15 March 2014

Art Trio @ Curate

Befitting the art collector stereotype, high quality works by prominent Malaysian artists are accumulated by supremos in the local financial sector, where a selection is exhibited at a luxury condominium. The catalogue essay’s ballyhooed exultation and two-sentence summaries of the artists shown, provide the juvenile bait to prospective bidders, as organiser Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers gears up for its first auction of the year. Its claim that “the art they chose… have turned gilt-edged investments ….”, attests to the ridiculous notion that every artwork one buys will appreciate in value. Old masters Yong Mun Sen and Georgette Chen set the scene for a historical walkthrough, leading to a magnificent sapphire portrait of oriental elegance painted by Basoeki Abdullah.

Hendra Gunawan - Untitled (Woman and Child By The Beach) (1980)

Such immediate and splendid images describe the works belonging to Daim Zainuddin, who displays also a large but typical warrior portrait by Bayu Utomo Radjikin. Hendra Gunawan’s narrow ‘Untitled (Woman and Child By The Beach)’ transforms the mother into a mythical creature, her dominating presence harking back to an ancient reverence towards the fertile female. Sensuous lines and ‘Pink Flows’ illustrate veiled bodies in Azman Hashim-owned works by Ibrahim Hussein, although what deserves applaud is his donation of Ib’s ‘Red and Purple Interludes’ to Muzium Tuanku Fauziah (USM), on view in the gallery's VIP room. Enthralling through its shimmer, ‘What Goes Beyond’ by Ahmad Khalid Yusof draws luminous geometric shapes behind jawi inscriptions, which oscillate between in/visible while bathed in natural light.

Ahmad Khalid Yusof - What Goes Beyond

Kamarul Ariffin contributes a more sophisticated selection among the three, whose exhibits include a Syed Ahmad Jamal painting with stirring brushstrokes, and a fascinating Jah Hut sculpture of a four-headed spirit. Transitional works in Ib and Latiff Mohidin’s oeuvre give credence to this museum-quality collection, while the serene watercolour cloths of Chang Fee Ming is an aberration among the expressive pieces. Khalil Ibrahim frames two figures in a dubious position, the suspicious scene masking an exploration of nude drawing, swirling colours and earthy contrast. Black and white photographs and newspaper reports pack a documentary onto a canvas, as pioneer sociopolitical artist Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam critiques the Vietnam war atrocities. The girls' wide-eyed and powerful gazes broaden the commentary to a victimisation of women in this region.

Khalil Ibrahim - Two Nude Figures (1964)

The most intriguing wall hanging belongs to Zulkifli Dahalan, whose ‘Di Dalam Ruang Rumah Series’ breaks down the house and electronic media transmission into adjacent spatial constructs. Clever perspective lines create ambiguity within foreground and background, as unfolded boxes act as deconstructed objects. Although grateful that modern works are exhibited to the public, the current trend of featuring collectors as taste makers, only helps to enforce a market exclusive to the 1%. This impedes the progression of art-making within contemporary concerns or subversive expressions, which are an inevitable reaction against any hierarchical society. Evident from a similar exhibition down the road, and the self-aggrandising portraits displayed here, the rich should not be considered taste makers. Unfortunately, they are, in this capitalist world.

Zulkifli Dahalan - Di Dalam Ruang Rumah Series (1974)

"Di kiri jalan ada akhbar-akhbar yang membelit laporan,
Di kanan jalan para demostran tersesat tujuan,
Di atas aspal pencegah rusuhan dengan gas pemidih mata,
Semua berkongsi mencemarkan jalan raya,
Dataran Merdeka itu sudah dikepung,
Dan tidak lagi bebas dan bercahaya."
- Dataran Merdeka, Baha Zain

Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam - Children of Asia I (To Baha Zain) (1980)

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