KAYLEIGH GOH
(b. 1993, JOHOR BAHRU)

Currently based in Melbourne for further studies, Kayleigh Goh is amongst the most reflective and innovative young artists in the region. Inspired by the psychological and poetic implications of place, her works are soft and quiet, gently moving the viewer to contemplate on ideas of home and rest. In the fast-paced life of the city, she allows us access to a metaphysical space where we can safely unpack unresolved emotions of despair. Her works then offer a temporary escape from the complexities and incongruities in life.

Using predominantly cement and wood, Kayleigh utilises highly sophisticated methods to create a sense of serenity. In modern times, society usually associates cement with coldness and Brutalism. The genius of Kayleigh’s work then lies in how she uses the material to create a paradoxical sense of calm. She explains that her combination of exposed wood and cement connects to her appreciation of hot tea on a cold day. In the context of ‘too much’ (too many things to do, too much food to eat, too many thoughts), Kayleigh strives for balance. The warmth of the wood and the coldness of the concrete work together to achieve a dissonant, yet comfortable sense of harmony.

Furthermore, the young artist views cement as a homely material. To her, the concrete jungle has become so infused in our lives that its negative reputation no longer holds relevance. The hard lines present in her work similarly challenge the general impression that geometric designs hold no emotion. The 90-degree angles in urban design, the flat colour of our walls and the abundance of cement, have all become elements of familiarity to the city-goer. Her works thus protest against long-held notions and instead, embraces the city as her space for healing.

Kayleigh Goh is currently an independent art practitioner based in both Singapore and Malaysia. She received her BA (Fine Arts) from Singapore Lasalle College of the arts in 2016 and had participated in various group shows in Singapore and Malaysia. She recently had her first solo show at Gajah Gallery in October 2018.

WORKS BY THIS ARTIST

LULLABY FROM THE SMELL OF RAIN CLEARED SOIL 01 and 02
2020
Foraged Rock Paint on Ceramic, 11 x 10 x 2 cm each

Kayleigh explores a new terrain in this new series, consisting of small foraged rocks paint on ceramic works—a fresh departure from her signature materials of cement and wood on canvas. Currently residing in Melbourne as she fulfills her MA in Contemporary Art, Kayleigh reveals that these past few months have been, for her, a unique period of collecting and archiving. These small pieces are the tangible products of her accumulating insights and creativity bourgeoning during this period of learning and change. While they can stand as individual works on their own, put together, they form an evocative landscape filled with vast, empty spaces stained with slivers of soil—expressing the power of a clean slate, and the enigma of new beginnings.  

Creating the illusion of a room through faint, minimal lines engraved on ceramic, Kayleigh strips away the depths and shadows that previously filled her canvases to achieve a sense of vastness within a small space. Rather than depicting a solid and detailed indoor place, the softness and ambiguity of the lines evoke the potential of a blueprint, or the endless possibilities of a dream—giving us more room to fill the space with our own concrete objects and stories. The hint of brown soil on the floor thus surprises amidst the abstraction, literally grounding us back to real life. By bringing a trace of the outdoors indoors, the soil becomes a particularly poignant doorway to reimagine adventures of the outside, at a time when the world was forced to stay in. 

BENEATH THE LIGHTS 02, 03 and 04
2020
Paint on Ceramic, 10 cm each

This series marks a new breakthrough in Kayleigh’s ongoing investigations on light. More than that background force that signifies the time of day, light, to Kayleigh, is a crucial element of life, deserving more of our attention and appreciation. In this series, she portrays light in stark juxtaposition with darkness, revealing only slivers of light piercing through openings of hard and heavy structures. The results are dramatic, chiaroscuro pictures that serve as the perfect complement to her other series on display, “Lullaby from the Smell of Rain Clear Soil”, which are significantly sparse and soothing, filled with only faint lines and no shadows. Together, the two series show Kayleigh’s dynamic versatility and an important phase of her maturing practice, as she makes bold decisions and changes in the meanings of her materials, process, and signature ‘safe’ spaces. 

A low and wide Brutalist structure stands at the foreground of the painting, radiating light from the inside. The black sky that envelops the building suggests the time of day—and the work instantly evokes the stillness of a structure deep into the night, brimming with its own strange mysteries. This artificial light thus transports us to new moods and narratives distinct from Kayleigh’s past work: from sitting in a cozy bar to listening to a comforting bedtime story; ghost-hunting in an eerie, empty building to buying a midnight snack in a convenient store. We are then invited to navigate the unique consolation that light brings during the night, giving us the courage to live in the dark. 

In Beneath the Lights 03, Kayleigh situates us inside a dim hallway. Because of the time of day, each wall is a different shade of grey: deep grey, bordering on charcoal, is to our left; dark grey covers the ceiling; medium grey is on the right wall; and a pale blue grey washes the floor. An opening at the end of the hall appears at the center of the circle, allowing light to pour through and forming sharp triangles on the end wall and on the floor. Light here provocatively brings life and drama to what would have otherwise been a dull, monochrome room. Dark and light coexist and converse; grey shades in between bring depth and perspective; elegant lines create solid shapes that appear like pieces of a geometric puzzle—and a full, complex composition is formed, simply because of the presence of light. 

A grand, glass window dominates Beneath the Lights 04, placing us inside a wide room washed in light pouring from the outside. The charcoal wall that surrounds the window forms the perfect contrast to the light, framing the outdoors like a painting. Off the distance, a low grey building appears, similar to the Brutalist structure in Beneath the Lights 02. Seen from the perspective of another building’s interior, the Brutalist structure feels aloof and isolated, transformed into a concrete, unreachable enigma. The focal point of the piece is thus the vast distance between our location and the faraway building, poignantly capturing the aching distance felt among many during this historic time of social isolation. What closes the distance between the two structures is the constant light that pours over the two buildings, providing them with at least a shared view.