Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CN Liew featured in The Star

Since CN was in Singapore, I had to buy 20 copies of the Sunday Star for him. The sales girl at Seven-Eleven had this puzzle "whattheheckishegoingtodo20copiesofthestar" face.

she might be thinking this...

surat khabar lama, old newspaper, sao kow pochi
surat khabar lama, old newspaper, sao kow pochi
surat khabar lama, old newspaper, sao kow pochi

CN is very focused and highly ambitious . A staunch Buddhist who meditate regularly. A perfectionist for sure. Most of the pieces that you see could possibly be the results of the 200th attempts (per piece) after destroying all the previous attempts. All pieces are unique and only 3 pieces (so far) are in the form of figures (self portrait, Mao Zedong Guevara and Che Guevara).

I will elaborate the 3 works of figure form later, after I personally interview him in detail.



Sunday Star 22 April 2007

Sudden Enlightenment’s. He is taking a conservative art form and boldly going with it where no one has gone before.

PURISTS may mock, but C.N. Liew is taking calligraphy into the future. He has taken its strict forms and infused them with vibrant colours and strokes that force the viewer to think outside the box.

In fact, Liew’s works are so far outside the box, he felt moved to coin a new word to describe his art form: “surrealigraphy”.

Surrealism, by artists such as Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, comes, of course, from the West. When you put that together with the very Eastern tradition of Chinese calligraphy, interesting things are bound to happen.

“In Chinese calligraphy, there is the bronze script, the cursive script and the oracle bone script. I paint all these scripts and I use the brush technique to make it more artistic – and it becomes ‘surrealigraphy’ when I combine Surrealism with calligraphy.”

Besides drawing on his studies of bronze and oracle bone script dictionaries 15 years ago when he started learning calligraphy and art, Liew also taps into his experiences from his travels; he’s been to Tibet and Europe, both of which have greatly inspired him.

Tibetan masks as well as Chinese opera masks speak to him while the colours of the Fauvist artist Henri Matisse and the buildings designed by the great Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi also inform Liew’s work.

Zen Verse, part I(left) and Zen Verse, part II.“Gaudi added colours to the buildings so that it looked like he had framed the colours inside the buildings. I have tried to do the same thing by framing the colours inside the scripts – which is not that simple to do,” says Liew.
While his recent works feature lots of colour, he also has a black and white series through which he hopes to show the power of the stroke.

“‘Calligraphy’ is a word from ancient Greece and the meaning, according to the Oxford dictionary, is ‘beautiful handwriting’. This means any script that you can write beautifully, so it can be Arabic, Egyptian or Chinese,” explains Liew.

“But no matter whether it’s Tibetan, Egyptian or Chinese, one thing that’s very important in all calligraphy is the power of the stroke, and the energy in it,” he says.
In Emptiness, for instance, the strokes that form what looks like a Buddha head were done very slowly; because of this, Liew feels, anyone looking at the painting would feel calmness and serenity, and then emptiness.

That painting took about 30 minutes to complete. In comparison, Liberation took just 10 seconds. The very fast stroke he used in this imparts noticeable energy in the painting that is enhanced by the splashes of ink.

Liberation was done in one swift stroke, and it was a challenge to control the ink and the stroke in such a way that the ink would last until the stroke was done. While one script is written clockwise, which is the norm with Chinese calligraphy, the other is done counter-clockwise, breaking all tradition.

LiberationSays Liew, “What I am trying to say is, clockwise represents positive vibes while the counter-clockwise represents negative vibes. But to have liberation, we need to maintain both the positive and negative and stabilise both energies.”

Although it looks as if a lot of thought and planning goes into his art, Liew says he doesn’t actually plan that much. He meditates and empties his mind before he begins. Then, when he looks at the paper, he already has an image in mind.

“You use your brush to express yourself so that others can see that image. Sometimes, what you imagine is a bit different from what you paint because that moment (when you thought of the image) is not this moment (when you paint it).”

Breaking the rules in what can be a rather conservative art form was a brave step; fortunately for Liew, he won an award the first time he presented his “surrealigraphy” works on an international platform. This certainly helped in keeping the number of brickbats down. Sudden Enlightenment won him the Seoul Calligraphy Biennale Special Prize Award in 2005. The competition had been open to calligraphy artworks from all over the world.

Liew’s works are gaining increasing prominence in local and international arenas. They have been collected by an impressive range of private individuals – Dr Ikeda Daisaku, poet laureate and recipient of the United Nations Peace Award 1983; Tan Swie Hian, member-correspondent of the Academy of Fine Arts, Institute of France; and Liu Chang Le, CEO of Phoenix TV in Hong Kong – and public and private institutions and companies such as the National Art Gallery, Seoul Calligraphy Biennale, Singapore Nei Xue Tang Museum, Plum Blossoms Gallery in Hong Kong and Soka Gakkai Malaysia.

Liew also worked with Malaysian couturier Carven Ong at the Arts for All Charity Carnival in Kuala Lumpur in 2005, contributing painted-on designs.

As a contributing writer at Asiaweek magazine’s Chinese edition, where he writes about art and culture, Liew is constantly pushing ideas about how art can be created. And with his eye set on ceramic sculptures next, he is determined not to be limited by any tradition, rule or medium.

C.N. Liew’s ‘Surrealigraphy’ exhibition is being held at the Art House Gallery at Wisma Cosway, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur, until April 30. Inquries, call 03-2148 2283.


bola2api said...

20 copies to be distributed to frens n family?

shemeq said...

oh, for his own record. I'd do the same. Ok may be 10 lah.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i have seen CN Liew's work before and i am very interested in his work. I need to contact him My email is lovevut@yahoo.com. otherwise I can contact him if he is to leave me his contact at my email.