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Leon Leong – Optimistic Melancholics – Richard Koh Fine Art

Richard Koh Fine Art (RKFA) is pleased to present Optimistic Melancholics, Leon Leong’s first solo exhibition at 2F-3, Level 2, Bangsar Village II, Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 1 to 14 July, 2015. The opening reception will be held on the 1st of July (Wed) 2015 from 6 -9 pm.

Optimistic Melancholics is an ordered set of 7 paintings painted in oil on linen that serves as the core works for Leon Leong’s exhibition. It begins with The Family (2015) and closes with The Cemetery (2013), reflecting our human journey in the cycle of life and depicts scenes from the everyday, observed in Istanbul, Turkey in which the artist has spent a significant amount of time. Each individual painting expresses its very own narrative but as cluster, they relate to one another, narrating a bigger story of optimism and melancholy.

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.

Other than painting, the artist has written a widely praised novel and an award-winning collection of short stories.

Leon Leong (b. 1971, Malaysia) graduated in Advertising in 1992 from The University of Texas at Austin, USA. He worked as an art director for 6 years before making his way back to his true loves, art and literature. In 2000, he completed a collection of short stories that went on to win several international awards. His first novel ‘Beautiful Things” was a top 5 finalist in the Crown Publishing Fiction Competition and was published by Crown Publishing Taiwan and was serialized in Sin Chew Daily, Malaysia. Leon started painting in 2008. He lives and works between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Istanbul, Turkey.