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Showing posts from May, 2015

Melukis Puisi: Sebuah Pencitraan Puisi-Puisi Pyanhabib @ White Box

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In this tribute show to local poet Pyanhabib Rahman, artists are invited to test their “…capability in reading literary texts and transforming them into visual images”, and the results reveal a certain aesthetic symptomatic of the current state in Malaysian visual art. Counting the many animal and coffee pictures, figurative representations make up the majority of exhibits. Even non-painting works depict literal translations, such as Fadhli Ariffin’s vicious video of the artist as a chained dog, and Jamil Zakaria’s tongue-wagging chicken wire sculpture. Among earthy colours and cluttered compositions, Syahbandi Samat’s fine ballpoint drawing stands out with its clarity, ‘Hidup’ a beguiling scene that describes beautifully the verses of its accompanying poem ‘Semadi ii’.

“aku imbang diri / atas rentang tali / direntang tanah datar / kemilau mata pisau / menyentak duri mawar” – Semadi ii (24 September 1983, Anak Alam), Pyanhabib When mimicry is not the approach, however, a lacking exec…

Peasants and Proletariats @ Xin Art Space

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Tracing its respective histories, framed paintings aggrandize the powerful and evoke reverence, while prints on paper record images that are circulated for a wider audience. This analogy likewise describes the social strata of art patrons, who traditionally regard prints as a lower class in the hierarchy of art mediums. Going strong after hosting artworks by national laureate Pak Samad and the KL Life Drawing Community, new gallery Xin Art Space puts together a cross-generation exhibition in conjunction with the 44th year since Malaysia begin celebrating Labour Day. The published catalogue includes Long Thien Shih’s 1993 essay about the development of printmaking in Malaysia, along with a useful glossary of printmaking terms and international definitions of an original print

Going along with history which presumes art printmaking originated from China, small woodcut prints by Chuah Thean Teng attract immediate attention with its organically-framed scenes and dense fine lines. Done …

Hulutopia @ White Box

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“There is no wonder of discovery. At most, the paintings are restatements of the plain and mundane. Nothing hides the bleakness throughout, as if the point is for us to be distressed by these depictions of ourselves as failures despite our constant attempts at transcending our limitations, endeavours that only confirm our fatuous existence at the end of the day. Is HULUTOPIA then simply catharsis, an indulgence of a bleak picture of humankind? Is it negativity refined into ‘paintings’, a mere projection of the world falling apart, on canvas? This would be a tempting conclusion.” – Lessons for Seeing Ourselves, Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, 2015, exhibition catalogue for Hulutopia: Through the Looking Glass Into Promised Lands

Masses of nude faceless figures cower or scurry within dreary landscapes, these depictions of humiliating postures alluding to a sense of shame, if one agrees with Ahmad Fuad Rahmat’s surface reading. Kamal Mustafa’s second solo exhibition is more explicit in his social co…

The Space Between @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

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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.

‘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 pede…

UNPACK-REPACK: Archiving & Staging Ismail Hashim (1940 – 2013) @ NVAG

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Adding on to the complications of showcasing an artist’s estate, Wong Hoy Cheong now has to deal with a larger space and public works, in this collaboration between private gallery and national institute. Transplanting the tribute show from The Whiteaways Arcade to Galeri 3A, the curator aims to “…locate Ismail spatially in an environment and his community.” Chances of seeing degraded bicycle seats are less likely on Jalan Tun Razak as compared to Beach Street, and the sense of displacement immediately leads one to ponder upon the purpose of archiving and staging. Visitors are greeted into a passage of test prints from Looking Out, followed by Looking In to an odd corner of homely captures. The previously delightful room Going Bananas is now rendered irreverent, nestled deep within the gallery space in an exhibition that often takes itself too seriously.

Three cheeky arrows and a video of Ismail playing the saxophone bookend the walkthrough, but few other exhibits spell fun. A plywoo…

Dear Dark Cloud @ Taksu

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It is easy to dismiss Khairul Azmir Shoib’s works as mere illustrations, yet his fantastical characters have persisted in the local visual arts for the past 15+ years. The success of his mentee Haslin Ismail, whose mecha / book collage creations are even more irreverent, is perhaps indebted to Meme in setting precedence for the appreciation of such non-canonical art. Viewing these exhibits, one can find common elements with Malaysian contemporary art – skulls aplenty, found wood, and gaudy frames – apart from the badly-done drips evident in ‘Gothic Kebaya’. All portraits feature the protagonist, whose obvious features manifest in different guises – a giant head, large eyes, and a high forehead.

With a sidekick always in tow, Meme’s female lead is more hopeful heroine than psychological avatar, contrary to the isolation theme stated in the catalogue essay. Gina Fairley writes in a previous exhibition, “(w)hile we want to read Meme’s drawings and paintings within the realm of illustrat…