Balam @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

Hamidi Hadi’s previous solo exhibition ignited my interest in the Malaysian visual arts, and each of his subsequent shows figure to be points for self-reflection. The magnificent ‘Garden of Eden’ draws the visitor into a visual feast, although some refined works on display fall into the decorative art category. The sublime is an essential objective in Hamidi’s works, which he achieves via an active process of experimentation and evaluation. If “Alun” was about depicting nature, and “Antara” illustrated relative space, “Balam” records the act of observation from a detached lens. Two ‘Monolog’ pieces feature plain backgrounds with a geometric pattern, covered in coloured droplets and resin. These minimalist works disengage lively emotions, as if one staring at a floor of white tiles, which differ from the equally plain but politically-charged ‘Renungan I’.

Garden of Eden (2014)

Disencumbering himself from the paintbrush, Hamidi  physically manipulates industrial paints to create opaque voids, vivid colours, and organic forms. Pouring paint and tilting canvases are measured interventions, taking into account the viscosity, hardness, and drying times of his materials. Directing how a line is formed is a critical process step, since the objective of drawing is not figurative representation but an intentional act of causation. Palpable flows and transparent layers crystallise time and space on a flat surface – when paints coalesce into wonderful oscillating patterns, the enthralling output is indeed a perfect moment. Like the enlarged photographic prints utilised previously, square grids draw a formal layout and magnify the picture plane. The grid also augments the 171 centimetres squared canvas, which seem to be the optimum size for creating visual impact. 

Perfect Moment 2 (2014)

Visual effects culminate in ‘Garden of Eden’, which fantastic scenery and vivid colours resemble a computer-generated opening sequence for an animated movie. Artwork titles refer to local observations of nature and the seasons – emerging plants in ‘Musim Ranum’, foggy pohon beringin in ‘Dalam Kabus’, and a swirling mass in the Ivan Lam-like diptych ‘Antara 2 Musim’. Black marks are prominent in this series, along with resin bubbles and square grids, are new deconstruction methods in Hamidi’s explication of painting. ‘The Wanderer and A Day After the Monsoon Rain 1’ shows an expected extension from the previous series, but watery washes in ‘Pengembara di Monson Tenggara’ dilutes the numinous qualities manifest in most of his works. Favourite developments include the flecks of hard paint in ‘Tumbuh’, and the mesmerising brilliance of ‘Angin Tenggara’. 

Tumbuh (2014)

Thirty three months after “Antara”, Malaysian visual art continues to be an unceasing passion. The synthesis of local relevance, cultural exposure, boutique business, social politics, and systemic pressures, describe a small industry still developing from a post-colonial mindset, reflecting also the state of the nation. Now I am less bowled over by Hamidi’s abstract works, not because it is less marvellous, just more aware of the different types of art that engages the soul beyond sheer beauty. Composing thoughts about art have improved my ability to write in a concise manner. Visits to art spaces are still daunting, though the fear of speaking to artists has reduced somewhat. As Wei-Ling Contemporary moves to a less public location upstairs, one hopes the gallery will eschew the international contemporary style of bigger & brighter, and retains its unique aesthetic proposition.

Angin Tenggara (2014)