In ‘Stilt Houses’, Ipoh-born artist Leon Leong explores the ‘floating world’ of Kampung Baru

KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — In Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1986 novel, An Artist of the Floating Earth, put up-Earth War II Japan is depicted as a interval of significant turmoil, specially the switching values in between more mature and younger generations.

In the miniature painting Floating Planet (2022, gouache on paper) by Malaysian artist Leon Leong, the very same uneasy sense of upheaval is existing.

Villagers are beset by a flood, with the regular kampung house on stilts the only sort of refuge. The fortunate ones are atop the residence, some as much up as the roof itself the relaxation are remaining carrying their worldly belongings as they wade midsection-deep in the murky waters.

Alter is the only frequent, still is not it bizarre how we by no means look geared up for it?

Leong’s Floating Planet is but a single of 7 miniature paintings that sort his new set up titled “Stilt Property No. 1”. (The other six paintings are titled Origin of Place, To Build a Village, Development of Appreciate, Currently being and Turning out to be, Theatre of History and Middle Way.)

'Floating World' (left) and 'Theatre of History' (right), both 2022 and gouache on paper.

‘Floating World’ (left) and ‘Theatre of History’ (ideal), each 2022 and gouache on paper.

The set up alone is a marvel — the framework reminds a person of the skeleton of a kampung home. Appear intently and you’d see its intelligent wood joinery. This, Leong notes, is a refined, architecture-inspired homage to the gotong-royong spirit of the villagers.

This reverent nod to the generosity of kampung everyday living isn’t by coincidence the artist experienced spent the aspect of previous year dwelling in Kampung Baru, originally a Malay enclave in the coronary heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Leong observes how his time as a momentary resident has educated his artwork: “Final December when I begun painting Floating World, about the 1971 devastating flood that impacted Kampung Baru badly, it was also when the December 2021 flood strike us.”

Started in the city centre over a century in the past, Kampung Baru tends to make for a spectacular juxtaposition of the new and the nostalgic. On a person hand, the neighbourhood sits on key genuine estate. Nonetheless it nevertheless feels rustic (even though no 1 would confuse it for rural, supplied the preponderance of skyscrapers all about), with its common stilt properties.

'Origin of Place' (left) and 'To Build a Village' (right), both 2021 and gouache on paper.

‘Origin of Place’ (remaining) and ‘To Develop a Village’ (correct), equally 2021 and gouache on paper.

It is this contrast that caught Leong’s awareness. To him, Kampung Baru was not a frozen photograph but a breathing, living house populated by all method of distinct ordeals. As he places it: “We are usually living in an surroundings, it is the context for who we are.”

Soon after dwelling in Kampung Baru for a pair of months and familiarising himself with the lives and stories of the neighbourhood, Leong is now presenting his impressions as a new set up titled “Stilt Residences — The Floating Entire world of Kampung Baru” at ILHAM Gallery, as component of the ILHAM Art Present 2022 (May perhaps 17 to October 23).

Ipoh-born Leong has experienced a storied vocation spanning literature, graphic layout, interior design and style, schooling and, of class, fantastic art. Past operates incorporate “Cracks in the Wall” (2017-18), inspired by the Razak Mansion the novel Attractive Issues (2006) and “Optimistic Melancholics” (2015), a solo exhibition influenced by a stint in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Stilt Homes — The Floating World of Kampung Baru” sees Leong turning to Indo-Persian miniatures to participate in with a wide range of activities and diverse themes on the similar visual plane.

'Stilt House No. 1', 2022, wood with pigmented varnish and cement stumps.

‘Stilt Residence No. 1’, 2022, wooden with pigmented varnish and cement stumps.

He points out, “I preferred to chronicle the abundant and layered (hello)tales of Kampung Baru, to do that, I turned to the Indo-Persian miniature, a genre that when served as ‘history painting’ in areas of Asia, and a reference to the religio-cultural qualifications of Kampung Baru’s early settlers.

“Miniature portray allows me to collapse time and area, bringing collectively various narratives inside the very same picture airplane to narrate important situations that have formed the enclave, which includes its existing (in individual the mega redevelopment ideas) at this crucial juncture.”

In essence, we as viewers are witnessing the really historical past of Kampung Baru unfolding just before us, from the previous to potentially the not-also-distant long term as land redevelopment encroaches on a room with huge cultural heritage benefit.

Leong favours structured narratives: listed here, as with earlier is effective this sort of as “Cracks in the Wall”, the multitude of lives and distinct geographies in Kampung Baru are depicted as a cycle that will work its way inexorably from the founding of the village down to its eventual destiny.

'Progress of Love' (left) and 'Being and Becoming' (right), both 2021 and gouache on paper.

‘Progress of Love’ (remaining) and ‘Being and Becoming’ (appropriate), each 2021 and gouache on paper.

We adhere to that journey, if only for a time.

One of Leong’s hopes is that these who see “Stilt Houses” will glance a lot more intently, and gradually. He shares, “Several people I talked to have frequented Kampung Baru but past the several streets where the well known eateries are, barely one particular can say he understands the place very well. No one is familiar with Kampung Baru is designed up of 7 distinctive sub-villages.”

(As an aside, Leong has started out an Instagram account identified as

@stilthouses that requires viewers on a gradual journey of exploring and observing Kampung Baru in a new gentle.)

The scale of the installation — dwelling formed composition and little, miniature paintings — without a doubt does compel the viewer to look nearer and, hopefully, further. To interact much more intimately with the difficulty relatively than skim it in a passing method like some tabloid headline. These are actual lives, actual folks, and a cherished, one of a kind way of everyday living.

Detail of the installation.

Element of the set up.

Possibly, then, it is unavoidable that the set up is particular for Leong way too, however he does not go as far as confirming this. (One can only reside in a position for so a lot just before one particular requires component in its rhythms and its fortunes although, no?)

Harking back again to Ishiguro’s novel, An Artist of the Floating Environment, it is putting that the narrator is an ageing painter, who reflects on his lifetime and his functions, and miracles how the earth sees his paintings differently now.

With his own Floating Planet, Leong may well hope for the same, not for himself individually, but for the local community he was blessed to be component of as soon as, if only for a time.

The ILHAM Artwork Present will be held from May well 17 to Oct 23, 2022 at:

ILHAM Gallery, Amounts 3 & 5, Ilham Tower, No. 8, Jalan Binjai, KL

Open up Tue-Sat 11am-7pm Sun 11am-5pm shut Mon and public vacations

For much more info, pay a visit to: show-2022