b. 1979, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Vincent Leong was born in 1979 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He studied art at the Centre for Advanced Design in Kuala Lumpur (1998–2000) and earned a BFA from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2000–04), receiving the BT Goldsmiths Prize in digital media in 2004. In 2006, he was invited to participate in a workshop at the Asian Culture Creation Center in Gwangju, South Korea, and the resulting exhibition, Threshold 13, which traveled from Gwangju to Seoul. Leong also completed artist residencies at Sculpture Square, Singapore (2007) and Kognecho Bazaar, Yokohama, Japan (2009).
Leong’s first solo exhibition, The Fake Show at Reka Art Space in Selangor, Malaysia (2006), was a Gordian knot of disguises and disavowals. Announced as a group exhibition curated by Leong, the nine artists featured were in fact fictional surrogates for Leong himself. As such, all of the works were ersatz. Mischievously referencing fellow contemporary Malaysian artists alongside everyday characters, Leong spun a web of allusion that addressed appropriation, originality, and authenticity in a world inundated by counterfeit brands, identities, and entertainments. Leong’s deft manipulation of signs and symbols is evident too in the video How to Be Bruce (2004), which was included in the video art exhibition 18 Reasons We Still Need Superman that traveled to numerous international locations (2010–12, organized by Beijing-based curator Tim Crowley). Retaining the audio from the fight sequence between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the kung fu classic The Way of the Dragon (1972, dir. Bruce Lee), Leong replaced the film’s visual component with an abstract animation, diagramming Lee’s martial artistry via a series of dots and arrows, like the notations of a sports strategy. The icon is subsumed in a frenetic choreography of ciphers.
Turning to Malaysia’s multiethnic culture, whose history is marred by sectarian conflict, Leong’s video Run, Malaysia, Run (2007) captures a cavalcade of the country’s diverse citizens in colorful costumes denoting different ethnicities and religions. In a display typical of the artist’s acerbic humor, a rotating projector sets these personages running around in circles on the walls. Alternatively presented on a screen, they appear to be running in place. In the photography series Executive Properties (2012), Leong shoots from within abandoned buildings. Settings marked by crumbling infrastructure, severed wiring, and graffiti vandalism open onto spectacular views of Kuala Lumpur’s monuments, historic buildings, and contemporary skyscrapers, capturing the paradox of progress and the poetry of the modern ruin.
Leong’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur (2007 and 2012), and Sculpture Square, Singapore (2007). The artist has also been featured in the following notable group exhibitions: 3 Young Contemporaries, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur (2005); The Power of Dreaming, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor (2005); 4 Young Contemporaries, Numthong Gallery, Bangkok (2007); Selamat Datang ke Malaysia, Gallery 4A, Sydney, and Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur (2007); The Independence Project, Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur (2007), and Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2008); Some Rooms, Osage Gallery, Hong Kong (2009); Our Own Orbit, Tembi Contemporary, Jogya, Indonesia (2009); and Tanah Ayer: Malaysian Stories from the Land, Selasar Sunaryo Art Space, Bandung, Indonesia (2011). Leong lives and works in Kuala Lumpur.