31 January 2013

Essence, Element & New Drawings @ TJ Fine Arts

Pleasantly serene SoHo unit occupied by the prolific Tajuddin Ismail, showcased works by 3 of his former students.  TJ was kind enough to show me around his studio and some of his works - I thought the circular pieces were something special and a tribute to classical art, although a bit pricey.

Tajuddin Ismail - Synergy: Unity & Diversity (2007)

Wong Siew Lee's "Wind" series successfully convey the feelings of airiness, lightness, and quickness of its theme.  The colours are controlled despite the swirls, and the slushes of white complete each drawing, especially apparent in the lovely triptych 'Wind over the Horizon'.

Wong Siew Lee - Wind over the Horizon (2012)

Chor Shyminn's unique use of thread as an illustration medium was interesting, but I was particularly drawn to 'Recurring Dream (I)'.  Doodles of a hooded figure and the painting's background, united by different shades & strokes of blue, portray a dilemma that seemed deeply personal - a self-serving question that is exhilarating in its search but looping without an end in sight.  Fine little exhibition and hope these ladies will continue drawing!

Chor Shyminn - Recurring Dream I (2012)

30 January 2013

Kuasa, Harapan dan Tanah @ NVAG

Held in conjunction with our 55th national day, the "Power/Hope/Earth" exhibition by NVAG was always in danger of being overtly political, since elections are nearing.  It did not help that the first wall to the left was covered with Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman's '48' series. The artist's trademark satire of colourful but ugly figures, coupled with politician comments, brought smiles to my face, but also a weariness to this country's political climate.  Wong Siew Lee's 'Reformasi' series, reminiscent of Goya's 'Los Caprichos' etchings, did not help lessen the dreary feeling of Power hanging over this exhibition.

Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman - Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (2005

There were a number of masterpieces hung, beginning with Zulkifli Dahalan's 'Realiti Berasingan – Satu Hari di Bumi Larangan'.  The delightfully drawn naked men, going around their business in open roof houses, suggests a Malaysian landscape devoid of morality & reason.  It is visually flat and society exists simply because humankind are herd-like by nature.  I see the work as the Malaysian equivalent of Bosch's 'The Garden of Early Delights', a simpler but equally potent expression of the local non-conformist daydreaming of an alternate reality.

Wong Hoy Cheong - She Was married At 14 And She Had 14 Children (1994)

The one that took my breath away, and made me shed a tear, was Wong Hoy Cheong's sublime 'She Was married At 14 And She Had 14 Children'.  Literal, obvious, and beautiful - the stylistic representation of the immigrant worker and her hard life, made me reflect on my ancestry, grasping at my roots where the Earth is.  A pleasant surprise was Ibrahim Hussein's 'Kekecohan' - no lines! yet the combination of form & colour in a confined space, expressed clearly the ongoing struggles happening within.  Truly masterful painting depicting an almost resentful tension, that is different from the graceful, flowing strokes, seen in the artist's more celebrated works.

Ibrahim Hussein - Kekecohan (1969)

A couple of Suhaimi Fadzir's installations juxtaposes the Malaysian and American flags, their fathers of independence, and the perceived opposing political ideology.  The white pile of tools/junk present a burden to each country, unified by the barb wire and empty canisters separating the viewer from the burden.  The dramatic aesthetic is a powerful one, where the heaviness of a concept as idealised as Country is successfully presented.

Suhami Fadzir - Merdeka 1957

Special mention goes to the toilet washbasin/mirror installation facing the visitor as one enters the exhibition space.  I did not note down the artist, but the installation with its mosaic tiles and framed mirrors, did invoke a sense of nostalgia that is wholly Malaysian.  Maybe there is Hope after all.

Wong Siew Lee - Is the Game Over? (2005)

28 January 2013

Snippets: 1H 2012

Got hold of it in 2012 (and subsequently gave away as a birthday present) - a Pudu map done by the artists collective that was recently active around Jalan Sultan.  They did a similar map for the Petaling Street area, but I prefer this one as it has more historical jottings.  The accompanying sketches of the window sill, frame, and grille designs, are a wonderful way to preserve cultural heritage, as we face the looming reality of "re-development".


Spotted this shop in my only time visiting Viva Home Mall - Kraftee Bee lets the customer decorate items with mosaic tiles.  Hung beside the counter is this amazing (albeit poor quality snapshot below) A3-sized replica of Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers', which the owner claimed to be a work of a student, and that he was willing to part with it for RM 1,200.  I said no, but I will be visiting the shop in the future if I have kids...


Took our pre-wedding photos at Sekeping Tenggiri, a refurbished back-to-nature space right next to Ng Sek San's art repository.  The room we stayed in had a beautiful red & yellow figurative painting, which I have no idea who the artist is.  To those who knows, appreciate yourself to enlighten me.


I was lucky enough to be staying very near to the best expresso-based coffee place in KL, Artisan Roast Coffee TTDI.  These drawings hung above the counter and one day I finally got to meet the artist Raja Azeem, whom is also a coffee junkie, and he showed me some great sketches which you can see on his FB page.

26 January 2013

Serangga @ Sasana Kijang

A building in the middle of the original KL green lung, a simple well-lit space.  Just the right atmosphere to have an exhibition for Malaysia's national treasure Latiff Mohidin, now famous for the wrong reason due to  the recent popularity of art auctions.

Serangga 25 (2012)

The praying mantis on the leaflet was an eye-catcher, along with the typeface for the exhibition.  But nothing prepared me for the textural delights on display, where handmade Tibetan paper played a big part to create the raw but natural aesthetic.  The colours and shapes are entirely Latiff's, but the paper brought out a depth in drawing, not unlike a wise sage who decided to draw a lifetime of observation on a rock wall in a cave.

Serangga 18 (2012)

'Serangga 9' looks like a south east Asian design where Bali meets wayang kulit, but a longer gaze reminded me of a kampong scenario - yellow light emitting from the house porch behind, long shadows drawn out in front, a half-lit torchlight in hand, squinting to catch a glimpse of those pesky creatures hiding in the bushes. 'Serangga 18' on the other hand is an obvious magnified body of an insect, but the rough lines and colour strokes reminded me of God's gift of life, and not the pests which us city folk tend to wave away as a first reaction.

Serangga 9 (2012)

'Serangga 25' will easily remind anyone about Pago-pago, and there were some obvious motives of bug-eyes, legs, and colours of dread to invoke a shallow fear.  But the best works in this exhibition are the understated pieces, where a moment of reflection is necessary - if God created insects before Man, and insects have lived longer than Man, what does that say about us?

Serangga 3 (2012)

25 January 2013

Kembara Jiwa Homecoming @ Galeri Chandan

Two black & white works by Juhari Said and Yee I-Lann flank the entrance, hardly catchy at first glance. Juhari's 'Dalmatian' is a woodblock print, and I-Lann's 'Dear Cousin' is batik on silk. These quirky subjects and its contents held my gaze longer, than Ramlan Abdullah's signature aluminium ball hanging in the middle. Animals feature heavily with a tiger and a sting-ray in two paintings - but the sculptural pieces of Umibaizurah Mahir's 'I'm Not A Dog', and Daud Rahim's 'Ikan', are the more attractive binatangs in comparison. I imagine a future toxic planet, where the colourful bulldog cannot bark through its gas mask, and a large goldfish fossilised in metal.

Umibaizurah Mahir - I'm Not A Dog (2012)

Friendship, hardship, and Malaysians' love for fried chicken fast food chains, is illustrated delightfully in Anurendra Jegadeva's 'Best Friends Forever'. I felt almost patriotic, and wonder if this work was done during Merdeka celebrations. The well-drawn figures of Bayu Utomo Radjikin and Jalaini Abu Hassan were also on display, where the former's lone blue eye and the latter's bloody whip marks, were sufficient to convey the meaning of their respective painting titles. The words inscribed onto both paintings were a superfluous distraction, deterring the appreciation of the strong visual impact of the characters themselves.

Anurendra Jegadeva - Best Friends Forever (2012)

Welcome drops of blue drip cover Hamidi Hadi's 'Blood Disorder', a morbid representation of the artist's style with its long trails of industrial paint. The more pleasant surprise was 'Keras', a masterpiece hiding in a small room in this small gallery. Hamidi constructed the frame with a metallic stud motif, that is repeated across the work with a textured and active flow of red paint. A mesmerizing piece with expert handling of industrial materials.

Hamidi Hadi - Keras (2012)

An outstanding collection works overall which showcases some of Malaysia's best contemporary artists and their respective trademark styles. A pity that the Chong Ai Lei was not displayed, but much kudos to Galeri Chandan for undertaking this effort to bring local works to an international audience via the Kembara Jiwa travelling shows.

Jalaini Abu Hassan - Cakap-cakap Belakang (2012)

24 January 2013

The Local Aesthetic

In one of the busiest stretches of my life, I seeked out a number of quiet spots in the middle of the city, where I re-discovered a lifelong interest - Art.  Despite having spent many hours in some of the world's most famous art galleries, I knew next to nothing about the visual arts scene in Malaysia.

The first exhibition which piqued my interest was Hamidi Hadi's "Antara" at Wei-Ling Contemporary, conveniently located right next to my office block.  After visiting a number of galleries around town over the past few months, Hamidi remains my favourite Malaysian artist, whose work is also my first ever purchase of a contemporary art work.

The second event that sparked me to go on a KL art gallery visiting run, was the release of the Narratives in Malaysia series, which gave me a good introduction to Malaysian visual arts.  Highly recommended for an entry-level introduction to Malaysian art and its history.

A higher aspiration is that by recording my thoughts on certain artwork here, that it can continue to help me reflect on my own values, and the reasons behind my preferred aesthetic.

Hamidi Hadi - How Amazing If I Could Fly (2011)