‘Orikata Tales’: An exhibition in George Town of batik animals inspired by towel art | Life

Penang artist Mandy Maung with her oil paintings of Orikata Tales.  — Picture courtesy of Oh Chin Eng
Penang artist Mandy Maung with her oil paintings of Orikata Tales. — Picture courtesy of Oh Chin Eng

GEORGE TOWN, March 19 ― Towel art ― quite simply, the art of folding towels into animal shapes ― is usually practiced in hotels where these towel animals are placed in rooms to welcome guests.

And now this particular form of origami has become the inspiration behind Penang artist Mandy Maung’s latest solo exhibition, Orikata Tales.

Maung combined the intricacies of folding animal shapes with the bright colors of batik to create nine different animal sculptures as well as oil paintings and illustrations for her exhibition.

The artist, also known as MAMA, started working on the sculptures during the first lockdown back in 2020 with the aim of holding an exhibition once the lockdown was lifted.

“The lockdown gave me time to explore, plan out my sculptures and I chose animals with distinct shapes so that they were recognizable,” she said.

Penang artist Mandy Maung at the Orikata Tales exhibition.  — Picture by Opalyn Mok
Penang artist Mandy Maung at the Orikata Tales exhibition. — Picture by Opalyn Mok

Maung completed 12 oil paintings and 13 pencil with white ink illustrations of the batik sculptures in various poses throughout the multiple lockdowns between 2020 and 2021.

“The exhibition was supposed to be in late 2020 but it was postponed we thought we would hold it in 2021 but it was again postponed so finally, we decided on a date this time and go ahead with it,” she said.

Tea Orikata Tales exhibition, at Project 26 in Lorong Carnavon, finally opened to the public on March 11 much to the relief of both Maung and the exhibition curator, Ivan Gabriel.

“I am relieved that finally this exhibition came together but the postponements also gave me time to finish a lot of things, such as the pencil and ink illustrations and the final horse oil painting which I did this year,” she said.

According to Maung, the title of the exhibition ― Orikata ― comes from a combination of origami and “kata”, which means “a way of doing things” in Japanese or “to speak” in Malay.

Mandy working on the final oil painting for Orikata Tales.  — Picture courtesy of Oh Chin Eng
Mandy working on the final oil painting for Orikata Tales. — Picture courtesy of Oh Chin Eng

She replicated towel art using batik but due to the difference in material, she had to cut, sew and construct the material to form the animal shapes she chose.

The end results were nine animals; dog, unicorn, cow, horse, giraffe, elephant, rabbit, pig and a pair of chicks.

Next, she painted her batik animal sculptures in different poses such as the pair of chicks in a nest titled “Anak Malaysia” or the pig under a blanket titled “si khun tu” which is Hokkien for “sleeping pig.”

A unicorn, sculpted using a piece of blue batik, sported a string of pearls and was aptly titled “Pearl of the Orient”, almost like an ode to the artist’s home state, Penang.

Exhibition curator Ivan Gabriel said Maung first approached him about the exhibition in 2020 after the first lockdown was lifted.

Visitors at the Orikata Tales exhibition.  — Picture by Opalyn Mok
Visitors at the Orikata Tales exhibition. — Picture by Opalyn Mok

They had even secured the venue for the exhibition when there was another lockdown and it was postponed.

“Despite the uncertainties and postponement after postponement, I am a firm believer of the saying ― when things are meant to be, it is meant to be,” he said.

“Tea Orikata Taleswhipped up by Mandy, is a true testament to her impressive abilities to infuse personal narratives with her modern spin on the deeply traditional genre of fine art to convey an expansively impeccable collection,” he said.

He pointed out that his attention to details in the series reminded him of local delicacies, as each paint layer was reminiscent of the layers of the delicious kuih lapis.

Orikata Talesat 26, Lorong Carnavon, is open to the public from 11am to 5pm (Fridays– Sundays) and only by appointment on weekdays until April 3.

Unicorn with a string of pearls titled 'Pearls of the Orient' by Mandy Maung.  — Picture by Opalyn Mok
Unicorn with a string of pearls titled ‘Pearls of the Orient’ by Mandy Maung. — Picture by Opalyn Mok

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