Art Detail | Ilham Gallery

Gan Siong King’s Bodhisattva depicts an iridescent heart-shaped diamond, meticulously painted to reveal the play of light and colour reflecting off each facet on its surface. The dispersion of light and the painting’s glowing effect is captured by the use of sharper strokes of oil paint at the centre of the composition, which gradually dissipates into softer lines towards the edges of the panel. Blown up dramatically in scale, Gan’s diamond displays the artist’s careful study of his source: an image he stumbled upon on the Internet. 

The painting was displayed at FEEKA in December 2014 in a solo exhibition entitled “The Pleasures of Odds and Ends”, a show representing Gan’s exploration of Internet interconnectivity and his ongoing attempts to escape the rectangular confines of the painting surface. For the latter goal, Gan’s obvious formal strategy in Bodhisattva was to employ a heart-shaped wooden panel which echoes the shape of its content. But Gan’s challenge to the rectilinear limits of painting extended beyond the panel: in the exhibition, Gan presented his paintings alongside a series of QR codes that offered links to related online media as a means of populating the painting with multiple entry points. Such a move was to reimagine the painting, located in the digital age, as a single node from which a network of meanings can be formed.

Understood in this context, Gan’s realist approach in Bodhisattva is strategic, employing a truth to detail which he exploits to conceal the layers of real and virtual spaces and materials that underlie its creation. It contributes to the postmodernist adage of the real/fake, or the influence of the conditions of the hyperlinked, post-digital world and how they have complicated the value of meaning and authenticity.

Oil on wood panel
98 x 96 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Gan Siong King
About Gan Siong King

Gan Siong King (b. 1975, Segamat, Malaysia) is a contemporary visual artist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His evolving practice is multi-disciplinary and revolves around unpacking orthodoxies in art and social structures as a way to question, reflect and imagine different ways of seeing and being. He is currently exploring ideas about "exhibition-making", particularly on developing exhibition as a medium in itself. Gan graduated in Fine Arts from the Malaysia Institute of Arts (MIA) in 1996, majoring in oil painting. From 1998 to 2000, he was an artist assistant to the Malaysian contemporary artist, Wong Hoy Cheong. He has produced several solo exhibitions to date, the most recent including The Pleasures of Odds & Ends (2014, Feeka, Kuala Lumpur), Meeting People is Easy (2017, Artist's Studio, Kuala Lumpur), and All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2019, A+ Works of Art, Kuala Lumpur). His works have been displayed in group exhibitions in Malaysia, Tokyo, Bucharest, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan.

Further Readings

Learning Section

  • This painting could be described as photorealistic, in that it has been painted with a level of detail that closely imitates a photograph. Do you think realism is important in painting? When a photograph can be created in seconds, why take so much time to create paintings which imitate photographs? Would this artwork have been as effective if it was a photograph?

  • The title of the painting is Bodhisattva. In Buddhism Bodhisattva are enlightened beings who have put off entering paradise in order to help others attain enlightenment. How does this title relate to the artwork? What do you think the artist meant when giving the artwork this title?