In Today’s Special, Yeoh presents works completed within the years of 2016 – 2020. The works culminate as Yeoh’s artistic contextualization of the current media phenomenon in the United States, closely tied to the current presidency of Donald Trump and his legacy in the reality TV show “The Apprentice”. The exhibition tracks how Yeoh’s practice has transitioned over the years from exploring abstract paintings to his recent board works. By extension, it also represents Yeoh’s perspective on the gradual mental degradation of power. Yeoh alludes to notions of violence, resentment, chaos and absurdity through his pursuit of providing a visceral experience of power dynamics.
The 2017 paintings are an important series in Yeoh’s practice as it marks a major shift towards gestural abstraction with highly textured strokes. Self-coined by the artist as “Fleshing Abstraction” – a synthesis of disintegration set in contrast as the tensions and forces are weighted on the oil surfaces. A sense of nonchalance is presented in the artistic process and echoes the titles of the works, while its base line of “You’re Fired” in different permutations steep in disrespect. Akin to the chopping board series, the surface of the paintings has received similar treatments of mark-marking. Viewers are confronted by a purposeful but violent landscape.
The chopping board is a persistent iconography in Yeoh’s shaped board series and serve as an entry point for his fascination of its duality; not only as a conduit of disgust, but also pleasure. Yeoh likens the painting surface to sleek and cleaned chopping boards with traces of permanent knife marks caused by blunt force and exertion. The act of scarring on the linen surfaces further serve as a cathartic experience for Yeoh, expelling frustration, and to a certain extent; social anxiety.
The first iteration of the shaped board series manifested in 2016 and eventually finalized in 2020 in Yeoh’s unique satirical style. The works are unabashedly hung on butt plugs, framing the year of the pandemic, along with the anxiety of a possible extended ‘political theatre’ in the United States.
The second iteration takes a nuanced turn in terms of artistic expression. Completed in 2020, the works are not materialized as oil paintings but represent intentions via the act of destroying. The shaped board works are marred by a barrage of cut marks – more so compared to the first iteration – which, seen at close range, alludes to a chaotic lacework. However, from a distance, the silhouette of the work hints at a sense of deterioration, in which traces of lost material are clearly visible.
As the next presidential election looms in the United States, Today’s Special serves as a reminder of the artist’s experience in the past 4 years and also fair warning to what’s on the coming menu.