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Adding colour to the mundane

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Ong Cai Bin’s art is focused on highlighting the beauty of objects that we might otherwise find common

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INSIGNIFICANT things are significant for artist Ong Cai Bin, who believes drawing is a method of expressing herself. Art helps her to channel her thoughts, from words into a sort of visual diary, while drawing liberates her mind.

Ong’s artwork is simple, and yet powerful. Her artwork showcases her unique point of view. It highlights the mundane and insignificant, and turns ordinary things into extraordinary art, with just a few strokes of her pen or brush.

“My work comes from my life experience, watching, listening, and feeling. I believe when you experience something, one can interpret the feeling. Inspiration for my creations comes, mostly, from small things or people who seem insignificant,” said the 31-year-old artist-cum-graphic designer.

Art is the canvas to express life. Through art, Ong, who has won many accolades including the gold award in the United Overseas Bank (UOB)’s Painting of The Year (Emerging Artist Category) in 2017, wants to convey a message about the value of experiences in life.

“Life is all about experiences. Each person needs to gain experience in a variety of things, good or bad and perhaps, both. Every experience has its value. I hope to convey some small things that may seem unimportant at first but are an important part of our life,” said Ong.

According to her, some experiences in life may not seem unimportant at first. However, we will soon realise that the particular experience has served or helped us, in the later stage of our life.

An artist has no boundaries, and Ong is no exception. She doesn’t restrict herself by working on a single medium.

“I have tried drawing, sculpture, lightbox, mixed media, and others. I will choose a particular medium or material if there is a relation or meaningful link to the title or subject that I am working on in that particular artwork,” she said.

Her masterpieces comprise of various mediums including pencils on paper, oil on canvas, watercolour paintings in a single colour or using different tones, and even doodles and illustrations.

Ong, whose artworks can be found on Instagram (@caibin_art) had her first solo exhibition at Suma Orientalis Gallery, Petaling Jaya last year.

Among her artworks on display, one titled Hello, Strangers was particularly challenging for her.

“It was a lightbox with printed photographs of art pieces, the very first work where I explored in 3D, using a lightbox with paper-folding art,” she said.

Due to budget constraints, Ong had to figure out the structure of the box, set up the wire and connect the wire to the bulb by herself.

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She had to learn to handle complex wires and electronics with care to prevent any untoward incidents while creating the artwork.

Ong’s favourite artists are Giorgio Morandi, Edward Hopper and Richard Serra.

“I am inspired by the way Morandi and Hopper incorporated their thoughts into their works, and how Serra plays with materials to create space and atmosphere,” said Ong.

In particular, Morandi’s Still Life series had a big impact on her. “I never thought that a simple still life would catch my eye and mind from the first time I saw the work. It looks so ordinary, yet the ‘soul’ lives,” she said.

“The year 2020 has not been a favourable year for all of us. We have been through a hard time together. At the same time, I had so much time for myself like never before, because of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

“In my next project, I am planning to work on something related to my reflections on this experience,” said Ong.

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