Known x Unknown @ Aku Café & Gallery

Working without the explicit support of an art dealer and/or institutional support can be difficult, especially when artists want to be regarded as more than just a graphic designer or crafty artisan. Elevation to the fine art pantheon, requires the support and patronage from an elitist group of collector/curator/gallerist, especially prevalent in Malaysia’s small art scene. As art seeps into middle-class consciousness, this elite group is diluted, or the hope is that it will be. Contributing to this erosion of power is the sembilan art residency program, an initiative driven by enthusiasts to increase art awareness and ownership among the public. Inviting artists to stay at foreign locations with an objective to produce artworks is a forceful objective, but the program’s second iteration contains sufficient interesting pictures that refresh the tired eye. 

Installation view of ERYN (2015) - [top] Shell Bonsai; [bottom] Sleeping Bonsai [picture taken from juxtaART.the sequel web log]

Surreal juxtapositions describe the works of both resident artists – Winne Cheng @ ERYN, and Raja Azeem Idzham @ Ajim Juxta. Looking past circular canvases to the clear drawings framed behind glass, the former depicts bonsai trees and garden heads in a whimsical manner. Paintings with arches and boxes by the latter project great depth, and a fitting presentation by an artist whose prolific output is thematically stronger than Haslin Ismail (although Haslin’s book cut-outs are hard to beat). Ajim’s illustrations represent his visually absorbing style best – a couple of “Penghuni Distopia” works contain words describing Yusof Ghani’s series, and come across as unintentional yet incisive jabs at the abstract brush strokes prevalent in modern Malaysian art. Ombak sudah cemar, Gelombang sudah kulat, waves be gone!

Ajim Juxta - Tari (2015)