Great Malaysia Contemporary Art (GMCA) II Preview @ Artcube

Two galleries collaborate to occupy a large exhibition space in the upcoming Art Expo, displaying new works from a collector’s stable of favourite artists. Hamir Soib’s giant canvas is the show’s highlight by virtue of its size, the golden steed (RM 200,000) a poor follow-on painting from last year’s big fish. Another horse takes the shape of the Ferrari logo, made by Al-Khuzairie Ali for his current series of ceramic skeletons. Two constructs on pedestals by Umibaizurah Mahir intrigue, while Ahmad Shukri’s shoddy ‘Open House ‘SOLD’’ (RM90,000) looks terrible in the presence of Azrin Mohd's work, whose unambiguous found object aesthetic is superior to Shukri's. Suhaimi Fadzir hangs up tools (RM 110,000) used by construction workers and food stall operators, one golden detached wheel on the floor reminding all to take a break. It also acts as a prompt for Malaysian art to stop making superficial claims about perpetuating national unity.

Suhaimi Fadzir - ’Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality) (2014) [picture from Artcube's Facebook page]

Not exhibited are installations by Zulkifli Yusoff and Annabelle Ng, but already publicised by the galleries whose announcements have different meanings for the ‘M’ in "GMCA". Great in size but boring in content are works by Masnoor Ramli Mahmud (RM 50,000) and Tan Chin Kuan (RM 200,000), while Eng Hwee Chu’s ‘Beyond Border’ (RM 110,000) projects a rare optimism. In ‘Monabukelisa’ (RM 55,000), Fadli Yusoff combines the gallery’s name among texts, together with Ibrahim Hussein lines, to create an incompatible painting which approach may be developed further. Ruminations cover Fauzin Mustafa’s ‘Cerita Ceriti I’ (RM 60,000), his imposing figure shrouded in batik shreds also posing identity questions. Blown-up iPhone covers sprayed with automotive paint gloss over the notion of Western capitalism, since purchasing each of Azad Daniel’s creations is equivalent to buying six iPhone 6’s on launch day.

Fauzin Mustafa - Cerita Ceriti I (2014)

Zena Khan’s writings set contexts well, but her superlative plaudits shroud the entire show with the shadow of a collector’s ego. With an objective “…to include those artists who set international level benchmarks within the Malaysian art industry”, only few of the represented artists have exhibited internationally in recent times. The trademark show itself has not travelled overseas, and is co-organised by a first-year gallery. This group exhibition settles on the immediate spectacle that negates individual art practices. Its eye-bulging price tags turn away knowledgeable art viewers and potential foreign institutions, nullifying the show’s objectives. Like the black hole entropy formula drawn by Ahmad Fuad Osman, there may be solutions to difficult problems like the Malaysian art market. Setting a Malaysian benchmark on what is acceptable internationally is not the way, but a local habit.

Ahmad Fuad Osman - Blindspot (2014)