or a twig in his left hand, on Sunday afternoons, usually in a shaded five foot walkway in the city named after Britain’s King George III. In the last few years, 37-year-old Ch’ng Kiah Kiean has made a name for himself as an urban sketcher and an artist of shapely lines as he immortalises George Town’s 18th and 19th century buildings – the core collection which is now bounded within an area listed under the World Heritage Site – on acid-free paper.

Ch’ng captures the elaborate outlines of Chinese clanhouses and Indian temples, the simpler silhouettes of the Straits Chinese shophouse, and eclectic details in facades in graphite and black Chinese ink – drawing them not as photo-perfect representations but with lively lines and exaggerated angles, infusing the buildings with personality and a joie de vivre.

In his second solo show, Line-line Journey, he spreads out from George Town to Bangkok and Macau, having been inspired by a global online sketching group called Urban Sketchers. He has also started sketching with twigs sharpened to variously-sized points, dipped into Chinese ink.

My favourite sketch, I think, is the one of Cheah Kongsi which he uses as the cover sketch of his catalogue/book for this exhibition. The quintessentially Chinese outline of the row of buildings in Armenian Street, seen from within the clanhouse’s administrative building, is like a glittering necklace worn against George Town’s skies.

Line-line Journey, 10-24 July, 12noon – 6pm, at Galeri Seni Mutiara, Lot No. 2 & 4, First Floor, The Whiteaways Arcade, Church Street, 10200 Penang

Find out more at: Art in the City