Searching-Facing to the New Age

Written by : Zena Khan

Searching- Facing to the New Age is a 2012 acrylic on canvas painting by Eng Hwee Chu. An extremely detailed piece that narrates Hwee Chu’s continued search for her true self, her delight at her current personal life and her curiosity to the reaction of society at large towards her.

Hwee Chu’s use of her well known icons- the black shadow and red figure- are the viewer’s first clue that she has once again created an autobiographical work. However, unlike her previous paintings where the black shadow, which represents Eng’s inner self, is a dark looming figure in a frightened or heavy stance, here Hwee Chu has chosen to represent her inner self in an energetic position, flying freely across the top of the canvas, reflecting the confidence she feels at this stage of her life.

Representing Hwee Chu’s true self is the red figure that is central to the painting. Over the years, the artist has worked in self-portraits in the guise of this red figure to portray her own perception of herself, but we again are able to note the shift in her life through the shift in the usage of her famous icon. Standing straight in a completely different pose from ever before, the red figure peeps at the viewer from behind her hand. A sense of curiosity radiates from her new red figure; she seems to be appreciating the difference in the value of her new life.

Hwee Chu’s identity strongly encompasses her cultural identity as a Chinese Malaysian woman, and as in previous work we see the weight she gives in this while searching for her personal identity through the inclusions of the Chinese figures on the left of the canvas who seem to be watching as Hwee Chu navigates her journey. The bright red and rich gold palette adds to the overall impression of a strong Chinese inspiration behind Searching.

Searching has parallels with Hwee Chu’s previous work Lost in Mind in the use of the red figure, strong Chinese cultural icons and watchful faces of society framing the central characters thus the audience is reminded of the autobiographical narrative Hwee Chu weaves. It is wonderful to see how through subtle changes in stance and expression, Hwee Chu is able to not only communicate her inner vision of self and society, but also submit her journey and growth as an artist and an individual to her audience in a solely visual form, a true testament to her skills as a painter.

Artwork Caption :

Artist : Eng Hwee Chu

Title : Searching-Facing to the New Age

Size : 189 cm X 132 cm

Medium : Acrylic on Canvas

Year : 2010

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