Artist Cheng Yen Pheng investigates themes of nurture, salvation in latest show

Artist Cheng Yen Pheng investigates themes of nurture, salvation in latest show

In ‘Frugal Living – it’s Mulberry Season’, she looks at the extraordinary orbit of personal experiences which has shaped her life

“This is a landscape of my current life. You will see everyday scenes unfolding – depictions of my house, its surroundings, pets, my daughter Cahaya, the plants I grow and how I’ve reached this juncture. This vein of work is only the first chapter, there is so much more to come.”

~ Cheng Yen Pheng

CHEN Yen Pheng’s ‘Frugal Living – it’s Mulberry Season’ makes for compelling work, done in such living and breathing detail that it is hard not to be drawn into her life. The vivid and sometimes ‘playful’ scenes give viewers an intimate look into the artist’s day-to-day existence, but more so, bring to light her use of varying techniques and flashes of remarkable inventiveness.

‘Land Tortoise in Kampung House’, a mesmeric 20ft x 2 ft work is fashioned out of mulberry pulp, plant-dyed paper, self-made charcoal, cotton thread and ink pen. It is that idyllic existence most of us long for.

The sewn pieces which crawl out of their “frame” yield the sense of an unending pop-up book. It is almost like a fairy tale.


Land Tortoise in Kampung House. – Pic courtesy of Wei-Ling Gallery

Her house is bastioned by a haphazard wooden fence, her menagerie of pets roam freely on the compound, Cheng is seen trimming bamboo trees, mother-daughter sitting in a hammock, the latter standing on a stool and reaching out to a larger-than-life sunflower, thriving plants, and sketches by her daughter makes a delightful appearance in this vast work.

It ends with bursts of “clouds”, a hint perhaps, that life, though filled with uncertainties is meant to be lived to the fullest.

Most of the materials used for ‘Frugal Living – it’s Mulberry Season’ is organic. Her canvas is made out of mulberry trees that she planted across her property in Batu Arang, Selangor.

Through an elaborate process of selecting the right barks, she then extracts pulp and allows it to naturally dry. It is then “cooked” and stretched unto a silk screen-like frame.


Born in 1982 in Penang, Cheng’s works are often based on her own life experiences. – Pic courtesy of Wei-Ling Gallery

The colours she utilises, extracted from Indigo plants, onion peels, turmeric, pandan leaves, mangosteens, balsam and bark from mango trees become pastel hues, which she uses to colour her mulberry paper.

Her second work, an ordination of lighter-than-air coloured pieces of mulberry paper seamed together with coloured thread to form a collage stems from a personal story.

“In a previous work similar to this, I stitched directly on sand paper, and the process physically hurts. The needle cut my fingers. But I felt it was something I had to do in order to come to this point in life.

“The birth of my daughter signified a pivotal turn, and just like sewing mulberry parchments as seen in this work, I realised that life is no longer a journey of heartbreak. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”


Bits and pieces ll. – Pic courtesy of Wei-Ling Gallery


Bits and pieces lll. – Pic courtesy of Wei-Ling Gallery

Born in 1982 in Penang, Cheng’s works are often based on her own life experiences, and as the storyteller, she connects the dots between different events encountered and major life-changing decisions.

Echoing distinct themes ranging from femininity, maternity, motherhood, to her transition from the city to the “kampung” (village) life, her work moves beyond expression, as it also serves as the artist’s realisation of her inner metamorphosis.

Her materials and choice of medium are varied and diverse, and reverberate with the intriguing messages intertwined within.

This deliberate use of different mediums and textures is intrinsic to her work, as they act as metaphors to emphasise her state of mind and feelings that can only be conveyed through these forms.


‘Frugal Living – it’s Mulberry Season’ runs until Friday, November 25. – Pic courtesy of Wei-Ling Gallery

Cheng was the recipient of the 2018 UOB Painting of the Year (Malaysia) competition, and received the 2020 Cendana Visual Arts Inspire Funding Programme, which was chanelled to conduct research on the local arts, crafts, and community in Terengganu, Malaysia.

‘Frugal Living – it’s Mulberry Season’ runs until Friday, November 25.

Wei-Ling Gallery is at 8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For information, call 03-22601106, email [email protected] or go to www.weiling-gallery.com. Admission is free. Operation hours are 10am– 6pm (Tuesday-Friday), 10am–5pm (Saturday). The gallery is closed on Sundays, Mondays and public holidays.

source – The Vibes

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