Dunia Series: Turning

Chuah Shu Ruei
Dunia Series: Turning
Mixed Media
56cm x 56cm x 43cm (h)

Written by Chuah Shu Ruei

Dunia can be translated from Malay as “world”, and in the Dunia series, the artist explores how our personal perceptions form our individual realities, whereby each personal reality is limited by the scope of the individual’s ability to perceive. Likewise, changing conditions can also alter how we understand the world around us.

This table sculpture, Turning, part of the Dunia series, is a visual allegory of a mental landscape and its relationship with its physical external environment. It consists of a collaged canvas cone, which floats, lit from below, on water in a bowl. The lighting within the sculpture alternatively dims on and off, thereby revealing and concealing hidden layers of the canvas cone. The sculpture is kinetic, where the cone serenely revolves or bobs, moved by air currents.

While the sculpture is always changing in terms of tone, visible shapes and composition, it is not the artwork that changes in itself, but rather that the artwork changes within the visual perception or cognitive reading of the viewer. This sculptural arrangement expresses the artist’s understanding of the unstable fragility of the human mind that in turn creates fickle human ideas of the world around us.

The precarious balancing of the canvas collage upon the potentially destructive water communicates the delicacy of our cognitive process in how we create a sense of the world around us, based on whatever notions of reality we establish to ourselves.

The visual interaction between the shapes on the cone over time represent ideas of how different aspects of the same object may become apparent at different times, whether they are internally hidden layers, which we might glimpse occasionally from the outside.

Curl-shaped holes cut out of the canvas cone also allow the light to shine out through them. The abstract handcut collaged shapes in Turning are derived stylistically from Malay and Chinese traditional motifs, due to the artist’s cultural and educational background.

Traditional motifs were sometimes a means of visually depicting one’s interpretation of his or her environment and understanding of the world. However, in Turning, these shapes have been distorted from actual traditional motifs by time, the artist’s perception, flaw of memory and creative interpretation of the idea of “traditional motifs”.

Similar distortions and projections are also commonly exercised by everyone everyday, and this is echoed in the artwork by the way the distorted patterns of light and shadows from the cone are projected and imposed onto the viewers when they draw closer, as revealed by the mirrors in the installation, reflecting our limited perceiving and imperfect formulated beliefs.

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