18 February 2016

The Kings of Wishful Thinking @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

Anurendra Jegadeva utilises enlarged prints of the Malaysian banknote as a background to draw his typical cast of characters – the schoolgirl, the devotee, the poet, etc. In a stunted economy with a depreciating currency, the Ringgit becomes an easy symbol and a lazy target. The king’s head is a straightforward focal point in these creations, although the re-drawn royal portrait with the Nasi Lemak lady offers a good look at an image most take for granted. Going through this series of works, the overbearing nationalist sentiment turns into tiresome commentaries. I got a stronger impression when being told that visiting this sold-out show is by appointment only, as J. Anu takes precautionary steps to mitigate a previous unfortunate experience.

[from l to r] Photograph of Malaya's first Agong Tuanku Abdul Rahman [picture from wikiwand.com]; Detail on a RM 10 bank note; Detail from Portrait of  the King with a Nasi Lemak Lady (2015)

Moving onto ‘Yesterday in a Padded Room – A Painted Installation’, which last exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong, romanticised portraits describe the history of Southeast Asia via a passage from Sejarah Melayu. This ambitious attempt relies on the recognition of icons, not unlike the figurative depictions of heroic myths in temples. Irrelevant and obscure references dilute the presentation, and its emphasis on an East-West dichotomy is obsolete in contemporary discussions on culture. The padded walls recall a DIY music studio, and the LED candles on outlandish chairs resemble tacky and impractical thrones. One can only hope that the historical dissonance referenced within this work, stays muted as Southeast Asian countries wrestle with its combative past.  

Installation view of Yesterday in a Padded Room - A Painted Installation (2015) [picture from weiling-gallery.com]

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