Award-winning Asian artist Chng Huck Theng was selected to participate in the prestigious London Art Biennale 2021 – after his bronze sculpture titled ‘Embracing Oneself Again’ made it through the final selection.
Described as ‘The Capital for Contemporary Art’, the London Art Biennale was curated by the Gagliardi Gallery in conjunction with the International Confederation of Art Critics and the Chianciano Art Museum. The selection process is stringent, and only the finest artworks make the final show. Thousands of diverse and impressive applications were received from artists worldwide for this 5th edition. A total of 454 artworks were selected for the exhibition, which was held at the Chelsea Old Town Hall on King’s Road in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in Inner London.
Chng, having previously represented Malaysia in the Venice Art Biennale and World Expo, was delighted to add another highlight to his long list of accomplishments in an art career that has spanned nearly three decades. The 49-year old shared – “It is a great feeling. To be recognised by such a prestigious art event, held in one of the world’s most art-inclined cities, is truly an honour. It definitely motivates me to continue my art journey.”
“But more importantly, this is also affirmation that Malaysian artists have the talent to shine on the world stage. Living in a culturally diverse society with rich heritage and history opens our minds to many different things, which add value, meaning and quality to the works we produce.”
Chng’s ‘Embracing Oneself Again’ sculpture comes from his ‘The Mask – Second Chance’ series of works. The work was inspired by a dried and burnt piece of wood he saw while exploring a local forest some time ago. He salvaged a few pieces, and recasted this particular stump in bronze. To add layer and nuance, he also added a mask and feet casted from an actual chicken foot.
“It’s hardly possible to give life a second chance simply because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Just like any living being, plants and trees also have many chapters of existence before they die either naturally or suddenly. We may not know what happened, but we can always try to use our imagination and creativity to give it new life.”
“So while we cannot bring something back as it was, we can instead bring it back as something else. They need not be gone forever and can have a second chance if we’re creative enough. That is my way of trying to inspire the living to find purpose in their lives and strive for even greater heights. As an artist, it’s what I find both challenging and fulfilling,” Chng shared.
And this is what allows his works to stand out. To date, Chng’s artworks have gone into public and private collections in countries such as China, Australia, the UK, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Belgium, the UAE and the USA, besides his native Malaysia.
Fan Di’an, President of China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, once said – “Through Chng’s sculptures, we can not only see his passion, but also an emotional daily record of his life experiences. Young and talented, the artist manages to bring out the exuberance, energy and vitality of life in his works. His creations have a unique character and style, and if he stays true to this uniqueness, then I’m sure he will go far.”
Rupert Myer, the chairperson of the Australian Council for The Arts, also compared Chng to Down Under greats like Albert Tucker whose works touched on socialism and politics. He saw parallels in Chng’s quest to have viewers reflect on layers of meaning – be it through telling and reminding, passing on memories, or seeing something through observing something else. “These are works of art that carry a common language, speak without barriers and go beyond boundaries,” Myer added.
The artist’s art journey began in the early 1990s when he was doing his Bachelor and Masters in Commerce at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. Whilst buried in books on weekdays, he would spend his free time on weekends doing pottery and painting. And he never looked back. To date, Chng has participated in almost 70 group or solo shows in Malaysia and internationally.
Besides his masterpieces, Chng also holds numerous prominent positions in arts and culture-related bodies including President of the Penang Art Society, President of the Penang Antique Collectors Association, and was a board member of both the National Art Gallery of Malaysia and Penang State Art Gallery. He also founded ArtGrup Penang and One East Museum.