Life took a delightful detour for the Malaysian artists who took part in Wei-Ling Gallery’s [email protected] Turning Points exhibition last November, when each of them was handed a scale model of the Volkswagen Arteon R-Line and asked to paint it. This result: miniature artworks featuring the German automaker’s latest model that will be sold at an online auction on Oct 2, with the proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Welfare Association.
This is the first collaboration between the gallery and Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM), signalling a turning point for the latter. Its flagship model, the all-new R-Line, heralds a new generation of premium vehicles that speak to the heart with their evocative design and dynamic handling.
Harmony and emotion — the artistic element behind its name, derived from the Latin word artem — run along the elongated contours of the five-door fastback. The car has chrome stripes on frameless side windows and a striking wraparound grille.
Just as the artists dug into their past to explore their philosophical, technical and aesthetic approaches for Turning Points, which reflected ideas near and dear to them, Arteon — an extension of that project — continues Volkswagen’s involvement in art and culture around the world.
VPCM managing director Erik Winter says the brand is thrilled to be able to deepen people’s understanding of the power and influence of art in their lives. Describing the Arteon as “a masterpiece on wheels”, he praises the artists for the thought they put into the scale models to depict their individual narratives on the theme.
Gallery founder and director Lim Wei-Ling lauds Volkswagen’s support for the arts on an international level and home ground, especially with the limited exposure Malaysian artists get. “Artists are observers ... documenting, capturing and enshrining the times in which they live, within their works,” she says.
Each piece created for Turning Points was personal and the stories they told were “inspiring, cathartic and moving”, she adds.
The 13 artists who worked on the Arteon scale models were Anurendra Jegadeva, Chen Wei Meng, Cheng Yen Pheng, Cheong Kiet Cheng, Chin Kong Yee, Chong Kim Chiew, Choy Chun Wei, Hamidi Hadi, Ivan Lam, Rajinder Singh, Sean Lean, Wong Chee Meng and Yau Bee Ling.
Chin initially thought that he would be working on a real car when he first received word about the project. He inherited his first car at age 40. So, to him, cars are about traffic. And because he does not enjoy driving, his connection with the vehicle does not go any further.
But Chin admits the Arteon model is beautiful and he could not bring himself to paint on it. Instead, he stitched it up with leather, which hides its detailing. “One day, when the leather decomposes, the beauty of the car will be revealed,” he quips.
Cheng thought of transforming her model into an animal or something lively. To her, owning a caravan to move around, stay in or rest wherever she wants — just like a hermit crab — is an important factor when it comes to transport.
The collaboration forced her to experiment and do things she typically would not. To express herself, she chose upcycled materials obtained from daily life. Her artwork features dried fish scales dyed in natural colours of red (from beetroot), blue (pea flowers) and yellow (turmeric). She added her own home-made mulberry paper to the scales so it would be easier to attach them to the model with glue.
Cars evoke nostalgia in Hamidi, who found it exciting to work with mixed mediums to produce his artwork. His piece showed the Arteon model partially cemented to a concrete block and painted in striking neon colours.
Like the other artists, this was the first time Wong had worked with Volkswagen. He envisioned the Arteon as a young and energetic car and what he did with his model corresponded with his latest series, Good Days Will Come, which uses prosperity and lucky numbers symbolising fortune and good luck.
Wong’s colourful The Yearning Realm exhibited at Turning Points required viewers to wear 3D glasses to see the layers of acrylic applied. He employed a similar medium for the Arteon model, but its three- dimensional surface required more layers and detailing.
Anurendra’s association with Volkswagen goes back a long way. His father’s first car was a VW Beetle, which sparked a trend among his relatives in the 1960s and 1970s — all of them bought the same model for their first set of wheels. Anu, as he is known, continued that tradition in 1963.
Turning Points set Anu on a course to collect family photos that featured their VWs. It was not merely a process of gathering material for his artwork, but a deep dive into family histories, informed narratives and community, as seen in A Garland for My Father.
His excitement over the Arteon colla boration does not stem from his love of cars. Instead, it is from his collection of die-cast miniature versions of his favourite cars, with the more recent Lego VW Campervan added to the mix. His scale model reflects his love for Volkswagen as a brand and commemorates his love for his father, who passed away recently.
The artist’s signature Love Hearts and B52 icon are incorporated into the model, symbolising his love affair with the brand, and speed and durability respectively. The scale model was painted with acrylic after a light sanding of the shiny metal surfaces.
Asked if it differed from his usual socio-political-themed pieces, Anu says his works have always been autobiographical; they describe the world around us and how we fit in. He approached Arteon the same way. It was a personal project, but also a snapshot of the calibre of people, their aspirations and contributions to newly independent Malaysia, with a bright future ahead. The owners of these cars were the clerks, teachers, medical officers, nurses, technical assistants and agricultural officers who shaped the country in its early years.
See the makings of the art cars below:
The Arteon artworks are available for online viewing and bidding here, or at Wei-Ling Contemporary at The Gardens Mall by appointment (03 2282 8323). Bids will close at 8pm on Oct 2.
This article first appeared on Sept 14, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.