Malaysian Art: A New Perspective 2017 @ Richard Koh Fine Art

While this exhibition claims to showcase “unconventional approaches demonstrated across various mediums”, it is more interesting to note the diverse backgrounds of the six featured artists. The ascending visitor is greeted with angled perspective lines and small found objects on a painting, its coloured and monochromatic elements combining, to form a contrast between nostalgia and outlook. Dhavinder Singh worked at Galeri PETRONAS, is associated with an Ampang upstairs shop lot gallery, and has shown once or twice at most major commercial galleries in Kuala Lumpur.  His last solo exhibition presented captivating works that memorializes the artist’s former residence, a now-demolished apartment complex. This exhibit continues the style seen at “Recollectus”, although Dhavinder’s acrylic box-and-spices installation works, are more indicative of his oeuvre to-date.

Dhavinder Singh - Great Black Divide (2017)

A standing Jun Ong construct illuminates one section of the gallery, its iron mesh arrangement more interesting than neon lights beaming within. Relatively well-known for his public commissions, the architecture graduate is part of a design studio based at a Bangsar repurposed factory. A UiTM graduate, Faizal Yunus’ large four panels seem more in line with the commercial identity of this Bangsar gallery, where he is employed and showed his first solo exhibition. Vivid colours and abstract forms appeal strongly to Malaysian collectors, and its surface texture created with net and gesso projects an attractive visual effect. Hanging opposite is a horizontal grid of cartoon buildings drawn with colour pencils, art teacher Ho Mei Kei garnering interest recently with her take on art and education. Mei Kei is the youngest among this lot, her work also the lowest-priced.

Faizal Yunus - The Interstices I (2017) [image from]

One stands bemused in front of Izat Arif’s installation ‘Rahasia Menjadi Artist (Seniman) Yg Meyakink-kan di-Malaysia’. Kitschy marketing materials for a book present a bygone sales approach, adding onto the outmoded traits of a physical book, and implying too the artist as one extinct profession. The book itself – with different collaged covers for each of its 20 editions – contains hilarious observations and miscellaneous jottings, where the artist is depicted literally as a buaya. Izat’s overall presentation expresses a nihilistic yet perspicacious view of his vocation, although the zine-like print quality undermines the irony of his publication. The artist assists Shooshie Sulaiman in her international exhibitions, and is part of the carpentry collective Kedai; He is better known, however, as the other artist whose work was censored in the Bakat Muda Sezaman 2013 finalists’ exhibition.

Installation snapshot of Izat Arif - Rahasia Menjadi Artist (Seniman) Yg Meyakink-kan di-Malaysia (2017)

Earnest and visually striking, Chong Yi Lin’s Good Morning towels are emblazoned with abstract logos. The artist – whose first solo exhibition was held at Lostgens’, and is currently furthering her studies in Taiwan – says in an interview published in the catalogue essay, “(m)y art is a form of restoration of my feelings towards these objects.” Sewing organic forms onto the inherent grid of the rough fabric, marks a cultural object as distinguished memento, as I imagine the work up in flames as part of a funerary rite. Moving from distilled memories and tiresome constructs, to fluorescent prints and imposed stereotypes, to resigned gestures and corporeal reminders, this collection raises a question: is the diversity in its urban population a factor in the diversity seen in Malaysian contemporary art, or is it the other way round?

Chong Yi Lin - Evanescent Series (I-X) (2017) [image from]