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)