Home / Entertainment / Malaysian artist’s new woodcuts reflect calm found in a jungle garden

Emerging artist and printmaker Ong Hieng Fuong’s latest artwork series, produced during his residency at private arts space Rimbun Dahan in Selangor, mirrors the world around him.

It is quite literal: for this new body of work, he swaps his usual “kampung figures” for intricate jungle garden scenes.

Comprising nine woodcut prints and six watercolour and poster colour works, this series is no doubt inspired by Rimbun Dahan’s lush grounds where the artist has spent the last six months.

Known as Hieng, the well-spoken artist who hails from the small fishing town of Tanjung Sepat in Selangor, describes this residency as a whole new experience, one that opened his eyes to a different environment and spurred him to deve

Malaysian artist’s new woodcuts reflect calm found in a jungle garden

Emerging artist and printmaker Ong Hieng Fuong’s latest artwork series, produced during his residency at private arts space Rimbun Dahan in Selangor, mirrors the world around him.

It is quite literal: for this new body of work, he swaps his usual “kampung figures” for intricate jungle garden scenes.

Comprising nine woodcut prints and six watercolour and poster colour works, this series is no doubt inspired by Rimbun Dahan’s lush grounds where the artist has spent the last six months.

Known as Hieng, the well-spoken artist who hails from the small fishing town of Tanjung Sepat in Selangor, describes this residency as a whole new experience, one that opened his eyes to a different environment and spurred him to develop a new artistic style.

“Living at Rimbun Dahan from May until October not only gave me ideas to create something different from my past works but it challenged me to find a new way to apply the woodcut technique I learned in China. I have to say that the result is amazing as this particular technique really brought out the feeling of a dense tropical rainforest, full of leaves, branches and trees,” says Hieng, 26.

On Rimbun Dahan Open Day tomorrow (Oct 17), Hieng will display and discuss the works made during his residency at Rimbun Dahan. Visitor slots are fully booked.

Hieng's 'The Night' (woodcut print on Fabriano Rosapina rag paper, 2021). Photo: Ong Hieng FuongHieng’s ‘The Night’ (woodcut print on Fabriano Rosapina rag paper, 2021). Photo: Ong Hieng Fuong

“I use the very old and traditional woodcut technique by 15th century German artist Albrecht Durer, which I learned from my lecturer in China. I am still studying Durer’s woodcut print line drawing technique.

“According to old tradition, pearwood is the best choice for woodcut as it is fine-grained and soft, making it suitable for carving tiny details. This is different from most contemporary woodcut prints, as they are often plywood or MDF board (medium density fibreboard),” he elaborates.

Getting back to Beijing

Hieng is currently majoring in printmaking at China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he is exploring a variety of techniques like copperplate etching, drypoint, lithography, screen printing and woodcut print.

While woodcut print is not a main focus of his studies, Hieng professes a love for its printing effect.

“I find that woodcut prints have a unique glamour. If you draw something on a piece of paper, people might not consider it anything special. But if you turn this drawing into a woodcut, you have to carve every single line and stroke on the woodblock very seriously and with great care.

In his new series of woodcut prints and watercolour works, Hieng captures the rainforest environment during his residency at Rimbun Dahan in Selangor. Photo: Ong Hieng Fuong In his new series of woodcut prints and watercolour works, Hieng captures the rainforest environment during his residency at Rimbun Dahan in Selangor. Photo: Ong Hieng Fuong

“The feel of the drawing will definitely change. It will have the ‘craftsmanship spirit’, so to speak. Making woodcut prints has enabled me to dive deeply into my chosen theme, and it has pushed me to a higher level of art,” he explains.

Last year, the printmaking department of China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts officially collected Hieng’s sketch works produced during his studies.

Hieng’s works have also been noticed in art competition circles. In 2019, he received UOB’s Gold Prize for the established artist category. His mixed media on paper work titled Town, No. 578 recalled his early memories growing up in a traditional Chinese community. He poignantly painted the memory of a Teochew opera held in his hometown to celebrate Chinese deities and the bustling community life that was typical of small towns and villages.

He also received Nando’s Art Initiative Grand Prize and UOB’s Painting of the Year award (under the emerging artist category) in 2017. He was also named most promising artist of the year by UOB in the same year.

In February this year, Hieng showed a selection of his woodcut prints in two online group exhibitions at KL City Art Gallery, Talk To Me and In This Moment.

Hieng's 'The Garden' (woodcut print on Fabriano Rosapina rag paper, 2020). Photo: Ong Hieng FuongHieng’s ‘The Garden’ (woodcut print on Fabriano Rosapina rag paper, 2020). Photo: Ong Hieng Fuong

He is currently preparing for his first solo show which will be held in Kuala Lumpur next year.

“The artworks in the solo show will be about my life in Malaysia, the people and things that happen around me,” he says.

Hieng has been in Malaysia throughout the pandemic. He recalls how he first got news about the Covid-19 situation in Beijing from his lecturer, almost two years ago.

“My lecturer in China told me how dire the situation there was, how the virus spread rapidly through the country. And soon after that update, the whole world was affected, including Malaysia.

“But now in China, they can walk around without masks.Schools are running as normal, as they were before the pandemic. Currently, China has opened its borders to only a few countries but Malaysia is not on the list. If everything goes well, I expect to return to Beijing next year,” he concludes.

Hieng’s 'Under The Banana Tree' (woodcut print on Fabriano Rosapina rag paper, 2021). Photo: Ong Hieng FuongHieng’s ‘Under The Banana Tree’ (woodcut print on Fabriano Rosapina rag paper, 2021). Photo: Ong Hieng Fuong



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