SOUL THAT REPEATS
by Nik Fahmee
I noticed them from afar, as they walked from one painting to another and then stopped at Agnes’s video and her installation work on the floor. There was something about them that made me notice them – something on their faces and their gait. They looked happy and light, and I was rather pleased when I later found myself introduced to them. This was how I met Agnes Lau’s parents in Penang earlier this year. I have always liked her work and her sister Alicia’s too, and it was nice to be introduced to the parents.
Recently, when Agnes asked if I could write for her, I said yes immediately, even though I honestly wasn't sure I had the time for it, as I was preparing for a busy book launch week. But I somehow wanted to do it, because I was reminded of her parents and I love how she is so connected to them. Family love and support are precious and when it is manifested and celebrated in love – I am all in.
We sat for a chat on a Saturday morning. She looked nervous and excited, surrounded by her works – some drawings are on the wall behind her and some are to be hung up on the inner side of the gallery space. We started talking about anything and everything, and then we got up to look at the works. I followed her, noticing the same gait – she walks like her father.
Agnes Lau graduated with two diplomas – first in graphic design in 2011 and later in fine arts, in 2015, from Dasein, Kuala Lumpur. She currently lectures at the same school. There is something very easy and gentle about her, yet there is also a layer of sharp determination in her when she talks about her life and the connection it has to the body of her current work.
This would be her second solo show and she has decided to call it – Soul that repeats. I was pulled by the title - the works I have seen so far are very calm, clean and natural, with elements of structure in them.
We stopped to look at The Connected Souls. A series of ceramics with lines pressed and imprinted into them. I looked closer and she said – My falling hair. I am losing them. She laughed and added – I pick them up daily, and decided to use them as part of the ceramic work. Strands of hair play an important connection to our DNA and to her, her soul.
And in The Unsettled Soul, is a series of stepped on ceramic pieces assembled to put motion in mind - that no matter where we go, we take our soul with us. We could be running away but still be in the same spot too. Agnes reflects on art with a mindfulness concept such as – Art comes from life. Hence the congruence to her and her work is very easy to digest because she doesn't pretend to be difficult.
She pointed out to the The Governed Soul, and we started going deeper into the conversation about art, life and family. She talked about how her parents are very protective and supportive of her and her sister. It is good to a point, but she was worried if it was also stifling her too. She said there were moments she wanted to break away from the rules, do something different and play more. She did explore this, but at the end of the day, she still wanted to be home and with them. And this is manifested in The Governed Soul – blessed to continue to grow and have clarity in mind.
Soul that repeats is a series of drawings on paper too. In fact the strength of Agnes Lau is indeed in her drawings that capture her systematic approach to art. While the lines are clear and kept straight, something tells me there is more to Agnes Lau than meets the eyes.
She smiles when she talks, and she kept looking at me wanting to make sure she is clear with what she is saying. I am listening to her and observing her nuances, and to me Agnes Lau keeps it clean and clear – but more importantly, she keeps it easy, natural and real in a good repeating soul.
Malaysia, October 2022