Drawing on literature

Drawing on literature
Conceptual artist Heman Chong whose works are on display at the exhibition, Of Indeterminate Time Or Occurrence By Heman Chong.

Conceptual artist Heman Chong, better known for his installation works, is equally at ease with brushes, paints and canvases.

It was a journey that started in 2009, when he embarked on a project, Cover (Versions), for which he painted imagined book covers, mostly of books he had not read but hoped to read.

He has completed 358 paintings, each of which is in a standard 46cm x 61cm format. "I wanted a size that could stand alone as a painting. Not too large, not too small," he says of the pieces which cost $5,000 each.

Sixty-seven of the works are on display in his solo show, Of Indeterminate Time Or Occurrence, a title which he tells Life! questions elements of imagined boundaries in life and art, as well as the boundaries between imagination and reality.

He had "very little anxiety" about not being a formally trained painter. In fact, he says it helped as he did not feel "limited" or "constrained" by any particular style or definition of painting.

Interestingly, he appears in complete control of his palette and plays easily with styles.

Some of the canvases are plain with a dash of colour and lines, while others are playful. Still others are layered with fluid brush strokes.

Gone is his grey phase, which was seen when he turned the third floor of the Hermes boutique in Liat Towers into a dark space in 2008. And during the Singapore Biennale 2008, he presented the cast aluminium installation, One Hundred Years Of Solitude, which only had text spelt out in black on a white background.

Visitors to Chong's new show who had seen those works will in fact be surprised by the splash of colour and his particular fascination with red, which can be seen in many of his recent canvases.

The artist, who is in his late 30s, admits he "likes red a lot".

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