28 June 2013

Forms of Void @ Richard Koh Fine Art

I do not know Saiful Razman.  I do not know who decided the hanging configuration at RKFA's Bangsar Village gallery. I do not know what the blue means.  I do not know whether he has seen Avery Preesman's work at the Stedelijk Museum.  I do not know if horizontal bands spell comfort and structure to the artist.  I have not seen the Pelan-Pelan / Bilik Gerakan and Pelan Cap works in person.  I do now know why the move away from socio-political visual containers.  I do not know whether the titles in the "Forms of Void" series mean anything.  But I know while viewing Saiful Razman's works from Numbers one to eleven, I discovered a whole range of emotions that are as penetrating as it is fleeting.

Number 3 (2013)

The void is first seen on the catalogue cover, the deep blue of 'Number 5', a liquid sea of calm rippling with white horizontal stripes that draw the viewer in, not unlike Barnett Newman's zips.  This mysterious blue is present as the painting background throughout the series, defining the void as an underlying deep emotional state, or an unconscious spiritual landscape.  All paintings attempt to cover up this void, beginning with the ferns & fire of 'Number 1', then the colour bands of 'Number 2'.  These landscapes retain its figurative source, while attempting to break away from, the formality of a six by six feet canvas.

Number 4 (2013)

In 'Number 3', Saiful attempts a hopeful and literal depiction of the void, where a black smog overlays a shimmery turquoise, alluding to an unseen drama of being adrift in the night sea.  Formalism gives way to exuberant strokes in 'Number 4', denoting a shift of mood from an experimental struggle to a new enthusiasm.  Varying shades and bold strokes of colour are juxtaposed, resulting in a joyful painting that celebrates life.  Small patches of the blue background remain visible, and just like entering a car alone after a sprightly party, the deep dark void of '5' consumes the self in a melancholic instance.

Number 5 (2013)

'Number 7' presents short strokes of red & blue, a return to form after the indecisive scribbles of 'Number 6'.  Akin to the magnified impressions of a watery surface, '7' recalls Hoe Say Young's works in its tranquillity, but the horizontal forms belong to Saiful.  Perhaps, these strokes refer to the grid structures of the "Pelan-Pelan" series, posing a peaceful familiarity to the artist in his drawing process.

Number 7 (2013)

Ideas converge haphazardly in the large triptych 'Number 8', covered with multiple layers and broad strokes of colour that threaten to destroy the canvases.  Thankfully, the gloriously painted central axis implies a central column, a pillar that ties the disparate colours together.  Special mention goes to the twisting brush strokes at the bottom, a beautiful visual symbol of entanglement and frustration, which summarises the mood that permeates this work.  Nuances of a mournful feeling return in Numbers '9' and '10', where uneven black strokes fade into despair, illustrating a blurry dream and a dark wall respectively, that mask the real void.

Number 8 (2013)

'Number 11' represents an optimistic world view, that man cannot despair for too long, and everything is OK after a good night's sleep.  Life continues on in a vivacious manner, as golden swathes and confident swirls share the pictorial space.  In its temporal linearity, "Forms of Void" conveys a short duration of a person's feelings, its paintings interspersed with bursts of emotional states.  These intriguing works mark a successful return to the canvas, amidst many a socio-political commentary in his oeuvre.  A time for the artist to divulge his true emotions, and interrogate his deepest painterly thoughts.  Will he follow on this series towards a deeper abstract approach?  Are there deeper voids to explore?  I do not know Saiful Razman, but I doubt it.

Number 11 (2013)

26 June 2013

Jiwa @ Segaris

Browsing through a gallery occupied with aluminium sculptures, up-cycled parts, and skeletal paintings, can be a touch overwhelming.  However, Daud Rahim's works consistently present an irony that is difficult to ignore, a reminder that we are never that far away or different from these living beings, also creations of God.  Humankind's obsession with harvesting natural resources, to build mechanical machines, are only as primitive as the natural functions that many animals already possess.

24 June 2013

Modern and Contemporary Malaysian Art Auction Preview @ The Edge Galerie

Riding the auction bandwagon is business newspaper The Edge, where a small selection of 33 Malaysian works (with the exception of a Chen Wen Hsi) go under the hammer.  Figurative portraits form the majority, including 2 lots of dancing Balinese girls - a colourful and joyful rendition by Tay Mo Leong, and Ahmad Zakii Anwar's realist illustrations garbed in sumptuous gold, against a black background.  Khoo Sui Hoe's 'Figure with a Bird' stands out in its classical beauty, where simple lines accentuate a verticality that contrasts with the parallel diagonals of a flying bird and a right arm, which draws attention to the figure's impartial face.

Khoo Sui Hoe - Figure with a Bird (1967)

Penang hyper realists Cheah Ewe Hoon and Yeong Seak Ling project their respective composition skills onto empirical observations.  'The Woodpecker' by the former depicts a close-up forest scene with leaves strategically lighted, not too bright or dark to identify the creature, as if through the eyes of a birdwatcher.  One does not get tired looking at the exquisite details in the latter's "Kampung Life" series, from sarong to wood grain to the distant palm trees, Seak Ling's virtuoso execution leaves me speechless at times.  More goodness from the north can be admired in Tan Choon Ghee's oil painting, an impressionist rendition that features turquoise shadows and dark olive tree trunks.  

Cheah Ewe Hoon - The Woodpecker (1998)

Peter Liew's impasto for a similar theme provides an interesting contrast, where thick brush strokes and strong colours create an impression even more fleeting than Choon Ghee's.  'The Plough', a distant night landscape by Jolly Koh, presents a beautiful and serene calm amongst its abstraction.  Kok Yew Puah's 'Camera View of Two Tourists in A Malaysian Town' is a clever take on the concept of tourist, a contemporary approach more delightful than Samsudin Wahab's morbid commentary on a murder case.  Quality over quantity in an auction catalogue is not that much to ask for, and The Edge delivers in this aspect, albeit the relatively few works on offer.

Kok Yew Puah - Camera View of Two Tourists in A Malaysian Town (1995)

22 June 2013

Pulse: Foreign / Masterpieces

Having seen thousands of artworks over 3 weeks, I feel enlightened but equally exhausted just trying to filter through the strong sentiments, gathered from (re)visiting a few cities and their museums / galleries.  An especially sobering moment came before my return flight, when I stepped foot into the Malaysian Airlines lounge at Heathrow, and see a couple of Ismail Mat Hussin's batik works depicting kampong life.  "Is this the best we can come up with?" was the impulsive thought, but upon sitting down I knew my expectations was an unrealistic one.

Zhong Zhengchuan - Peace, 无争

Indonesian art auctioneer Masterpiece made its Malaysian début during my sojourn, amassing an astounding 160 works for sale.  Malaysian paintings form the majority in this catalogue, with significant holdings of Penang-based artists, Chinese ink scrolls, and two delightful bronze sculptures by Heng Eow Lin.  Securing a remarkable sales rate of 98%, including the high-priced works of deceased artists Ibrahim Hussein, Hendra Gunawan and Lee Man Fong, there is no doubt Masterpiece will make its return to our shores.

Ng Bee - Forest (2010)

15 June 2013

Up! @ Taksu

"Up!" capitalises on upcoming local artists, a few whom recently participated in House of Matahati exhibitions.  Each artist presents two works, with the exception of the relatively senior Najib Ahmad Bamadhaj, who contributed a pop-art painting in his signature stencil style.  Ed Roger takes advantage of this quota to create two large atlases made from computer keyboards, one with a black land mass and the other white. The flimsiness of this installation (some letters are falling out) only adds onto the social commentary, a reflection of our livelihood in this global, digitalised, and idealogical world.

Sabihis - Kingdom of Humanity (2013)

Another great depiction of duality is a woodcut and its adjoining print by Sabihis, manipulating binaries with thoughtfully incised lines.  Triangular motifs form the central figure's reptilian skin, where Liliputian figures scurry around this divine character. Seah Zelin's 'Rise' includes a welcome injection of crimson, perhaps a hint on his future development.  "Up!" serves up the opportunity for curator, artist, and collector alike, to convene on a makeshift platform before trudging on, towards the inexorable search for the next big thing.

Seah Zelin - Rise (2013)

07 June 2013

Recess: Honeymoon

Not in Kuala Lumpur, but plenty of art awaits.

Travel guide Tan Choon Ghee