The artist has never intended to paint a foreign city, but a short trip in 2011 to Istanbul changed his mind. He returned there the following year and stayed for six months. Leong likened himself to a blank canvas when he arrived in Istanbul. Enamored by the city, he observed its people, its culture and way of life. He allowed his instincts to drive his observations, moving from an awe of the unfamiliar to studying differences and eventually finding nuances of shared human conditions in the foreign faces.
Leong’s careful selection of freeze framing for each scene transforms the most banal and fleeting moments, the familiar into cryptic scenes. A stillness of time is evident in the pieces; each painting is a pregnant pause of questions and tensions. Other scenes in the main series include a line of people on a moving escalator (Travellers on Escalator, 2015), a dinner scene (Dinner in Sisli, 2014) and an interior with a mother and her daughter (Mother and Teenage Daughter, 2014). Moreover, the exhibition also includes sketches and studies, documenting the artist’s Turkish companions, oil wrestlers and anonymous pedestrians.
This publication is published to accompany a solo exhibition by Leon Leong titled, Optimistic Melancholics at Richard Koh Fine Art, Bangsar Village II, Kuala Lumpur from 1 to 14 July 2015.
Leon Leong – Optimistic Melancholics