Pei Yeou Bradley (Honey Khor) is like a breath of fresh Butterworth air on the Malaysian art scene. Since graduation from the Malaysian Institute of Art - Honey Khor (the name she prefers to be known by), has gone on to produce a cornucopia of stunning artworks reminiscence of artists such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Paul Klee and the early Marc Chagall.
Honey Khor has re-awakened Malaysian art. Gone are those endless monotonous boat scenes and twee kampongs. Expressionism and its pretenders have also all been thrown out in favour of symbolism and reoccurring organic motifs – hence the reference to Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Honey Khor dazzles and astounds with much imagery that would not look out of place in an Australian art gallery - with paintings, and much clay work, Honey Khor creates her own symbolism and striking visual language to delight and to inform the delighted viewer.
This is not naive, naïf or modern primitive art, but an exciting melding together of symbols and representations in an almost spiritual narrative. It is no wonder then that Honey Khor favours Buddhism, has an interest in mandalas and is close friends with a shaman. In her telling imagery, Honey Khor sets up her own shop and reveals the wares that are uniquely hers. Those wares – her paintings and pottery, have that spiritual dimension which seems to speak directly to the heart, if not the soul. The gallery visitor leaves feeling a profound sense of thankfulness for having been in the presence of such meditative and yet invigorating works.
An early oil painting – Blessings of the Earth, becomes reminiscent of Aboriginal art. The painting has a lack of traditional perspective, and a reverence of nature, spills from this painting - it is the type of painting which can only be painted by a child or an adult in tune with her spiritual side, but in truth it is far too sophisticated to have been rendered by a child, unless precocious, and precocious is something this gentle artist is not. It is a nature scene, but Honey Khor’s symbolism captures something way beyond mere mimesis, it sings of the language of the psyche and reaches those parts of the soul that other artists cannot reach. It is therefore a triumph of communication, and a song to Mother Nature. ￼ ￼
Honey’s work has been likened to those of the French artist nod to an artist Honey admires for her strength and determinism. in Honey’s work. One small series of paintings, unsurprisingly called and a female appear to be in symbiosis - attached at the feet and and sway, watched by birds and a tamed countryside. A large blue post-impressionist leaf oversees the tumbling and pulling of the couple while a Kandinsky yellow sky enhances the dream-like essence. In no reason to suspect disharmony as the colours of the couple change from brown to dark brown and then white, with each painting.
That organic feel to Honey Khor’s work is never far away. In the to the right of the painting, while trees denuded of their leaves force like mandala peeks in from the right and is echoed by another on the a hint of discord. There is beauty but, overall, this work leaves the viewer with a glimpse into a darker place – as intended by the artist. In the second Fantasy in Nature, the artist reveals her mastery over the watercolour medium, blending a variety of techniques to produce the organic whole. This set of two echoes Honey’s other work, but reveals a slightly unnerving place where, perhaps, all is not quite what it seems.
There are many images that are more delicious by this fascinating artist - a veritable feast for the eyes and the soul. I urge the powers that be to rush to buy some of these intriguing works before they are all snapped up and taken out of the country, as many have all been. Balai Seni Visual Negara needs to capture one or two of these works before it’s much too late. ￼
Martin A Bradley Art Historian and Art Critic