01 June 2017

Boundaries of [dis] Beliefs @ White Box

"These are interesting times." Proclaims the wall statement, thus framing "Boundaries of [dis] Beliefs" as an exhibition of art that deal with contemporary concerns. It is unsurprising then, that the majority of displays project an unappealing aesthetic. A piece of meat, hanging over a weighing scale full of maggots. Stained coffee strainers and transparent national flags. Videos featuring grotesque 3-D characters, and the ghost of Malaysia's first Prime Minister. One painted portrait of a former deputy with his black eye. Photographs of PMs at recent political events offer a documentary perspective, yet leave a bitter taste. With its quirky DIY presentation, Alex Lee's installation 'Khabar Angin' stands out as a genuine oddity.

Masnoor Ramli Mahmud - Yelling Wall (2017)

A number of works employ the approach of distorting words figuratively. From the quote arranged in a pyramid by Zabas, to Liew Kwai Fei's unsuspecting puns of system-atic failures, to peeling alphabet of Article 10 in the Federal Constitution by Phuan Thai Meng, artists display a plucky streak in attempts to represent post-truth as a misnomer. Masnoor Ramli Mahmud creates a prison wall covered in social media posts, effectively depicting the echo chamber that is Facebook. Lee Cheah Ni's collection of planks with earnest messages, tell the common sentiment about heritage preservation in Penang. Even a diorama of paintings by famous Western artists, with its accompanying catalogue, cannot conceal the dirty money associated with this collection.

Video record of KSRR (Kamal Sabran + Rohas Remi) performing at "Boundaries of [dis] Beliefs" on 30th April 2017 [link from Kamal Sabran's YouTube channel]

With talks and performances scheduled during the exhibition run, these events continue the recent trend of turning a visual arts show into a multi-disciplinary arts festival. Such varied programming has drawn a larger audience to the visual arts, and is an opportunistic endeavour that deserves much applaud. On a side note, organizer Fergana Art is currently displaying works by Ismail Zain, from the late artist's estate. Despite its slightly dated appearance, "Digital Collage" remains an astounding body of work, and still complex to interpret. More visually straightforward are Ismail's later paintings, which rectangular partitions, brush-y horizons, slanted windows, and foregrounded plants, capture my undivided attention. There are certain truths in painting, and I may have found a sliver of it, here.

Ismail Zain - Untitled (1988)

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