Gajah Gallery Presents Malaysian artist Kayleigh Goh

Kayleigh Goh draws on architecture and emotion in her first solo show
By Ilyda Chua

Kayleigh Goh, ‘A Moment to be Fragile’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 300 x 160 cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

Kayleigh Goh, ‘A Moment to be Fragile’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 300 x 160 cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

Two-dimensional “safe spaces” — these are the basis of emerging Malaysian artist Kayleigh Goh’s solo exhibition at Gajah Gallery. While the show came to fruition through the artist’s regrets and memories, the works in it are illusory spaces that she hopes can help viewers cope with their own grief — “as if being gently hugged by someone dear to the heart,” says Goh, 25.

Rooted in construction materials such as textured concrete and exposed wood, the works reflect a heavy architectural influence that marks her existing body of work. Yet the soft palette and clean lines create a quiet, dreamy quality that’s instantly soothing — a “safe space”, indeed.

(left to right) Kayleigh Goh, ‘Jasmine Rain’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 155.5 x 105.5cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery; Kayleigh Goh, ‘Walking Home Through Lighted Stairs’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 155.5 x 105.5cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery; Kayleigh Goh, ‘Window by the Morning City’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 155.5 x 105.5cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

(left to right) Kayleigh Goh, ‘Jasmine Rain’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 155.5 x 105.5cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery; Kayleigh Goh, ‘Walking Home Through Lighted Stairs’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 155.5 x 105.5cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery; Kayleigh Goh, ‘Window by the Morning City’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 155.5 x 105.5cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

When asked about her favourite piece, Goh hesitates to answer. “It’s hard to pick one,” she says. But she does mention a visitor favourite: an installation comprised of three separate artworks, ‘Jasmine Rain’, ‘Walking Home Through Lighted Stairs’, and ‘Window by the Morning City’. While painted in a similar fashion, every piece has a distinctive air: the first is pretty and pink-hued, the second is stark and glacial in shades of grey and white, and the last is warm with pale golden light.

Kayleigh Goh, ‘Replaying Days in the Lullaby I’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 200 x 150 x 5 cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

Kayleigh Goh, ‘Replaying Days in the Lullaby I’, 2018, cement and acrylic paint on wood, 200 x 150 x 5 cm. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

‘And Yet, If Only’, which opened on September 28, is Goh’s first solo venture and the first major milestone in her relationship with the Singapore-based gallery, following two group shows at Gajah — ‘The New Now’ last year, which spotlighted new and emerging artists — and a regional exhibition earlier this year at Kuala Lumpur, titled ‘Power, Play, and Perception’. The artworks are priced from SGD1,900 to SGD18,000.

Speaking about representing the artist, Gajah Gallery, which has been in operation for over 20 years, notes, “Working with Kayleigh has definitely been an eye opening and mutual learning experience on both ends. Given that she is the youngest among the Gallery’s roster of artists, her practice holds deep significance to us and serves as an entryway into understanding the concerns of emerging artists. Yet, she holds her own distinct voice that reflects in her works and stands out from her contemporaries.”

The gallery is eager to continue developing the Goh’s career and states, “We’re happy to help her as she launches the beginning of her career and offer her our own expertise from working with various artists from Southeast Asia over the past two decades. Moving forward, we’re eager to innovate more projects with Kayleigh and test the potentials of having her collaborate with other artists, both upcoming and prominent, that we work with.”

Although it has not been long since Goh joined Gajah Gallery as a represented artist, the difference in how she works has been stark. “I’m able to focus on my practice full-time, without the constant worry of how to manage it,” she says. “As a represented artist, I feel more secure, more grounded in my work.”

Installation view of ‘And Yet, If Only’. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

Installation view of ‘And Yet, If Only’. Image courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

And that focus shows. A new project is already in the works, and will be released in mid-November — just one month after ‘And Yet, If Only’ ends on 15 October. The project, a public artwork on the wall of a void deck (a communal space at the ground floor of a block of flats in Singapore), which Goh describes as “a play on the idea of parallel realities”, will be her largest work in scale so far.

In the meantime, Goh has simple hopes for this exhibition, which was entirely produced in her home studio in Johor, Malaysia. “I hope viewers can leave the show with a lighter heart; a more relaxed, gentler spirit,” she says. 

The show has been a success for both the artist and the gallery. “We’re pleased to say that the show has been very well received. When it launched, we had significant exposure on both Singaporean and Malaysian press, many of which featured in-depth interviews with Kayleigh,” says Gajah Gallery. “We’re glad she’s gaining the recognition both in Singapore and her home country of Malaysia. The sales have also exceeded our expectations, especially for the first solo show of a young artist like Kayleigh.”

This article was updated on 8 October 2018.