Portraiture has taken many forms in its long history – as a self-aggrandising object commissioned by the noble class, as a realistic portrayal of secular subjects, and as a self-expression for the artist’s inner state of mind. An extension of figurative art, this action to immortalise oneself remains a popular choice for artists, to render both literal likeness and inner essence within the human subject. Hence it is curious to discover what is defined as ‘beyond portraiture’, the subtitle behind the Jalaini Abu Hassan-curated “MukaKata”
|Gan Chin Lee - Lebuh Pudu (2013)|
Two large paintings by Jai feature a stern-looking Malay man in a striped purple sarong
, one facing the viewer holding a pair of garden shears, the other with his back turned and a pistol in hand. The former portrait is incised within a garden-motif wallpaper that covers the canvas, while a black & white traditional Malay house is rendered in detail behind the latter portrait. A simmering undertone of abomination pervades these works, where the Malay man struggles with tradition and urbanity, a consistent theme in the artist's pop-figurative works.
|Jalaini Abu Hassan - Hang Kebun (2013)|
The curator is also the portrait subject for established figurative artists Chong Siew Ying and Kow Leong Kiang. Perhaps working towards a deadline, both paintings fail to depict a deeper sense of Jai's personality or state of mind, which is a pity as I suspect both artists are well-acquainted with the sitter. Azman Yusof's 'Serenade' illustrates a young couple, an informal and simple drawing that departs from the artist's official role as a painter of royal subjects. The standing stainless steel blocks of Ramlan Abdullah are intentionally dented, serving as a distorted mirror to its viewer, its oddity magnified where exhibited amongst paintings.
|Azman Yusof - Serenade (2013)|
In Anurendra Jegadeva's works, found objects are put together to form romantic narratives, such as for one Burmese monk in 'The Third Estate'. Utilising items like Air KBZ (Myanmar) envelopes with Chinese paper cutting, this artwork demonstrates the resourcefulness of its artist without compromising on its aesthetic. Contemporary expression of portraiture has moved away from a historical emphasis on human anatomy (e.g. depicting emotion via manipulating the eyebrow), which is evident in this exhibition. Leaving the gallery thinking of certain works yet still confounded by the subtitle, I concur with Alexandra Tan's review in The Edge
that "...such curatorial direction and discursive intent should be appreciated".
|Anurendra Jegadeva - The Third Estate (2013)|
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