30 March 2014

Prudential Malaysian Eye @ MAP Publika

"(Art instructor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Kurt) Chan depicted the general logic of the survey in almost universally negative terms: it is typically only a survey of the obvious, because curatorial teams rarely commit to the sustained engagement of uniqueness of voice; the even representation of schools or styles replaces deeper engagement with practices; the tendency is always towards the spectacle. He also noted that the survey is uniquely useful in the construction of discursive power, able to stand at the intersection of a complex of institutions, artists, market players and broad audiences."
- Total Hong Kong: artistic ecology and the typology of the survey, Broadsheet Volume 42.3

Chong Ai Lei - True Romance I (2013)

Robin Peckham's essay about the "Hong Kong Eye" resonates much with the Malaysian edition, which sees 75 local artists featured in a coffee table book, out of which 21 are chosen by the three foreign curators to exhibit for one month. Art collector and patron of the Global Eye Programme, Serenella Ciclitira provides the unintentionally damning remark, "...most of the artwork we received were all paintings... some photography, virtually no digital or video, and very little installation. Sculpture... tends to be small..." She also mentioned that there was hardly any oil painting submissions in Korea, and implied that Indonesian art is more "advanced". The exhibition visitor is greeted with an overkill of dripping paint, earthy tones, and decrepit objects. Chong Ai Lei's refined melancholy impresses among the collective vagueness, leading one to notice the startlingly small number of female artists in the final selection.

Phuan Thai Meng - Oops! Saw It (2009)

Quoting the same essay, "practices that code immediately as the global contemporary" typically make the cut, since the selected artists will exhibit at Saatchi Gallery. However, the exclusions in this catalogue call into question the vetting process of 200+ portfolios over a 4-months period. Did curators only look at artwork pictures and artist statements? How influential were the local advisers? With many featured artists born after 1980, where are the established mid-career artists? Glaring omissions include the contemporary expressions of Chang Yoong Chia, Sharon Chin, Hamidi Hadi, Nadiah Bamadhaj, Juhari Said, Bibi Chew, and Roslisham Ismail. Did these "unique and exciting" artists not submit their portfolios? Was Gan Chin Lee not included because his painterly style reminded the international curators too much of Freud/Bacon?

Installation view of Hasnul J Saidon - Veil of an Artist (2010)

As a corporate art project, it is inevitable that a tropical landscape by Ahmad Shukri be selected for the book cover. Foreign perception of our country persists as an idyllic paradise corrupted by urban development. Looking beyond the medium and within the limits of a time-bound survey, it is evident how artistic expressions have evolved locally. Technical mastery and the intention to evoke the sublime, have since gave way to statement-making and self-indulgent introspections. Nevertheless, the exhibiting artists do display a nice variation. From Chong Siew Ying's charcoal panorama to Ramlan Abdullah's steel construct, to the playful inquisitions posed by Phuan Thai Meng and Chong Kim Chiew, these works manifest thoughtfulness and hard work. Perhaps the Malaysian eye that needs development belongs to the Malaysian collector/gallerist, whose acceptance of contemporary mediums can shift the local output beyond paintings.

Sun Kang Jye - The Vitality of Rural Areas: Give it a Little Colour #05 (2013)

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