Bersama @ Sasana Kijang

Outstanding artworks absorb the viewer in "Bersama", a diplomatic exhibition that attempts to "explore the relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia". Beginning with portraiture as academic art, Hoessein Enas' works remain inferior when compared to his idol Basoeki Abdullah, whose sliver of blue injects vigour not seen in Hossein's rigid figures. Another Indonesian AD Pirous is recognised as a pioneer in melding abstraction with Koranic calligraphy, although such approach has been utilised by Syed Ahmad Jamal since a decade earlier, whose 'Chairil Anwar' is a fine example that pays homage to the famous poet. Nearby, vibrant lines and local colours overlap in the delightful 'Kaligrafi Pohon Hayat' by Siti Zainon Ismail. Her whimsical illustrations are shown together with performance artist Arahmaiani's sketches, whose paintings of analytical dimensions and words project a stunted narrative.

Chang Fee Ming - Caressed by the Moon (2000)

From his daughter's collection and incredibly personal, Ibrahim Hussein's 'He Says' depicts reverse-printed graphics and stencilled conversations around a smiling self-portrait. Characteristic lines bloom and extend across the canvas, where superimposed words evoke redolent scenes. Its muted palette with red highlights draw visual interest, while the artist's white shirt represents a pronounced contrast with the overlapping mess at the left. Such unconventional beauty on a flat canvas outshines the photo-realist paintings of Ahmad Zakii Anwar and Chang Fee Ming, whose exquisite technical skills and dramatic compositions illustrate framed observations. Delineation of Jakarta's seedy back lanes echo urban loneliness in the former, while the latter traces a rustic Balinese culture through its fabric patterns. These loan contributions from notable private collectors signify an aspect of institutional curating which NVAG lacks.

Ahmad Zakii Anwar - Kota Sunyi 4 (2006)

Nanyang romanticism is interrupted in Ahmad Fuad Osman's 'Untitled (Zain)', where a local boy contemplates the many masks encountered in reality and from television, the pastoral background threatened by an inundation of foreign influences. Making an appearance is the heavily-promoted but missing artwork from Art Expo 2013, 'Leap of Faith' coming across as intentionally mystifying. Matahati comrade Masnoor Ramli Mahmud questions boundaries in 'Dua Daerah' and 'Bukan Milik Kita'; However, it is the cluster of small drawings that captivate with lively captures of local culture. Recording signboards, patterns, and other miscellaneous objects that piqued his curiosity, Masnoor's documented travelogue delves into the simple joys of travelling. Refreshing while it last, eye-opening experiences outside our community immediately enrich a temporal pursuit of human truths.

Masnoor Ramli Mahmud - Perjalanan II (2007)

As compared to the immediate observations of others, Nadiah Bamadhaj's works explore history as a subject matter and mode of expression, her circumstance qualifying her to be the best representative in this exhibition. Employing multilayered strips of paper, her wonderful charcoal collages objectifies a monochromatic centrepiece. A masked bird hangs on a lone branch, a female head doubles as a door bell, and an aluminium roof balances upon a squatting pair of legs. These surreal images depict the stark reality of a conscious people concealed behind fear and oppression. Poetic and sensitive, these portrayals echo the tense relationship between two countries who share more similarities than either would acknowledge. Nevertheless, "Bersama'" exhibits intensely personal artworks to trace a subjective link, a triumph of great curation in the leafy confines of Kuala Lumpur.

Nadiah Bamadhaj - The Doctor (2012)

"Kalau sampai waktuku, 'Ku mau tak seorang kan merayu, Tidak juga kau
Tak perlu sedu sedan itu
Aku ini binatang jalang, Dari kumpulannya terbuang
Biar peluru menembus kulitku, Aku tetap meradang menerjang
Luka dan bisa kubawa berlari, Berlari, Hingga hingga pedeh peri
Dan aku akan lebih tidak peduli
Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi"
- Aku, Chairil Anwar (Maret 1943)

Ibrahim Hussein - He Says (1986)