30 June 2014

Here We Come @ HOM Art Trans

Stepping into the gallery, terms from a silly Form 5 subject cover the space, evoking one bitter memory of an impulsive naivete. Yau Sir Meng continues her critical commentary about the Malaysian education system, where prior works from this accomplished series, include manufactured certificates and blanked-out exercise sheets. Here, Pendidikan Moral textbooks are blended into papier mâché alphabets, then stuck onto walls as 36 values around a framed announcement. News of students protesting about a compulsory subject, amplifies the effects of one who has to go through such education, their lack of critical thinking a common complaint by employers nowadays. The absurdity of this realisation is compounded, when one questions the mandate to study moral values in secondary education, where ethical behaviour can supposedly be inculcated via memorising Bahasa words.

Installation views of Yau Sir Meng - 36 Nilai Murni Moral (2014)

The condemnation manifest in this sublime work does not end there. Definitions of the 36 values are spelled out, some missing words laid on the ground to denote the hypocrisy, of learning institutionalised behaviours which officials themselves do not practice. Medium aside, Sir Meng's work recalls the practice of Chong Kim Chiew, where she employs an audacious move to dominate the gallery space. The placement of words can perhaps be more exacting, but that is just nitpicking on this outstanding installation. Examining her young oeuvre, one is astounded at her ability to effectively utilise mediums. Examples such as planting school uniforms in flower pots, and creating a building out of sugar cubes then letting it degrade, demonstrate a level of maturity that belie the artist's age.

Installation view of Por Han Wei - Opps-! (2010)

Exhibiting alongside Sir Meng are another five graduates from the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA), whose alumni include renowned artists Chan Kok Hooi, Chang Yoong Chia, and Phuan Thai Meng, whom were classmates then. Printed in the catalogue is an interview with MIA's head of fine art Bibi Chew, who opines that "...(she is) distressed that not much has progressed in terms of ideas, strategies and approaches beyond the sellable and conventional..." Bibi's lament about Malaysian contemporary art implicates the other local art schools, but of course it is not easy to groom artists as "'thinkers' as oppose to being only technically proficient image makers." Detached limbs on hanging canvas and embossed papers, remind the visitor that this is a graduate's show after all, where an international contemporary approach captures the wandering eye.

Installation views of Adam Shahrum Zainal Abidin - Route (2014)

Adam Shahrum Zainal Abidin's postcards do little to impress why he won MIA's 2012 Best Student Award, while Alexandra Hon's paintings of isolation resemble preparatory drawings that denote an ongoing exploration of visual depth. Por Han Wei depicts the ostrich for its purportedly cowardly characteristic, yet her anthropomorphic self-portraits stare unflinchingly back at the viewer, the Chinese ink illustration being particularly enchanting. HOM Art Trans continues to provide a platform for young artists to exhibit, and it is interesting to note that this group of six are, or planning to, further their studies abroad. Despite Bibi's claims that "...they are in no hurry to announce themselves to the local art scene...", the exceptional works have stood out on its own merit, as I ponder the valuation of installation artworks. 

Close-ups from Alexandra Hon's "Veil of Perception" series (2012)

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