Why does the number seven have such a psychological and visceral appeal? Historically, the number seven has played a significant role in society, culture, religion and even in psychology. Today, we often see its appearance in popular culture, marketing gimmicks and catchphrases. Consider these – the seven wonders of the world, the seven deadly sins, the seven days of creation, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, triple sevens on slot machines, Seven Ways to Change the World, Ronaldo7, and more.
As a fun exploration of this simple yet intriguing number, “TU7OH” brings together seven Penang artists of different backgrounds, skills and influences; to each present a series of seven artworks. The exhibition aims to showcase a range of approaches – from the traditional to the unconventional, to the postmodern and contemporary; and in the process witness the connection and interaction between the artworks by seven artists whose neither works nor artistic practices overlap.
Featuring Aboud Fares, bibichun, ERYN, Esther Geh, Mandy Maung, Maizul Affendy and White Bones; the artists are akin to individual puzzle pieces brought together for this exhibition to tell a story of our past, present and perhaps future. The exhibition also serves as a celebration of mediums where skilled artists push their chosen mediums as they explore the seven basic building blocks of art – line, colour, value, shape, form, space and texture, in their respective works.
The exhibition compels us to tune up our senses, not only to the numerical sequences and patterns around us, but also to the various elements which we have taken for granted, and to question their significance in our world or perhaps even to discover that they are just one big coincidence, after all.
Aboud Fares is a sculptor with a B.A. in Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University, obtained in 2010. He is currently a full-time sculptor based in Penang since 2015, working in his private workshop, using mostly iron and steel to create abstract forms.
With an urge to connect more viewers with the transformational nature of his abstract art, Aboud’s repertoire includes functional sculptures where he reconstructs highly crafted imaginative creations into utilitarian objects. He also recently ventured into augmented reality, driven by experimental processes that challenge his practice, creating sculptures in the virtual environment and opening doors for fine art in the metaverse.
Aboud is constantly in search of the next challenge, pushing the boundaries of his sculpting practice in innovative ways to capture the audience. To date, he has had four solo exhibitions, including the most recent “NOW”AR Exhibition at Hin Bus Depot Art Gallery (2022); and several group exhibitions across the country such as The 8” x 6” Project (2019) and BELANG at the Penang State Art Gallery (2020).
Since emerging into the Malaysian art scene in the late 2000s, self-taught artist bibichun, who majored in graphic design at Tunku Abdul Rahman College, has exhibited extensively both domestically and abroad in contemporary galleries and beyond white cubes. Any resident or visitor in George Town would have seen his visual commentaries on the street, capturing poignant moments in time with thought provoking humour.
Armed with wit and grit, bibichun constantly pushes against the grain in defiance of being compartmentalised as a fine artist or a street artist by mastering various skills in his multifaceted art practice. His works intellectually debate issues such as authorship, identity and what construes as a “public site” in the context of George Town. He then studies the reactions and responses from the public, hoping to help him and the audience better understand these issues.
bibichun has participated in group shows and festivals around the world including, Urban Folklore (Kunstraum, Innsburk), Weapon of Mass Change, G40 (Art Whino, Maryland) and Beyond Pressure Contemporary Art Festival (Yangon).
Winnie Cheng aka ERYN is a Penang-based artist who creates surreal compositions using drawing, painting, cutouts and collage. She completed her Master in Art by Research from the University of Brunei Darussalam in 2013 and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in 2006. Her interest in storytelling is apparent in most of her works which are driven by narratives revolving around human psychology, self-identity and gender issues in Southeast Asia.
Using a small scalpel, ERYN creates layers of meticulously cut paper dioramas of strange characters in otherworldly settings inspired by the lush tropical biodiversity of her home. She draws upon personal observation to craft human-animal and human-plant hybrids, turning the familiar into a distorted mirror of reality to try to see beyond the everyday into the hidden depths of our psyche.
ERYN has participated in local and regional art exhibitions including Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Brunei and was the recipient of the Gold Award in the Emerging Artist category of the UOB Painting of the Year (Malaysia) Competition in 2015. In 2018, she was selected as one of the artists in Khazanah Nasional Associate Artist Residency Programme in London.
Esther Geh is a Penang born artist with a passion for botanical subjects, painting in watercolour and occasionally in acrylic. She lived a large part of her life as a medical professional in Singapore and the UK prior to returning to Penang in 2007. The attention to detail required in her previous career as an anesthetist, coupled with her love for nature, has been instrumental in the development of her personal style of botanical painting.
Whilst researching subjects for various commissions, Esther became fascinated with plants commonly cultivated in Penang and other parts of Malaysia for food as well as for commerce. Whilst not all are endemic to this part of the world, these plants play a significant role in our society and are brought to the stage by Esther’s botanical artworks with the intention to cultivate awareness of our local flora and shed light on the inadvertent changes brought upon by westernisation and urbanisation.
Esther has exhibited nationally and internationally, including with The Society of Botanical Artists’ annual exhibition in 2016, Georgetown Festival 2017 and 2018, and Open Studios Penang 2019. She participated in Belang in 2020, and her piece is now part of the Penang State Art Gallery’s permanent collection.
Maizul Affendy identifies as a multi-tasking visual artist with a background in graphic design, fine arts, theatre, and performance Art. He holds a Degree in Graphic Communications (2005) and a Master of Art in Visual Arts and Design (2011) from the University of Science Malaysia. He has been actively involved in art and design since 1997 and had his kickstart in the theatre arena in 1999 with the Angkasaran theatre group in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
Maizul’s visual artworks are an extension of his stage experience in producing and directing experimental video works. The narrative in his artworks plays out like a storyboard that depicts events in a sequence, supplemented by scattered text giving clues to his social commentary about the subject matter. Maizul blends formats and tools of comics and graphic novels in his practice with a tinge of satire – a subtle ode to his theatrical days.
With 25 years in various major forms of the arts, Maizul has bagged multiple awards in theater and visual arts. He has three solo art exhibitions under his belt and has participated in various local and international art exhibitions and competitions such as the Young Contemporaries Competition by the National Art Gallery (2006), Master Art Show ‘Silent Dialogue’ at USM (2010), the 6th International Art Festival in Jogjakarta (2016) and George Town Festival 2017.
Mandy Maung aka MAMA is a self-taught oil painter and illustrator born in Penang with a major in Graphics and Multimedia Design from the Equator Academy of Art (2007). Throughout her life, Maung has always taken an interest in the human form and unique characteristics in faces of people she encountered.
During a summer course in 2015 at Lorenzo de’ Medici in Italy, Mandy’s artistic direction progressed further as she dove deeper into local subcultures, personal narratives and contemporary issues. Her paintings vary in influences from classical art to the contemporary movement of pop art, bridging the two mediums with a modern spin on the deeply traditional genre of fine art. Mandy’s style is nuanced by a personal edge that alters and enhances recognizable subject matters, cultivating an imaginative visual experience.
Apart from studio life, Mandy enjoys taking her creativity outdoors, painting murals for commercial and private establishments as a way to break the monotony of her home studio practice. Her third and most recent solo “Orikata Tales” is a culmination of a two-year journey devoted to rediscovering new possibilities of the timeless omnipresent Batik, which she holds close to her heart. She is currently embarking on a new chapter in the Book of Life and her art journey in the beautiful and scenic Croatia.
White Bones is a husband and wife creative duo based in Penang. The collective was established in 2016, roughly a year after they met whilst working in a local arts and design institute. Hailing from distinct backgrounds, Cindy Leow is a self-taught artist working in digital marketing with a specialisation in Search Engine Optimisation while Benjamin Lam has a Master’s degree in art, majoring in illustration and visual communication and currently works as a lecturer in Multimedia.
Over the years, Cindy and Benjamin found an ease working together as they share a similar sense of aesthetic. Playing to each other’s strengths, the couple have struck up a complementary working relationship – illustrations are Benjamin’s forte, while patterns layout and abstract work fall under Cindy’s stronghold. The duo strives to utilise individual strengths to compliment each other and create a sense of contrast and duality in their artworks. Their style traverses digital art with traditional fine art, often creating an alternate reality that blurs the lines between the two genres.
Together, Cindy and Benjamine have exhibited in various group shows and festivals such as George Town Festival 2018 Project Mapping Finale; NUMEDIUM Projection Mapping in Bandung, Indonesia; World Roulette Exhibition Minneapolis, USA; and UNITY Projection Mapping at KongsiKL in Kuala Lumpur.