14 May 2015

The Space Between @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

Exhibiting two works each by eighteen notable mid-career artists, the space between pairs of old and new art, reveal little about curatorial strategy or artistic growth. Liew Kung Yu’s large creations dominate the place via its strong aura – the spectacle of three-dimensional columns overshadow nearby paintings, while bling from a jewellery booth nullifies romantic snapshots hung opposite. In the latter, pinheads dot the back of lighted billboards projecting fatalistic statements, effectively parodying the irresistible allure of shiny objects. The installation is fortunately located some steps away from Ivan Lam’s glossy paintings, but renders the wooden constructs of Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman next to it, even more obscure than it already is.

Installation snapshots of Liew Kung Yu - STONED (2013 - 2015)

‘Bandar Sri Tiang Kolam’ serves up snapshots of Corinthian pillars embedded in Malaysian buildings, Kung Yu’s layered collage failing to suggest a local alternative to Greco-Roman notions of beauty. Umibaizurah Mahir’s beautifully patterned pedestals provide a quirky alternative, although the voyeur may catch a glimpse of flesh if looking in from the shop window. ‘Bukan Tetek’ is as raunchy as its title denies, Chan Kok Hooi’s painting adhering to his signature surreal trompe-l'œil style, where another delightful example starring the MSN Messenger icon hangs opposite. Banners parroting international news magazines and photographs celebrating ethnic Malay writers, flank this corner of the gallery, as scale emerges as the key ingredient in capturing one’s attention.

Chan Kok Hooi - Love Chat with the Mirror (2007)

A large circle and three small spirals by Vincent Leong, brings the viewer round to the conclusion that clever art-making can be unnecessarily tiresome. Exhibited away from a dining room, printed plates by Yee I-Lann loses its context, which images of the proletariat also fail to displace aristocratic notions about elegant tableware. Ahmad Shukri’s superb pair of exhibits show him at his best when amalgamating straightforward iconography – an older assemblage of ethnic motifs held within a square wooden frame, or a newer chalkboard layered with black alphabets describing repeated precepts. More obvious politics manifests in ‘Raging Bull’ by Jalaini Abu Hassan, where a proud bull-headed Malay and an intrusive flying pig, front a lazy background with crooked shadows.

Ahmad Shukri Mohamed - Malaysia Great Wall (2015) [detail snapshot at bottom]

Surprisingly holding its own to nearby art which invoke questions of identity, Sean Lean’s juxtaposition of Chinese things and comic superheroes are attractive and even meaningful, in contemporary representations of altar worship and protective charms. Showing off a new style is Yau Bee Ling, whose graphite hand signals can perhaps be mistaken for the output of HH Lim, whose contributions here are merely filler material. Choy Chun Wei’s gothic “Construction” series is always a joy to appreciate, but in an exhibition filled with figurative representations, abstraction (especially Kim Ng's) become nondescript. There is nothing to be found in between these spaces, but the plurality and quality of Malaysian art on show, still makes this trip to the sixth floor a worthwhile one.

Yau Bee Ling - Hands On (2015)

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