M13 @ Richard Koh Fine Art

Aged pillars made from plastic bowls and white frames fabricated with powder coated steel, greet the visitor into Haffendi Anuar’s imagined cityscape, where buildings are reduced into a cluster of attractive objects. Line and colour join into symmetrical shapes, as deliberate shadows and smooth gradients render optical illusion. The catalogue essay tells the tale of one Malaysian who spent significant time overseas, now back in Kuala Lumpur as a foreign observer of mundane things. Despite being different in form from his previous works, the layering, use of colour, and everyday objects as art-making material, remain consistent within Haffendi’s oeuvre. 

Installation view [picture taken from Richard Koh Fine Art's website]

“I like the genericness of our reality,” the artist states in a media interview. Perpetuating a standard approach and evading the Malaysian art context, are the unique propositions in this exhibition. Its title M13 refers to an apartment block number – but also points to the 13 Malaysian states, GE13, or even riots in 1969 – numbers and events that lie within the Malaysian subconscious. Like the Mega City in The Matrix, hyperreal depictions of a locale represent the contemporary tableau within a generic landscape. Haffendi’s window grills straddle abstract categories, its overall flatness a parody of Malaysian art in many ways. As architectural design à la Sabri Idrus, the lack of texture nullifies any crafted intent. 

Grill Work 7 (2015)

As abstraction, the geometric symmetry of industrial objects betray any links to Islamic art, or personal expression. Nostalgia is manufactured via a repetitive expediting process, instead of painting effects. Smooth fading hues denote relevance in a digital age, as our eyes become accustomed to flat surfaces. Surrounded by ostentatious colours and unbearably apolitical objects, I discover the invisible master stroke while descending the escalator. The enigma of Haffendi's neutral representations – an apparent departure from most Malaysian art – is debunked in one triumphant nihilistic gesture. This make-believe city is deconstructed into individual packages, each sold fragment signalling the fate of art, as it meets its capitalist end. 

Installation view [picture taken from Haffendi Anuar's website]

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”
- Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)

Installation view - [from l to r] (2015) BLCK A3; BLCK A2; BLCK A6; BLCK A7