13 February 2014

Last Few Days Still Here, But Right Now No More

The more one knows about the subject, the more likely one gets drawn into its politics. Worse yet, Facebook activism. I admire Cheng Yen Pheng’s output in the past few years, where she utilises inflated balloons as symbols of chauvinist power. Nothing new, but a concept worth exploring beyond the boundaries of a painted canvas. However, art can evoke powerful emotions, especially the heart-wrenching and repetitive wails of “This my painting, last few days still here, but right now no more!” Once again the National Visual Arts Gallery (NVAG) demonstrates a lack of critical thinking, as they removed Yen Pheng's work without her knowledge on opening day of the Bakat Muda Sezaman competition, her painting labelled as sensitive. A Malay political slogan is liken to an English idiom about death, its spray painted graffiti denoting a rebellious expression from society's underbelly.

Here it is: Cheng Yen Pheng - alksnaabknuaunmo (2013)

Yen Pheng's recorded response was genuine and impassioned, a personal trait already evident in her interview session with the competition's judges. That video provided interesting insight, where a group of art experts spend 30 minutes to judge the artist. Although the judges may have been sincere, NVAG undoes the good work within a single gesture, not surprising considering its prior announcement about disposing uncollected artworks by artists. Symptomatic of the nation's problems with patriarchal hierarchy and inability to act on constructive feedback, this fiasco shows that the local visual arts scene is truly a microcosm of (Peninsula) Malaysia, where a supposedly thriving marketplace belie bickering between social classes and defensive attitudes. This incident clouds Fuad Arif's deserving win, as one hopes the artist will expand on his potential upon completion of the gifted residency.

"This Is My Work. Does Anyone Know Why It Has Been Taken Down?!'"

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