MEAA WINNERS SOLO 2016, LINGER: A SOLO EXHIBITION BY CHEONG TUCK WAI: Artworks


‘The Smell of Cooking - Drift’
Image transfer, burnt effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
130 x 170 cm    2015   RM12,500.00

"The apartment blocks where I stay was built about 20 years ago. It has no lifts and my unit is on the fourth floor which is at the top. My landlord is a Malay gentleman who is friendly, easy going and does not charge me a high monthly rental. Most residents here are home owners. The two apartments opposite of mine are rented by some Malay girls who are students and some foreign workers who works at a supermarket as security guards. They however, must register at the guardhouse when entering and leaving the compound of our apartment block. 

I would smell delicious foods during dinner time and can especially recognise Chinese cooking from others from the way my mother used to make them. I would often wonder if that was coming from Malay cooking whenever I smell curry chicken. 

I usually order takeaways whenever I do not feel like cooking and on my way back to my apartment, I normally see the Indian families on the second and third floors preparing chapati served with fresh milk delivered by an Indian boy on a motorcycle who comes by a few times every week. I bought fresh dairy from the boy before but stopped when I noticed the milk was diluted with water.

At the opposite of my kitchen window is the apartment rented by the foreign workers. I can hear the sound of them preparing food whenever they return from work but I am unable to recognise the smell of what they are cooking. Presumably, they must be preparing dishes from their country, the taste of home that they missed most.”

‘Dining Table- Swink’
Image transfer, burnt effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
155 x 180 cm    2015   RM15,000.00

“Back home, food is usually prepared and left on the dining table every morning. The bread and newspaper are for my father. Normally he would make a cup of Milo to go with the bread and cream crackers. My younger brother and I would normally have a bowl of curry noodles. 

Mum and dad would leave for the market around 6.30 am to buy food and breakfast for us. There would be chee cheong fun, stir dry noodles, pan mee or nasi lemak, but they would usually go for the curry noodles. Mum said that the curry from that particular stall is very tasty but it was just average to me.

Mum used to leave home around 7.30 am to work as a cook at a hawker stall in a food court called 66 located at Kuantan Old Street. She would return home feeling tired, but she told me she was pleased that customers praised her culinary skills. She worked a five hour shift and comes home to sleep for three hours before waking up at 4pm to prepare dinner for us. She makes about three to four dishes for us before leaving for work as a second chef at a restaurant. She starts work at about 5pm and reaches home at about 1am the next day.

Mum eventually left that evening job two years ago to set up her own stall selling prawn noodles. The business hours are between 1 pm and 5pm. Mum told me that business is not bad and she is well known for her food. Her prawn noodles is very popular because she cooks with good ingredients.

My father was a construction builder who used to help out at a store after work. The store closed down after a year due to lack of manpower.”

‘White Bed Sheet- Warmth’
Image transfer, burn effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
155 x 236 cm   2015   RM19,000.00

“Mum normally prepares the room with new bed sheets for me whenever I return to Kuantan. Recently she bought a fabric with images of TarePanda printed on a light blue background for the bed sheet and does the sewing as well. While the quilt is a bluish, red and green background that comes with Doraemon images. The textile is a bit rough though. The two pillows are in yellowish beige pillow cases with printed flowers.

When I sleep on it, I missed my bed in Kuala Lumpur that is made from coconut fibres and covered with white sheet. I’m so used to harder mattresses due to my backache. The bed back home is not really that good. There is already a sinking pocket in the mattress near my waist area, therefore I have to lean to one side when I sleep. Worst of all there are also many mosquitoes around which makes it even harder to fall asleep. I turn the fan above the headboard area to full power even though it is usually quite cold at night just to get rid of the mosquitoes.

However, I do not feel like leaving every time I return to my hometown.”

‘Books - Longing’
Image transfer, burn effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
114 x 130 cm   2016   RM9,000.00

‘Books’

“I haven’t purchased new books for a long time. Previously, I bought a book about a Korean artist by the name of Do Ho Suh, titled “Drawing”. He had traced his old apartment, including the entrance, staircase, windows and the facilities in his bathroom,toilet and kitchen so on with parchment and colour pencils to capture memories. I bought the book because I was fascinated by the idea of that series of works he produced. The choice of books that I read changes as I grow older. My reading materials are a mixed bag of comics, fantasy, martial arts, literature, history, theory, art and poetry. Some of the books are still sitting on the shelf, some are packed in boxes while others have been sent for recycling.”
Clothes - Longing
Image transfer, burn effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
114 x 130 cm   2016   RM9,000.00

‘Clothes’

“I have not bought any new clothes for Chinese New Year celebrations in the past three years. The elders tend to say that Chinese New Year is a time of renewal and fresh endeavours.The house must be spring cleaned and clothing must be new for auspicious reasons. What about old clothes? Should it be discarded or donated? I consider that asteful. Some clothing items have only been worn once or twice, and are still in very good condition, why throw them away? The old ones can be worn as pyjamas or recycled as cleaning cloths. Although I have not bought any new clothes for some time, my wardrobe accumulates over the years. It is so full of clothes that I don’t even bother to arrange them tidily. I only choose to wear my favourite pieces anyway. It is either dark grey or white and these are hung at my convenience. I would go for greys or whites. No patterns, simple and clean.”
‘Ocean Waves- Longing’
Image transfer, burn effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
114 x 130 cm (triptych)   2016   RM9,000.00

'Waves’

“My ideal house is a structure made from glass floating on the ocean with one half submerged and the other above. And each side of that glass house will have an opening specifically facing the hills, the open sky and the sea. At night, before I sleep, I can hear the sound of ocean waves and insects.

“Why the hills, sky and the sea?” You may ask. Well, I’d be happiest even if I only get one from out of the three.”
‘Granny Resting- Trance’
Image transfer, burnt effect, acrylic and oil on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing   140.5 x 239.5 cm   2015   RM18,000.00

“What’s in the mind of an elderly person?”

I have never asked her before but I am curious though. The hearing and oral health of the elderly normally declines as they aged. Even their memory is affected. There was a short period of time where Granny kept calling me by another person’s name after recovering from an illness.

“Why does the elderly always say the same things repeatedly?”

I did not ask her but I do wonder. She was not only repeating what she had said but was also murmuring. Why murmur? Maybe we were impatient to engage her in conversations. She would stare at someone silently sometimes and then go to sleep after a while without saying a single word.

“Granny, what’s on your mind?”

‘Granny’s Rattan Sofa- Awaiting’
Image transfer, burnt effect, acrylic & oil on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing   150 x 200 cm   2015   RM16,000.00

“That rattan sofa in my granny’s house has been there for ages. The rattan knots have gradually come undone. I visit my granny and uncle whenever I return and we would chat about life in general. They were keen to know about my life in Kuala Lumpur and I would tell them something of interest just to entertain them. My granny usually have elderly visitors from the neighbourhood. Many of the younger generation in the family, like myself, have left to look for better prospects elsewhere. They would return to their home towns once or twice every year just for a short stay. When they returned, they would visit granny briefly and rush to meet their friends here to catch up on each other’s lives.

To prevent cats from sitting, sleeping or soiling the cushion seats on that rattan sofa, Granny kept it lifted all the time and would only set it back in position when there are more guests or visitors, especially with the grand children present.

The place where she lived will be demolish and turn into a modern residential area soon. Some of her belongings were discarded when she moved to the new place but the fate of that rattan sofa is unknown.”
‘Old TV set - Reunion’
Image transfer, burnt effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing  
158 x 218.5 cm   2015   RM18,000.00

“I rarely go back to my father’s old house after growing up unless for good reasons. That place is called Batu Arang and was one of the most important towns in Malaysia famed for coal production in the early 20th century. It once earned the title “Little Gold Mountain”. When I was a little boy, mum and dad would take us back there by coach. It was a six-hour ride with mum and I throwing up during such journeys. My brother and I would normally cry on the return trips. However, for me, it was not due to car sickness.

It did not cast much impression but I do remember the happy moments when the whole family was together there. I remember the smiles of my elder brother and sister and even the salty tears when we left. I did not realise that tears could taste sweet, sour, bitter or even spicy!

‘Empty Frames- Wandering Memories’ (Set of 6)
Mini sport BT sound box, recording of musical instrument, image transfer, burnt
effect, acrylic on non-woven fabric, latex & rabbit glue, gloss gel finishing
34.5 x 28 cm (each)   2016  RM7,000.00

She: Really?
Not willing to leave?
Me: Yes.
Particularly when dad and mum are waving goodbye.
As I’m driving away, I noticed their grey hair in the rear
view mirror.