Koh Kai Ting’s practice focuses on exploring the narratives of power and its flow. She does this through several different approaches including film making, large-scale outdoor installations, and curating. These diverse explorations in turn enhance her practice and push her further. Excerpts from online news, memes, historical facts, cult films, and fetish gossip are just a few of Koh’s inspirations. Imagination plays a huge role in manipulating and incorporating this information into her work.

Theoretically her work is influenced by the sociological and psychoanalysis theories of Spinoza and Freud. Juxtaposing the gratified emotions with bondage and animal as metaphors for human desire, her recent paintings highlight the destructive instinct as part of the unconscious structures of pleasure, hence gaining pleasure through pain.

Cosmic Dance – Metamorphosis 01
acrylic and watercolor on polyester mesh
53.5 x 3 x 66 cm

Cosmic Dance – Dust Dance
Acrylic and Watercolor on Polyester Mesh (mounted on wooden panel)
53.5 x 3 x 66 cm

Cosmic Dance – Metamorphosis 02
acrylic and watercolor on polyester mesh
53.5 x 3 x 66 cm

Detail of Cosmic Dance – Metamorphosis 01

The Cosmic Dance Series plays on the concept of resilience.

For this series of work, Koh Kai Ting is inspired by the dancing Shiva Statue in CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research). CERN is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. One of the largest projects in CERN is the “Large Hadron Collider”—discovering the “Higgs Boson” also known as the god’s particle, which is supposedly the origin of the big bang, also known as the birth of the universe. There is an underground facility that is working on finding the god’s particle, operating between the borders of Switzerland and France.

The appearance of a Hindu deity in a western research center might seem strange at first, but Shiva is widely known as the god of destruction in Hindu mythology. Shiva’s dance symbolises the cosmic cycle of creation and destruction, which is also about the idea of birth and death that is reflected in her works. This deity was displayed in CERN because of a metaphor that was drawn between the cosmic dance of the Shiva and the modern study of the ‘cosmic dance’ of subatomic particles done in CERN.

The Dust Dance Series contains visual elements referring to these two ideas. The work features two panels of rope-bound crustaceans with snake skin patterns outlining the borders. The center panel features a pair of plucked chicken instead of the crustaceans. 

Firstly, the snake border is a reference to Vāsuki. It is a snake that coils around Shiva’s neck and upper arm. Snakes are used to symbolize the Hindu dogma of reincarnation. Their natural process of molting or shedding their skin is symbolic of the human souls’ transmigration of bodies from one life to another. Koh painted the snake also as an analogy to CERN’s “Large Hadron Collider”, the most powerful accelerator in the world that boosts particles, such as protons, which form all the matter we know. 

The use of crab and crustaceans as subject matter was that crabs have a very strong regenerative ability as they can regrow their lost limbs and also conduct the act of Ecdysis whereby they will shed their old shells when they reach a certain growth. Crustaceans are also dubbed to have biological immortality, because their cells divide with negligible aging. 

Both the snake and the crab’s nature resonates with the idea of birth and destruction, in order to grow, they must first shed off the old self. This highlights destruction as the beginning of a birth.

The central panel, an odd one out, features chicken as the artist’s absurd inside-joke. Her works have always used chicken to represent greedy people. In 2008, the artist read an allegorical novel in which a local corrupt leader was described as a “chicken”. In this case, the chicken could represent mankind’s greed for immortality.

Detail of Cosmic Dance – Dust Dance

Koh Kai Ting (b. 1996, Batu Pahat, Malaysia)

 Koh Kai Ting (b. 1996, Batu Pahat, Malaysia) is a print-maker and painter based in Singapore and Malaysia. She graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts with a Diploma in Fine Art (with Distinction) in 2018.

Her works have been shown in numerous group exhibitions and solo shows in Singapore and internationally in China, Thailand and Malaysia. In 2018, she won the first prize in UOB Painting of the Year, Emerging Artist Category and NAFA Fine Art Awards. Also she was a recipient of the Malaysian Emerging Artist Awards(MEA)2019 and Mellow Art Award 2020. 

She has participated and curated various socially engaged art projects, such as Bamboo Art Festival (2019) in Chengdu, Community projects (2019) in Pulau Ketam, Malaysia.

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