KUCHING: A new art gallery, Hoan Gallery at La Promenade Mall, has launched its opening exhibit: Rebirth — Sarawak Is Art, Past & Present.
OPEN: Invited guests at the launch of Rebirth, Hoan Gallery's opening exhibit.
Rebirth features over 40 artworks by 10 different artists. Pieces range from RM3,000 to over RM30,000.
About half-a-dozen featured works have either been pre-sold or are loaned from private collectors.
“Our first exhibit features artists young to old. We have Leonard Siaw, Nia Latif from the younger generation,” said gallery owner Hoan Kee Huang.
“We also have works by masters like batik artist Stephanie Eng. We have amazing water colours by Lam Siong Onn. We even have new pieces by Lee Hock Kia, who even at 85 years old, is still painting. Our gallery carries three new works by Lee that were done over MCO.”
Rebirth is also paying tribute to artist whom have passed. Featured are the works of the late Michael Chong (1948-2021), Chee Hong King (1920-1992), Chong Liew Syn (1949-1999) and Foo Syn Choon (1933-2012).
REBIRTH: Hoan Kee Huang, artist and director of the gallery, explaining the Rebirth exhibit to guests from Design Network Architects.
MASTER: Lee Hock Kia (wearing batik) at the exhibit. Also see here are architects (from left) Tay Tze Yong and Lam Choi Scan from INTODESIGN Lab.
HISTORIC: Lee Hock Kia (left) browsing at the historical corner of the gallery.
“In curating Rebirth, I made sure to include a wide range of ages, techniques and mediums. There are oil on canvas, oil and acrylic on canvas, batik paintings, water colours and Chinese inks.
More modern pieces by Nia are mixed mediums, featuring ink, graphite, charcoal, paper pulp and egg shells.
“Every piece is unique. None are duplicates. All are original works. In this first show, the oldest work is Chee Hong King’s ‘Serenity’ from 1960, while the latest is Leonard Siaw’s ‘Reignite’ completed in 2021.”
REIGNITE: Leonard Siaw (left) explaining his latest piece, a portrait of Stephanie Eng, to Clara Liew of WADD.Asia.
Hoan Gallery is taking a historical and well-researched approached to its first show.
Hoan, who is a painter of repute himself having been invited to paint portraits of the Agong, has created an “art history wall” detailing the Kuching Art Club.
The Kuching Art Club was founded in 1949 by Lucy Morison, the then Governor’s secretary. The club’s activities are the best record of Western style art development in Sarawak. “Although earliest records have been lost in a fire but we know many of the club’s activities through newspaper reports. Morison left Kuching in 1962, leaving behind a fine art scene,” Hoan said.
The Kuching Art Club's goal was to organise the burgeoning art scene. It operated alongside other groups — like the Music Societies and Floricultural Improvement Society (both formed in 1947) — in the optimistic air that was post World War Two.
Newspapers from the mid 1940s report of twice-a-year art exhibitions, weekly classes and even reviews of solo shows.
“I’ve always feel incredibly moved whenever I research the art club. The club did so much to spur and record the development of art in Sarawak almost a century ago. Today, we wish to pay tribute to these artists, look back at Sarawak art, and to find ways forward,” Hoan said.
Hoan likes referring to a 1949 The Sarawak Tribune news clipping, in which a critic wrote:
“Just as poets put their feelings into words and musicians express there's through music, so an artist illustrates his or her feelings in pictures. Every picture tells a story, and an adept artist is able to put into effect a story in more vivid details than it could ever be written in words.
"Time may pass away but pictures will still retain their stories fresh and beautiful just as they were first painted."
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TEXT: Rebirth catalogues and price lists.
LEVEL 3: The gallery is at the Home Improvement floor of La Promenade Mall.
ARCHITECTURE: New architecture firm, Objects of Affection, designed Hoan Gallery.