The River, 2022, Oil, sand and paper on canvas, 180 x 230cm
Art SG (2023), FOST Gallery, Singapore
This painting depicts a river in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Seen from a bridge over the river, the scene seems magnificent at the onset, with the lush greens, azure blue skies and energetic waters of the river taking center stage, suggestive of a classic subject matter in “landscape painting”. However, upon closer look, this natural beauty is jammed beside the "not-so-inspiring" sights of rubbish in the river, a building under-construction, flyovers, a fast-food advertisement and electrical wires. This is a landscape that holds the stories of contradictions; nature and man-made structures coexisting, beautiful and ugly, hopeful and anxious all at once. Humankind continues busying ourselves with new developments and deadlines, while rivers have flowed and will continue to flow till time immemorial.
When I started work on this painting, I had just returned from a short holiday in Australia. While I was there, I had paid a substantial fee to see some popular and Instagrammable natural sights out in the countryside. It made me wonder if one would pay the same amount to look at this nondescript river I had painted, as beautiful as I find it, and I kept thinking about how and why we ascribe different aesthetic value to different places and landscapes, across different countries.