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Richard Koh Fine Art Singapore
Artspace @ Helutrans
39 Keppel Road #01-05
Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Singapore 089065   map * 
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Optimistic Melancholics
by Richard Koh Fine Art Singapore
Location: Richard Koh Fine Art Singapore
Date: 1 Jul - 14 Jul 2015

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.

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