Below are my words at the opening of the 'in 停格 motion' exhibition. The characters "停格/ ting ge", refer to "freezing" as I aim to pull focus and capture the essential around me.
This exhibition is very much about the motion in the world, but motion also in a way I use my camera. This exhibition is also about space, both the inner and the outer space. Photography for me is a conversation and a meeting ground for these two places; the inner space and the outer physical world. Having an exhibition is part of that meeting ground.
As a small town person who flourishes in the deepest of countryside, I first found the sheer volume of Kuala Lumpur overwhelming. As soon as I arrived here I started to seek it’s quieter corners; it’s culture and it’s people on a closer level. Aku Cafe & Gallery is one of the first places where I finally found a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It feels therefore only natural that I could taylor my first exhibition here, to this very space. I am grateful for having this opportunity.
Photography is my creative outlet and way to document my inner experience. It is in the inner space that I find the spark for all my creativity. It is a space inside me where silence, solitude and reflection can be found. It is a waiting room to the unknown and a hallway to endless possibilities. For me there are things in this world that cannot be reached without accessing this inner awareness. The photographs here tonight would not have become possible without the access to this inner space, without spending a fair amount of time by myself, away from the minds of others.
The photographs that are taken in nature are exceptional to me. It is because when I go into the nature, I can drop my guard and all becomes effortless. I feel I have been welcomed with open arms. Something bubbles from inside me and I become who I really am. And it is in this moment I have reached that space. I can only agree with the artist Christopher Marley who says that 'without a meaningful interaction with nature, we begin to deteriorate emotionally and spiritually'.
We are all blessed that there are poets in this world. They walk before us, show us the way and find the words to what might otherwise remain only as an intuition or a feeling. Poet Mary Oliver describes the joy of solitude beautifully in these words:
How I go to the Woods
Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend,
for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds,
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying,
as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.
Photographs here tonight are results from this silent observation. Photography pushes me out to the world and into myself. Into these two spaces. It allows me to quietly observe the world around me, sometimes silent and clear, other times blurry, chaotic, noisy and in constant motion. Despite my surroundings I, as a photographer, stay still and focused. My aim is to catch the essential around me, to try and really see, to use my senses. To live the moment. To do this I stay still for long periods of time but let my camera move. My camera is in motion. I follow the light, the movement, the texture around me. Sometimes this motion can be very small and gentle, sometimes large. Sometimes the camera too, stays still. By also leaving the camera open for longer periods of time, adds to me, a sense of truthfulness as I attempt to capture the passing moment.
I bring this same process of photographing into busy city streets and markets too. It is not as instant or easy process compared to being in nature, but I have learned, with discipline and certain practises, to reach this inner silence, this space within, even when the world around me is anything but quiet. The 'people images' here tonight are results of the same, almost stubborn stillness and continuity as I return to same streets and corners again and again. In these photographs, I did that for over two years. Not always photographing, but always returning to the same place. Many times I only observe, without even lifting my camera but when I start photographing it starts to follow the rhythm of the place wherever that may be.
I hope this opens little bit about the deeper meaning of what photography means to me.
The beautiful music tonight has been performed by Sinliong Lai and Keng Choan Ong. Thank you so much. Capturing the mood, we have two young talented photographers here, Alex Yong and Heng Wee Wee, thank you. Thank you for all Aku Cafe & Gallery team. Thank you Leonard and Esther. Thank you Sohphee Ng and Photo Media for offering high quality services and know-how. I was originally trained as an artisan in a very traditional way and though I highly value visual art, I also put a high emphasis on the final physical product; the quality of the craft and the materials. This often cannot be taken for granted. It seems we tend to linger more and more in a cheap, semi-disposable world.
As an artisan I naturally have a deep need to work with my hands. The photographs here are ‘hands on’ products. I do the work on camera as much as possible. I keep a binded book, where the information of each printed image that leaves my hands is recorded longhand. The photographs are printed as pigment ink on high quality Hahnemühle fine art photography paper. Each photograph is signed and numbered at the back and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
We are here to open this exhibition but at the same time, I find this a wonderful opportunity to bring together some wonderful people; friends and art lovers. I don't think we get to do that enough in life. I am really grateful that you are all here.