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Curtin University of Technology
John Curtin Gallery

Matthew Ngui
8 February - 20 March 2008

Matthew Ngui

When is a chair art? And when do random pieces of wood become a chair? And if the chair only exists when seen from one perspective, does it really exist as a chair at all?

Confused? Don't worry. Matthew Ngui's artwork has been raising questions and boggling minds for nearly 20 years, and Perth was the latest city to be left mesmerised as the former Curtin student held his Points of View exhibition at the John Curtin Gallery recently.

Born and raised in Singapore, it was when Matthew first attended university that he decided he wanted to learn more about art in a serious way. However the 45 year old admits he wasn't sure it would lead to anything.

'I really didn't think of it as a career, more of an interest that grew on from one thing to another which then grew into a career.'

After finishing university and completing a two-and-a-half year stint of National Service, Matthew began working as a sculptor's assistant in Singapore. This job led him to Perth and eventually Curtin, where he enrolled in a Bachelor of Finance in 1989, before completing a postgraduate diploma in visual arts.

Since graduating from Curtin, Matthew has grown into one of Australia and Singapore's leading artists, with his work shown all across Europe, Asia and Australia. He has become renowned for his installation-style of artwork, where he turns an ordinary space into an interactive artistic wonderland.

Matthew's recent exhibition at the John Curtin Gallery, Points of View, contained a series of seemingly random objects strewn throughout the room. It's only when a person stands in a certain spot and views the objects from a certain perspective, they then merge and things make sense. A bunch of pillars with markings on them become a canvas with a hidden message revealed; when seen from the right angle, pieces of wood spread across the room become the aforementioned chair.

'I really like that kind of installation setup where there's something very three dimensional about the whole work,' Matthew says.

'There's an element of interactivity. Also, there's a connection between the three-dimensional and the two-dimensional part of the work. What you look at is often very much like a two dimensional thing, but really that image resides in the three dimensional format.'

Matthew says he felt privileged when he was given the opportunity to show Points of View at Curtin.

'The fact that I spent the most of my 20s here in Western Australia, I think for me it's really important for an artist to be able to exhibit in one's hometown,' he says.

'If you ask lots of artists they actually don't get many opportunities to exhibit at home. So because there was a real opportunity for me to do so I thought it was great, and I really wanted to make the show the best as I possibly could have.'

The people of Perth will be able to see more of Matthew's work in the near future. As well as several projects in Singapore, he has also been commissioned to design a piece of public art for Perth's new Department of Culture and Arts building. In typical fashion, Matthew plans to do something more than just a sculpture or painting.

'I'm working with the architects to integrate the art with the architecture so that it's seamless... to try to merge the two so that neither one is identifiable as art or architecture.'

'It's easier to produce works that reside in a space and people say "oh yeah, that's beautiful I like that, I'll put it here." But art's not just about that. It's about resonance with a culture, seeing things which can stimulate the imagination or even be critical to a certain extent. Art's not just about beauty or wanting to procure something for decoration. That's a point that I really try to put forward.'