November 2013 @ NVAG

After the momentary highlight of appreciating modern Malaysian artists (permanent exhibition hopeful), a stop over at the National Visual Arts Gallery rekindled the routine disappointment felt in previous visits. Artworks shortlisted for the Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries Award) 2013, display an alarming lack of originality, notably among established artists like Samsudin Wahab's frozen meat and Ali Bebit's talking lips. Sloppily made video art submissions bore within the first minute, the exception being Fuad Arif's atmospheric meditation of God's name, a relevant exhortation amidst the ongoing Allah controversy. Nonsensical constructs range from a giant shuttlecock to a football field, as artists struggle to impress in an intelligent or artful manner. Some exhibits transported sand into the gallery space to recall beach memories, a move as dull and uninspiring as an old cupboard displayed.

BMS '13 hopeful: Yim Yen Sum - Where I Come From II (2013)

Unable to identify the artist without a label, the saving grace on the top floor belongs to an urban scene designed from old electronic appliances, its thoughtful construction a commendable trait pertinent also to Shahariah Roshdi's fungi laboratory. Environmental concerns are highlighted in Annabelle Ng's dead flowers, while Yim Yen Sum's fabric dogs display a charming aesthetic that finally break away from the incessant statement-making on show. At the same time, the institution's priorities are seriously brought into question one floor below, where a solo exhibition is allotted to young Paris-based painter Ken Yang. Portraits of Malaysian royalty lack personality, while celebrities pose as nationalist stereotypes; The gentlemen's accessories and daguerreotypes proved more interesting. This antiquated and deferential bias sets NVAG back, as its contribution to the local visual arts scene fade into obscurity.

Antiquated: Photograph of Ken Yang in Paris with 'The Three Graces (1Malaysia)' on the left