by Karim Raslan
Gan Siong Kiong is a meticulous and thoughtful artist. A graduate of the Malaysian Institute of Art, Gan has supported himself primarily as a production designer - working with some of Malaysia's most interesting and dynamic cultural figures such as Fahmi Reza and Tsai Ming Liang.
As one would expect from such an intense and committed artist, the work itself can be 'read' and appreciated on many levels. At his most straight-forward, Gan is the creator of alluring and visually arresting images - images that that he has rendered with his trademark pain-staking thoroughness.
Gan maintains a wry and satirical tone - teasing out the meanings with a sly sense of humour. Of course, given the sentationalisation of current events, it's perhaps unsurprising that both sex and politics have featured prominently albeit refracted though his characteristically off-beat approach.
However, beneath the glittering surface, there is a wealth of references that reveal the artist's complex and intense exploration of aesthetics as well as the actual process of art-making.
The exquisite and jewel-like portrait of former Premier, Tun Razak stands out in this regard. Densely packed, vivid and detailed, the tiny work is reminiscent of a Renaissance cameo. It also represents a bravura display of the painter's technical virtuosity as he works through one of his key artistic pre-occupations, namely the juxtaposition of colour and form.
The artist's enduring fascination with colour and form also connects him firmly with the abstract tradition. Moreover, Gan, the artist is clearly obsessed by the physical process of painting - the traditions inherent, the conventions, the techniques - stressing in particular the repetitive element, not to mention the constant interplay of shape, colour and form that is ultimately achieved.