Snippets: Q1 2014

Notable local photographer Ming Thein receives a dream corporate assignment where heavy engineering company Tenaga Tiub tells him that "...(we) don't want to restrict your artistic vision – so go ahead and shoot as you see fit." The resulting exhibition at Centre for Asian Photographers documents the factory aesthetic and manual labour that goes into manufacturing gigantic equipments. Two themes stand out as I recall my past visits to such industrial facilities - men at work and the refurbishment process. The lower cost of conversation makes this exacting effort worthwhile in capitalist economics, where size matters. Close-up snapshots are just right, while a black & white effect does not impair picture clarity, likely due to the well-lit location. Precise forms define functional beauty, an idea lost to many contemporary artists who dwell in unnecessary abstraction. 

Ming Thein - A blowtorch removes previous paint and surface coatings from an assembly prior to refurbishment (2013)

The F Klub paint models lying down or seated with a leg up, among other poses at “Flesh”. Marvin Chan includes action statements while Kow Leong Kiang display factual headings, the ochre present in both artists’ works portraying sexual warmth. Chong Ai Lei’s draftsmanship again fails to impress, although ‘Sleeping Nude’ qualifies as the most sensual amid the exhibits. Sketches by Shia Yih Yiing provide a lesson in shading; Chin Kong Yee’s ink drawings depict minimalist figures, whose rough strokes show a determined struggle between visualisation and execution.

Chin Kong Yee - Face (2013)

Personal persuasion leads to another prominent collectors' showcase, as high expectations from a previous show hinders appreciation of modern Malaysian art. Painterly abstraction and figurative realism describe the exhibits owned by lawyer couple Billy Too and Sin Min, whose high-valued collection is influenced by gallery owners. Rare public displays include works by Syed Ahmad Jamal, whose luminous bursts, form a contrast with the sinuous lines and hard-edged paint on Ibrahim Hussein's canvas. Great pieces such as Latiff Mohidin's Pago-pago with three totem figures feature only in the catalogue; The judgement of taste is a deliberate thought while browsing at unappealing wall hangings. An exception is 'Girl with Jar' by batik exponent Chuah Thean Teng, whose brilliant composition, parallel lines, and red lips, demand the viewer's prolonged gaze.

Chuah Thean Teng - Girl with Jar (1980s)