21 March 2014

19th Rimbun Dahan Visual Arts Residency Exhibition @ Rimbun Dahan

More disruption ensues at Rimbun Dahan, where resident artist Sabri Idrus exhibits paintings and circular pieces in "Disruptive Nature", while Australian counterparts Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro combines Lego animals with Ikea furniture in "Habitat". Displacement and its semiotics provide the unifying theme, although Sabri's output is more site-specific. Descending the staircase, one is greeted by a disk-shaped construct hung above the ground, its side broken and crudely taped in black. With its centre ring painted white, ‘Rama’ mimics the thick lines and right angles of the adjacent painting ‘Avenue’, which depicts ascending steps. Next in view is a colourful dolphin embedded within a towel rack, peeking around the wall corner. This delightful turn of artfulness sets off a leisurely mood, yet one is fully mindful of art’s inconsequence, when relating to the wilderness above ground.

Foreground: Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro - Bedroom 3, Baby Room - Lion (2014)
Background: Sabri Idrus - Lit (2014)

Beginning with a coloured canvas, Sabri layers plaster onto his paintings, then scrapes off shapes to expose the underlying space. Plant silhouettes and bits of dried leaves fill tactile surfaces, as cracked paint reveal an attempt to demonstrate a conjectural way of seeing. Primed backing provides luminescence to dark backgrounds, underlying the fact that we perceive darkness as a loss of light. Distillation of light’s properties is evident through the tinted lens of ‘White & Blue’, and the golden circle in ‘Missing’. Scraped or painted lines that illuminate forms, such as in ‘Sheltered’ or ‘Lit’, inject depth onto flat surfaces. Combining both concepts is ‘Platform’, a grid pattern extending away from the viewer like an awning. Rust colours augment the atmosphere, its splattered dots of ochre mimicking raindrops. These works document reactions to his working environment, Rimbun Dahan's shady trees and serene architecture acting as everyday visual stimuli.

Sabri Idrus - Platform (2013)

In front of Sabri’s curving "Panorama", stands a Lego penguin attached to an Ikea reading chair. Such quirky amalgamations transform the gallery into a fun yet contemplative zoo. Colourful plastic and sleek design signify the ideals of middle-class living, these mass-produced goods staring back at the viewer to ask, “Who’s trapped now?” Essayist Very Mey writes that, "(h)ordes of people wander in a procession down (IKEA's) aisles, looking at what flat pack lives are on offer for their kitset living in the kitset happiness of their kitset culture." Exemplifying this preposterous imported lifestyle is ‘Breakfast Bar/Kitchen – Chimpanzee’, where the monkey and a fake palm denote the tropics, or an unfulfilled yearning for it. Claire+Sean lampoons the influence of interior design magazines, where a minimalist look is mocked up via ‘Hallway/Rear Entrance – Snake’, its candy-coloured dots augmenting an undeniably attractive fa├žade.

Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro - Breakfast Bar/Kitchen – Chimpanzee (2014)

Striking creations mask a snide comment on the displacement of aesthetic ideals, its cynicism further pronounced with the reference to (perceived) intelligent creatures. Interior spaces stated in the artwork titles, provide the context for Claire+Sean’s wild animals, which can be freely associated to a various topics. For example, casual audience may relate a lion to Simba (Disney cartoon), a dolphin to continental shelf (wordplay), or a penguin to classic books (brand identity). More obvious is ‘Garage/Tool Shed – Doe’, a superb juxtaposition that holds both corporation and consumer to be responsible for the destruction of natural habitats. Its smooth planes of pale birch contrast dramatically, with the raw, exposed, wooden texture on Sabri’s ‘Rusa’. The Malaysian’s circular pieces consist of three rings with an increasing diameter, each one manifesting properties of an insect or animal, condensed into the mythical perfect circle.

Foreground: Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro - Garage/Tool Shed – Doe (2014)
Background: Sabri Idus - Lipan (2014) [right]; "Window" series (2014) [left]

Pieces like ‘Lipan’, bounded by copper wire, or ‘Canggai’, with its turquoise patina, look out of place in an indoor setting. These annular constructs stake claims of space, its recycled composition reminding one of what therein came before. The catalogue cover shows ‘Kunang’ leaning on a tree, looking utterly natural despite its soft LED glimmer. In the middle unsheltered area, the rotating piece brings to mind a futuristic sundial, but not a demonstration of pure forms. A better example is 'Statuary', where deep recesses are carved into thick orange paint. Claire+Sean also plays with materials and its symbolic meanings, such as placing an empty cup & saucer on the lower shelf of ‘Upstairs Living Room – Tortoise’. Both resident artists successfully portray displacement in their respective visual identities, expressing palpable concepts regardless of the artwork's material, be it store-bought toys and furniture, or found objects and manufactured decay.

Sabri Idrus - White & Blue (2014)

As the last residency exhibition of its kind, the exchange of ideas and natural stimuli Rimbun Dahan provides, will be greatly missed. Instilling confidence in the participating artists is an overlooked boon, when Sabri confidently announces that he is a biennale artist on BFM, taking after Claire+Sean whom represented Australia at Venice last year. Such high expectations can hopefully be fulfilled by this experimental artist, whose work is summarised brilliantly by Hafiz Amirrol in a dense essay. "Though the works here were developed from the basic logic of flat Euclidean geometry, coupled with other systematic rules of architectonic principles, their primary objective is to represent pure, non-empirical concepts, which are associated with a sense impression, produced by the imagination in relation to time." The methodical exploration of truth allows for the disruption of intuitive perceptions, and that is what I believe.

Surface textures on Sabri Idrus' works: Cracked paint, dried leaves, patinated copper, wood carving, exposed canvas

**Repeated on this web log's wallpaper is a close-up of Sabri Idrus - Sheltered (2013)

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