23 February 2014

Simulations @ White Box

Retiree Kamal Mustafa conflates moving images and canvas painting in his coming out as a fine artist, whose compositions reflect a career behind the camera. Like a spectral spectator, the former director leads us through a netherworld of ear-y (pardon the pun) passages, occasionally taking refuge in spaces with personal images. Alighting steps towards the contemporary world, the phantom observes portly emperors and kingmakers from behind, then proceeds past the current sphere into higher and alternate dimensions. Cinematographic detachment is detected in the blurring which exists across the exhibits, where neon colours intermingle with earthy textures to surprisingly great effect. Evident in both "Archivist" paintings, such colour combinations and an unforgettable image mask scrawling lines, while a painted pinkish drip and black spiral staircase firmly anchor the viewer's perspective.

Parallel Universe Red (2013)

The artist observes acutely, that "(t)he ear is often ignored in visual art. Maybe because it’s just an appendage..." It is amusing that songs croon about "your beautiful eyes" and "blinded to my love", but no visual expressions celebrate the physical ear. Kamal's symbolic usage of this bizarrely-shaped organ, is an ingenious approach that comments on our aural faculties and the everyday overload of sensory reception. The depicted accumulation of ears are flat and generally crude, seemingly generated via computer manipulation on a particular picture plane. In 'His Master's Voice', the coloured presentation breaks away from the muted palette, where one hears the hellish sounds coming from A Bigot's Ballad vinyl record. Another laudable method is the cut-out recess, manifest in the naked rump drawn on an underlying canvas in 'The Hearing', literally rendering the peeing figure as the butt of a dirty joke.

The Hearing (2010)

'Hear, Hearsay, Hereafter' takes this approach one layer deeper, setting the scene for a multilayered reality which concept is effectively explicated in Kamal's follow-on hybrid works. Ear-y colonies linger above and below a ruinous indoor structure, as one cut-out casement opens up a refreshing window to the blue sky/alternate universe. Among the catalogue essays, Alexandra Tan investigates the "metaphorical implications" behind the ear motif, a (deliberate?) interpretation of symbols that plays into Rehman Rashid's turgid references to Jean Baudrillard and the postmodern condition. Nur Hanim Khairuddin's compendious analysis then states "...(Kamal's) wishes to bring alive dialogue on the dichotomy between reality and virtuality." In actuality, his extended works simply juxtapose static versus movement, which successful examples prove potent in defining verisimilitude within the French thinker's simulacra theory.

Hear, Hearsay, Hereafter (2010)

Growing up with the idiot box and now stuck in the age of the moronic plate, one's eyes are immediately drawn to the two screens embedded within 'Staying Alive', despite the brightly-coloured illustrations and detailed monochromatic prints surrounding it. This act proves the lived experience and demonstration of hyperreality, which Baudrillard described in his translated text Simulations: "...(that) mass media produce a "narcotized", "mesmerized" consciousness of a passive immersion in a spectacle of simulated images." Supposedly the first attempt at combining video and painting, this artwork triumphs over subsequent projections by virtue of its straightforwardness. 'Labyrinth' rotates a medley of symbols which ultimately leads nowhere, a perfect encapsulation of its caption "Pi mai pi mai tang tu". Another exercise in personal exorcism is 'Girl from Ouarzazate', where an indelible countenance is memorialised.

Staying Alive (2012)

For an exhibition featuring many ears, sound only plays a significant role in few works. 'Parallel Universe Red' presents organic depictions of alternate modes, its soft music ushering one into a beguiling escapism. Beginning with the strident melody of a serunai and ending with the plocking beats of a gendang, disparate outlines of moving figurines converge into a sociopolitical commentary, within the multi-panel 'Halfpastsix Reflections'. Exhibited also are printed captures of these hybrid works, an opportunity for local collectors to acknowledge their support of a medium they find inconvenient to collect. Art fund-turned-organiser Fergana banks in on Kamal's established reputation and its hype-generating publicity campaign, nearly selling out by opening day. From the exhibition sales made, is it possible to infer that sign value dominates over exchange value and use value? Is this scenario a simulation of Baudrillard's simulacra?

Set of 9 prints (A/P + 5 editions) for Labyrinth (2012)

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