Artistic intelligence

IN a culture where academia takes precedence and most parents want their children to be corporate professionals, it's nice to know that some families let their children take the path less travelled. One of the latter is artist Yeoh Choo Kuan, who recently got into Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia list under The Arts category.

"My father likes art, but he needed to focus on the business to raise our family. So he feels like I'm realising his dream," Yeoh theorised.

The Kota Bharu lad started out drawing Power Rangers masks for his friends back in primary school and later went on to pursue art in secondary school. But he only, really became exposed to fine art when he furthered his studies in Dasein Academy of Art. The rest, they say, is history.

What does your art focus on?

People are usually not open enough to accept my paintings because they find them quite provocative and dark. My previous works explored eroticism and brutality, but I was not trying to celebrate them. The paintings were really to reveal the behavioural codes and queer cultural norm of paraphilia. It's a psychological syndrome that largely occurs around us but is rarely discussed. The awareness perhaps would be the only message I hope to deliver through my art.

Would you say painting is an outlet for you to release your emotions?

It used to be, in the beginning. It was all about self-expression and emotions. But then it came to the point where I felt like my paintings were almost self-indulgent. It's too much because you cannot continue repeating your emotions and expressions. Emotion is a one-off thing – you do it, understand it, then it's done.

What I'm doing now is more of understanding where all these emotions come from, and how they form. I'm looking at my dark side from a human behavioural study perspective.

How do you want viewers to feel when they look at your art?

There's no particular fixed meaning that I want to deliver to somebody. My works are very much self-confessions, but the point should be the questions that come to the audience's minds when they see my work.

There is no right or wrong answer. Its not about answers – it's about asking questions. That's the crucial and major factor of understanding and appreciating art.

Do you think being in Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia is a good platform for you to penetrate the international art scene?

I think it benefits the local people. They start to think that maybe it's a good idea to let children do what they like. It changes the mindset of locals about being an artist. People around me also start getting interested in my paintings, which will generate the idea of looking at art, questioning fine art, paintings and artists.

Where does your inspiration derive from?

The internet, but there's too much information nowadays. Inspiration really depends on the technique of critical thinking or organising information. I used to blindly take in a lot of info – it's dangerous for artists. Absorbing everything you can get from the internet becomes a habit because it's too convenient; and it becomes greed without a second layer of thought.

But I got out from it and started writing a lot – it helps me organise my Fervent. thoughts. But inspiration from the internet comes with varied possibilities. For instance, Instagram browsing exposes you to the diversities of what interests other people and what they choose to show. I find the connection between random images surprising and inspiring, almost like making a sketch with instant ideas and juxtaposed elements.