Valerie Ng: Terra Incognita

June 6, 2014 - June 21, 2014

Maya Gallery is delighted to present a solo exhibition by prize-winning Singapore-based Malaysian artist Valerie Ng. Entitled “Terra Incognita”, Latin for unknown lands, the exhibition opens on 6 June 2014 at Maya Gallery, featuring recent abstract paintings using oil on canvas.

Valerie Ng has always been inspired by nature. Emotion and energy are vital elements in her paintings. She is fascinated by details like the tree bark formations, stone ridges and colours in the sky, and all the smaller markings that combine to create a larger visual. She seeks them out, through her walks and overseas trips, capturing nature’s gifts with her camera and mind’s eye. It is this appreciation for nature that has enabled her to delve deeper into her practice and seek to keep evolving her abstract paintings.

Working mostly with oils, Valerie makes the visual joys of nature tactile in small scratches that weave and shift fluidly on the canvas to resonate harmoniously. It is that innate understanding within her that knows when a painting begins and finishes and in between, how each stroke sits on its own, its relation to other strokes and the secret language to how they all communicate together to form a larger entity or convey an overall emotion.

Terra Incognita traces Valerie’s journeys to new places and exploration in things natural and organic. Most of the works in the exhibition are inspired by experiences from her recent summer painting course at the Ox-Bow School of Art, United States, affiliated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She had come across a book The Field Guide to Getting Lost that used the term Terra Incognita to highlight the process of getting lost as a necessary way of life. Valerie was further intrigued when she came across this thought by Plato, in his Socratic dialogue Meno: “How will you go about finding that thing, the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”

Taking on this question as her personal challenge, Valerie decided to experiment with new methods of creating; from varied styles to forays into composition and employing more vivid hues and high contrast juxtapositions. She shares her experience of travelling as being akin to the adventure of creating something: “Even when you go to a different country and get lost in a city it is unnerving. If you had kept to your safe route, you would not have stumbled upon all these gems tucked away in nondescript alleyways. These discoveries are unplanned but something always interesting comes out of it and it makes your trip worthwhile and memorable. Similarly, when painting, there are moments of frustration, but when you do come across that golden moment, it makes it all worthwhile. I found that when you get lost it doesn’t matter if you find your way or not, it is what you learn along the way, that becomes the important part of life. Sometimes it is good to let go of everything you know, because there is no final result or pre-conceived notion in life or in abstract art. There will be times, when intuitively your body and mind are freed, that is the point to capture on the canvas, that is the moment you try to express.”

Terra Incognita explores the theme of getting lost, where Valerie shares her discoveries with audiences during these journeys, both internal and external, to unknown lands. Each painting is an encounter with nature where you can experience a multitude of possibilities with your imagination as the only horizon. The audience experiences a further development in her abstraction, a sense of something more experimental trying to break free, a perceptible shift from her previous works. 

 (The above is an excerpt from the exhibition catalog by art writer Pamela Ng).