Art KL-itique 2015 Look Back

In a year when I lost faith in painting, the number of art events doubled, as compared with my listings two years ago. Large paintings – especially figurative literal statements and beautiful gestural abstracts – continue to be snapped up quickly in the primary market, leading to a deep reflection about the act of collecting. Despite a stagnant secondary market, the art economy was constantly discussed in conferences and symposiums, while non-commercial art spaces soldier on without institutional funding. A single regret will be missing the three shows that Satu Kolektif (Elias Yamani Ismail) participated in this year. Otherwise, following in the tradition of my favourite non-authoritative end of year awards, my 2015 Kuala Lumpur visual art highlights include…

Chang Yoong Chia – Love at First Sight (Photo Edition) (2011)

Printmaking: The medium was aptly celebrated on Labour Day at “Peasants and Proletariats”, which organiser Xin Art Space started its first year promisingly as a passion project. Cetak Kolektif – spearheaded by Faizal Suhif and Samsudin Wahab – held two shows at HOM Art Trans, and accorded the under-appreciated medium deserved recognition.

Sculpture in Petaling Jaya: Buden’s ‘Orang Assam’ and ‘Orang Ikan Kering’ were among a number of memorable sculpted works exhibited at G13, along with the miniscule and heavily-textured creations by Tiong Chai Heing. At Kedai, Nazrul Hamzah’s quirky constructs that references Western art history, showed great creativity and had me pencilling in this artist as one to watch in coming years.

Installation snapshot of Samsudin Wahab – Orang Assam (2015) [picture taken from “FLUSH!” exhibition web page]

Charitable art projects: Kedai Sebelah hosted a showcase and fun events for rural children on behalf of Projek Senikami, whose StartSomeGood campaign unfortunately did not achieve its crowdfunding target. Sembilan helped raise funds and awareness for a neuromuscular disorder, by running a week-long post-it art auction at an ice cream parlour. Charity art auctions organized for high society be damned.

White Box, Publika: Fergana’s “Collectors Show” was an eye-opener to appreciate modern Malaysian artworks, while a tribute exhibition for poet Pyanhabib Rahman also inspired quality creations from a number of local artists. With its impeccable production values, “Art Next Door” showcased what is fashionable art in our neighbouring state.

Installation snapshot of art pieces being auctioned at Inside Scoop Damansara Jaya, in support of “The Scoop About Branden” project [picture taken from Yap Sook Yee’s Facebook post]

National Visual Arts Gallery: It is confounding how little people care about artworks acquired with public money, hence kudos to Balai for exhibiting its “Recent Acquisitions”. and including a substantial number of works from its collection into “The French ConneXion” (curatorship is a secondary concern). Other commendable initiatives are its backing of the progressive school project “Gerakan Seni”, and a lovely exhibition of the two most holy Islamic sites in “Haremeyn”.

8 Jalan Panggong: Quirky exhibitions at Aku CafĂ© (“Known x Unknown”) and FINDARS (“Into/Outside”) draw attention, but it is the shows at Lostgens’ that keep me coming back to this address. Captivating in various ways are the burnt blouses of Chong Yi Lin, Au Sow Yee’s complex moving images, and the delightful yet subversive illustrations by Tey Beng Tze.

Chia Yu Chian – Petition Writer (1977)

Minut Init Art Social: A shiny new gallery founded by a political treasurer grabbed the headlines, but it is this grungy art space that caught my attention this year, with its showcase of art that one will not see elsewhere. Veronika Neukirch’s silicon-plaster fruits and Sophia Kamal’s brilliant paintings intrigue, but it was the WeChat art (?!) in “Circle Jerks” that blew my mind.

Diana Lui: Her works appearing also at Wei-Ling Gallery and Black Box this year, Diana’s “Totem” had me pacing back and forth the terrazzo floors of Alliance Française KL for a full hour. Other significant solo exhibitions were caught in established galleries, i.e. Wei-Ling Contemporary (Chong Kim Chiew’s multiple personas), Taksu (Khairul Azmir Shoib’s melancholic paintings), and Richard Koh’s at Jalan Maarof (Gan Chin Lee’s social realist depiction of migrants).

Sophia Kamal – I Am A Dream Still Dreaming

"After more than 20 years, perhaps it is about time for these strategies to be reproached. Visual artists should start to re-question their roles and positioning within the larger context of ‘hope’ for positive change and transformation in this beloved country. Instead of merely blaming, labelling, pointing fingers, voicing concerns, sounding alarms, relaying warnings, lamenting on issues, focusing too much on problems, or even sometimes riding and capitalizing on them for personal fame and gain, visual artists should explore fresh new ways to pro-actively contribute to their immediate surrounding and society. The harsh realities of the lower mind should be taken as challenges that can elevate us collectively towards higher consciousness."
- Hasnul J Saidon, Report from the Head of Judges, Penang Art Open 2015, blog post dated 17th December 2015

Diana Lui - Totem #11 (2015)


  1. Hi, on your topic of charitable art projects, we are the parents of Branden and so grateful to be supported by Sembilan and Inside Scoop to help raise funds Branden and Msian Rare Disorders Society, and awareness for SMA and other rare disorders during the a week-long post-it art auction at an ice cream parlour.

    Coming end April 2016, under our social enterprise WeCAREJOurney together with the Outdorr Inclusive Classroom, we will be holding a charity art event for autistic children and their typically developing friends at Atria Mall Damansara Jaya. If you'd like to know more, do email us on thanks!


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