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Foreboding Purpose @ National Art Gallery (II of II)

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...In his tribute essay titled A Protean Appearance In Malaysian Art, Krishen Jit surmises that "Digital Collage (...) might well be an ironic strategy for Ismail wishes to raise consciousness about how in the decoding strategies of extracting meaning, observation is amalgamated with the observer." This task of decoding is mediated through the Macintosh SE, one boxy personal computer with a 9-inch monochrome display, also the cutting edge of consumer electronics in 1987. Ismail undertakes a pioneering move by exhibiting framed dot matrix printouts on gallery walls, thereby transmuting the binary bits of digital signals into art. This is an outdated concept in the age of Instagram creatives; Nonetheless, clear outlines ease one to dwell upon Ismail's visual semiology approach, and reflect on the appeal of the framed portrait-sized image that we consume through mobile phones, the cutting edge of consumer electronics now.

Published reviews of this show to-datereify the art…

Mem(Bayang) Maksud @ Balai Seni Negara (I of II)

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The exhibition title and its curatorial thread, derive from a conversational text between friends Noordin Hassan and Ismail Zain, published in the catalogue of the latter's 1988 solo exhibition "Digital Collage". The former questions the use of the word collage in this body of work, in which Ismail clarifies that collage here does not refer to the simple juxtaposition of images, but about "how borrowed fragments of the signified can be summarised in one form or another many characteristics." He goes on to quote two examples which perhaps fit his intention - the Malay pantun with its "pembayang maksud", and the "intellectual montage" coined by Sergei Eisenstein. I imagine seeing a  landscape of paddy fields & coconut trees, followed by a 'Tumpal' painting by Syed Ahmad Jamal, which then conjures one packet of nasi lemak bungkus in my mind... or maybe, I am just hungry.

Outside Galeri 2B, a video loop shows local cultural luminari…

Crowded Balai, Muda (Su)dah Wince See

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During my first visit to "Leonardo Opera Omnia" at the National Art Gallery, I was startled by the crowd in attendance. A year ago, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has staged reproductions of works by the the superior Italian painter Caravaggio, in the same Galeri 3A. The number of visitors then were the usual, i.e. less than 10 persons in a single gallery, including tourists. Queuing up to look at La Gioconda – whose back-lit eyes do not follow this observer – I found the atmosphere pleasantly joyful. Guided tours in Bahasa Malaysia. Observers quoting Dan Brown while comparing Virgin of the Rocks. Baffled onlookers gazing intently at da Vinci's left-handed mirror writings. Who said Malaysians are not interested in art? A different question: are these light boxes, art

Famous Renaissance Man aside, the marketing campaign worked, regardless of WhatsApp group chat misconceptions that the real Mona Lisa was on display. Free entry (and free parking). Fully air-cond…

Catalogue Essay: Merdeka, The Lonesome Club, May 2019

Art KL-itique 2018 Look Back

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There were a dozen 2018 art exhibitions that I would have liked to write about in-depth. But the impetus to document observations about local visual arts has waned significantly, as my interest shifts (again) towards philosophy & aesthetics. It is fitting then, that this shift is triggered by a show itself – Games and Politics at Lostgens’ in May 2018. Organized by the Goethe-Institut, this interactive exhibition of political games, offered a level of visitor engagement that the typical contemporary artist can only yearn for. Its exhibition catalogue includes many insightful essays, which eventually led me to learn more about game mechanics & rules-modding, game designer Ian Bogost and media & cultural studies, then I ended up reading about object-oriented ontology, which then led me back to Plato’s forms, Hume’s copy, Schopenhauer's sublime, Deleuze’ differences… (my brain is fudgy now).

Politics is a valid source of inspiration for art-making, yet it is expected tha…

Snippets: November 2018 (Downstairs, Upstairs, Abstracts)

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Cult Gallery organized “Halal Haram”, a fundraising show that features a stellar line-up of 26 Malaysian artists. Many exhibits resonate with the chosen theme – from Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail’s ceramic cake adorned with a skull and flowers, to Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s faceless portrait of one in heels & kebaya holding a whip, to Chong Siew Ying’s delightful painting ‘Ceci Nest Pas Un Rambutan’ – each work effectively draws upon a familiar image as a starting point, thereby visually triggering viewers to contemplate on social norms. Striking also is ‘Kipas’ by Yee I-Lann, a bamboo weave made together with Julitah binti Kulinting, that features a cultural motif, paired with a flat black silhouette. One imagines the lively yet serious atmosphere while the weaving is worked on, underneath the breeze of a creaking ceiling fan, where the winds of change follows the rhythm of community. A rump in the lull, hah…
A post shared by Cult Gallery (@cult_gallery) on Nov 17, 2018 at 1:55am PST
After v…