Chong Wei-Hsiang on co-founding Sareng, KL’s newest art gallery

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Options: Congratulations on opening sareng. Tell us a bit about the space and how you and your co-founder did it all.
Chong Wei-Hsiang:
Sareng just opened on October 8, in fact, coinciding with CIMB’s Artober 2022 campaign. Syukur [Ali, Sareng’s other co-founder] and decided to open the gallery in response to a greater appreciation of art collecting by Malaysians and an ever-increasing number of talented and emerging artists. Syukur brings 12 years of experience in the local art market which is new to me as I still work in PR, branding and marketing.

Here on Level 8 of Menara Chan, we offer 4,100 square feet of space for up to 30 artworks at a time, with the main gallery to the right and a more intimate lounge to the left.

And what does Sareng mean?
It means to distill or refine in Malay. The classical way is written saringbut we think it looks fiercer with an ‘e’.

It also seems very design conscious.
There is a shadow space designed between the walls and the floor, creating a space that is both modern and minimalist. The floor is cement while selected furniture by Herman Miller, Vitra and other famous designers sits around the gallery which, beyond mere function, serves to provide the perfect setting for contemporary works of art. exhibited.

What distinguishes Sareng from other galleries?
Syukur and I want to present what we believe to be beautiful art – visually unique work, with authenticity of ideas and history. We work with established artists who have a vision to produce significant pieces in a cultural and social context, while providing a platform for young and emerging, we provide a pathway for the development of viable full-time artistic careers with longevity, while providing stability so they can thrive and be creatively productive. Ultimately, we want Sareng to be a place of culture contained in an adaptable, authentic and inclusive space.

Tell us about Amirul Yazid’s first exhibition.
Logami presents a body of work that explores the capabilities of one material by disguising it as another. The title is a play between the Malay and Japanese words for steel (logam) and paper (kami) while the pieces are inspired by Amirul’s lifelong fascination with geometry and his earlier study of origami. The works include simple sculptures that examine the fundamentals of folding and the subtle energy of marking. The nature of works of art is quietly contemplative, inviting us to reflect on how we see the world, showing us that less is indeed more and how there is potential in even the most modest objects and spaces.

You may have never worked in art before, but you’ve always loved it and you collect yourself, right?
My career in public relations, branding and marketing has been closely linked to the development of Malaysia’s creative economy over the past 26 years. Building brands for multinationals and blue chip companies taught me that you can’t pour out of an empty glass. Sareng now gives me a new opportunity to expand and apply my creative inclinations.

Otherwise, how would you fill your cup of life?
India has fascinated me since my first visit to Tamil Nadu in 2000. My last trip there was in 2020 in Udaipur with my mother, just before the world shut down. It was at the latter that I learned that the city had acquired its reputation largely thanks to its painters in the 18th century, when they transformed their vision from small poetic manuscripts into large-scale paintings of its palaces and its landscapes.

Next year I hope to catch up A Splendid Land: Paintings of Royal Udaipur at the National Museum of Asian Art in Washington DC. It features works made primarily between 1700 and 1900, many of which are being shown to the public for the first time, and promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

And what other cities would you rate for their cultural energy?
Adelaide and Edinburgh, for their annual arts and fringe festivals as well as their Writers’ Week and International Book Festival.

You also like beautiful hotels. So, if you were to open your own one day, how would you merge luxury stays with art?
Well, it won’t be fancy or overly opposite – a disconcerting trend these days. Hospitality and humanity will always remain at the heart of what we do, so I would first refer to hotels that effortlessly and thoughtfully incorporate art, as opposed to indiscriminately crowded spaces. This would include The Shilla Seoul; The Murray Hong Kong — notably for its treatment of sculptures by Bahk Seon-ghi and Jaume Plensa; The Capella Hanoi for its rich storytelling and uncompromising execution; and The Siam Bangkok for its pizzazz of quirks and owner personality.

This article was first published on October 10, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.

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