31 July 2015

Ashes of Time 告白.告別 ~ 灰燼之後 @ Lostgens’

A burn usually leaves a lifelong mark on oneself. The scar is a reminder of an event – perhaps malicious, perhaps unintentional – that is destructive nonetheless. Applying this visual metaphor literally, Chong Yi Lin burns photographs and baby singlets, two objects that carry overt but effective symbolic associations. Family portraits are stuck and burned onto pictures of soiled walls, causing severe discolouration around the image of the artist as a little girl. Nostalgic effects are popular among Dasein graduates, but in Yi Lin’s case, the purpose is not to freeze time as a melancholic moment, but to create a material reminder of the “…pain and unexpressed anguish…” suffered by the artist. The effectiveness of making artefacts to exorcise oneself, is not apparent in the final product, and likely manifest in the process of making.

Installation snapshots (2015): [top] We Move Away From This Place; [bottom] I See How Warm It Is Inside

Joss sticks char holes on white singlets, the burned marks lining up as nodes in a grid. This presentation recalls a systemic act of inflicting damage, which habitual repetition mediates pain as a justifiable sacrifice. In her series of “Portraits”, prints of these damaged clothes represent reproductions of personal loss, which Yi Lin juxtapose with a variety of picture-making techniques that end up looking like visual experiments. Writing, collage, thread, and photocopy transfers weave straightforward narratives; The wonderful ‘Portrait 8’ stands out with its large blots, alluding to the unresolved bigger picture when representing a scarred past. The power of the object is evident in the installations exhibited together with the aforementioned series of prints, where physical materials are easily more evocative than two-dimensional creations.

Portrait 8 (2015)

In ‘No Milk Today’, pacifiers are stuck onto the white wall or inserted into damaged singlets, some clear plastic elements having turned dirty yellow due to burning. Artificial instruments for nurturing babies become symbols of helplessness, its penetrating display and long spouts recalling the shape of condoms, thus adding a vicious element of aggression to this shocking presentation. A drastic change in one’s emotional tone is required to appreciate a woven bolster nearby made by Yi Lin’s mother & grandmother, which I presume the artist will bring along to Taiwan where she will further her studies. Photographs posted online of this artwork focus on the hands that made the object, a subtle and gentle ode to motherly love. Yi Lin’s great ability to translate personal emotions into visually arresting things, renders any references to Wong Kar Wai, unnecessary.

Installation snapshots of No Milk Today (2015)

07 July 2015

Recess: Revealing Deceptions 自欺欺人

Going beyond merely art fatigue, I re-evaluate my personal conviction that art has to be avant-garde. 95% of local creations still subscribe to centuries-old painterly representation, its market buoyed by capitalist transactions initiated by the nouveau riche, who have not grown out of bourgeois notions of connoisseurship. In an immigrant land where handicraft cultures are diluted across generations, historical context in Malaysian art is inexplicably absent. The dominant mode of describing a contemporary era are shallow and straightforward depictions, of an imagined nostalgia or popular politics. Much looking has built up unrealistic expectations, and looking from the outside is a tiring endeavour. Perhaps I am not looking hard enough, or at the right places. Perhaps if I stop looking, the avant-garde will find me instead.

Ajis Mohamad - Karangan di Penjuru Pulau (2014)