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Showing posts from 2016

CROSSINGS: Pushing Boundaries @ Galeri Petronas

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An exhibition about Malaysian artists who “work internationally” starts off on the wrong foot, by greeting each visitor with a world map overlaid with random historical events. This display, wall texts, and catalogue essay, are equally irrelevant, because the exhibition’s emphasis on pluralism in art practices, is an outmoded symptom of our contemporary situation. Granted, the corporate gallery has no new works from its collection to showcase, but it remains surprising how consistently incoherent are its curatorial efforts. So what if an artist has stayed overseas for a long duration – was it an extended travel time? Staying on for a residency? Migrated and changed nationalities? Where was the work itself produced? Does any of these matter? Ali 'Mabuha' Rahamad - Madusa #2 (1986) A number of artworks exhibit individual merits, but one is compelled to only talk about the 25 minutes spent watching Hayati Mokhtar’s and Dain Iskandar Said’s ‘Near Intervisible Lines’ (the

Dari Langit dan Bumi @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

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Snapshot at "Dari Langit dan Bumi " The impulse of creation aligns not with the impulse of reception The refuge of mother nature Contradicts the human impulse to create Line, colour, and texture   Come from nature Yet, imbued with emotions   Come from experience The horizon is mistaken for a simple divide When the space between is a gulf of unimaginable proportion of unbounded memories, remembered or recalled The Almighty is the Sublime   no matter how small is a light particle that travels the Earth From sky to ground, eye to non-sense The presence  is an absence   in the abstract   of the moment Hamidi Hadi - Fragile (2016)

ARTAID 16 @ White Box

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At a selling exhibition where proceeds are channelled to an aid organisation, this visitor cannot sidestep the cause which the charity represents. Subtitled ‘Love for Sale’, the event theme offers the interesting prospect for interpretations about social stigma and sexual attitudes, although that is admittedly too much to ask for in a group show. Artists’ neutral approach result in many exhibits with Love in its title, although only a few works can be forced-fit into the theme. Signature-style paintings by two established artists surprise with re-contextualized displays. Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s two-dimensional still-life of fruits and vegetables, suggest an irrepressible human desire; One hanging brassiere used by Chan Kok Hooi to mock a political party, now become a cynical commentary about sex for money, via ideograms painted over used denim. Chan Kok Hooi – Love Me in My LV (2016) Ambiguity is fine until the point it becomes obscure, e.g. Bibi Chew’s “Good Cells”. Animal as s

Era Mahathir @ ILHAM

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Is it coincidence that the years which a Malaysian prime minister was in power (1981 – 2003), can be transcribed into an art exhibition? No doubt it is convenient, as organisers like utilising a fixed duration to fix the scope of a gallery exhibition . Since the guy is still regularly in the news, the free publicity is an added bonus, right? On the fifth floor, the visitor is greeted by comic panels that were first published on newsprint in the early 1980s, and a History Channel documentary produced in 2009. On the third floor (the fourth floor boys are absent from this building?), newly commissioned works include coffee-stained photographic collages, and recorded interviews which exhibited form (as a three-channel video installation) undermines its candid content. Is this exhibition capturing a zeitgeist, a legacy , or neither? Detail installation snapshots of Liew Kung Yu – Pasti Boleh (Sure Can One) (1997) The incoherence extends to the exhibits’ nonsensical arrangement,

MAPPING (V): PERALIHAN @ NVAG

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...Ponderings about being Muslim are made manifest in complementing prints by Sulaiman Esa and Ponirin Amin, which should have been placed closer together. The former utilises iconographic juxtaposition to present an ongoing inquisition, while the latter formalises a meditative moment via gridlines, the girl in the foreground acting as an appreciative intermediary with the Supreme Being. At the opposite end of the gallery, one comes across in sequence - a reconceptualised pastoral landscape by Redza Piyadasa, two paintings by Ismail Zain highlighting the aura of cultural motifs, Joseph Tan’s large and misty scene, and a pioneering example of Islamic calligraphy as fine art by Ahmad Khalid Yusof. Appreciation quickly turns into irritation, as I notice that the English titles have been omitted from wall labels, an observation applicable to other exhibits in the gallery. Ponirin Amin – Dalam Sinar Mu (1978) Displayed together under the section titled ‘Pasca Dasar Kebudayaan Keb

MAPPING (IV): PERALIHAN @ NVAG

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…This segment of Balai Seni Lukis Negara’s “MAPPING” project focuses on the 1960s and 1970s timeframe in Malaysian art history. A glaring difference with “Formasi” showing downstairs, is the lack of archival documentation which supplement the exhibits. The presentation of “Peralihan” is split into two galleries without a clear narrative difference, resulting in an incongruous visiting experience.  One obvious reference is the clich├ęd tale of Abstract Expressionism ’s popularity, and artists’ reaction towards this preferred style. It is disappointing that the curators have chosen to go with this outdated storyline, even if it is a convenient excuse to fit pieces from the national collection, into two galleries of different sizes. Writings by Redza Piyadasa, who propagated this belief during his involvement with the institution, hang heavily within the second floor galleries. Cheong Laitong – Black Magic (1964) Such a set up renders the contents of Galeri 2B as periphery displ

Cage of Deliverance @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

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Mortification of the flesh is a religious practice that is difficult to forget once seen. In Rajinder Singh’s case, it is the bearing of kavadi by devotees who worship the Hindu God of war, and the cheek & skin piercings commonly associated with this ritual. The artist expands his horizon to include many other cultural icons which represent deliverance, or the human need for atonement from shame. At the deep end of the gallery, a sequence of straight lines cut into five fingers is projected, disarming the visitor who had just walked past gilded poles and an assortment of Chinese plates & bowls laid out on the ground. Rajinder says that these objects are part of a performance to re-enact a wake, which is documented on a screen nearby.  Three Studies on Everlasting (2016) Wall hangings fall into three categories – square mandala-like paintings with figurative poses embedded, triptychs that both construct and deconstruct cultural designs, and large depictions of icons

August, or Month of the Hungry Ghost (of Painting)

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After the customary festive lull, a profusion of art exhibitions are staged in Klang Valley within the month. The first show I saw was deserted on opening night. Beautiful watercolours by a Shanghai artist, including a superb rendition of a red flower which, looked more like a bombing run photographed from an overhead drone. Painting is supposedly the dominant mode in Malaysian visual art, yet there are none who paint like this. Am I overestimating Malaysian painters? Perhaps, as I glance through upcoming listings. There are fewer painters exhibiting than previously assumed. Gallery chatter include the diminishing sales to local collectors this year, unethical practices of gallerists and curators, and the curious endeavor of selling artworks to fund for a specific cause. I return a few weeks later to watch video documentation of migrant labourers wielding bicycle wheels dipped in paint. The many wheels moving onscreen remain a mesmerising visual… Hings Lim – Pusat Bandar Utara

Pixel GIFs by Shika Corona/ Shieko Reto

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“I've been inspired by pixel art and 80s B-grade sci-fi movies during the 80s and during college times in the 80s, playing my housemates computer games like the Lucas Art's 'Full Throttle', 'Day of Tentacle', 'Sam&Max hit the road', 'Street Fighter2', 'Raiden', '1942', 'Prince of Persia' etc, etc, and some other classics pixel games totally inspired me further”, remarks Shika Corona/ Shieko Reto in a blog posting one month ago. The artist has since gone on a roll to post her pixel GIF creations, starting with signature motifs such as the unicorn and the polar bear, to film noir scenes, to superb “DUSH!” and “ TEBABO! ” animated sequences. Miss Shika’s use of pixel GIFs is a wonderful extension to her art repertoire, which complements a vivid and incisive style; it is also an especially relevant medium to comment on current issues. A religious officer bursts into a transgender beauty pageant, only to be award

Convergence of Souls @ Black Box

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With ongoing shows of modern/ postmodern Malaysian art presented in other parts of town, Fergana Art’s annual showcase is an impressive collection of works from generations past, also serving as a private sales exhibition targeted at institutions. Syed Ahmad Jamal rightfully headlines this collection – Puncak Purnama controversy or not – with the magnificent painting ‘Sidang Roh’. A dark purple background swirls and envelops the artist’s characteristic twin peaks, where a stream of arching white light touches one green pyramid. Overlapping paint layers represent metaphysical planes, and evokes a spiritual realisation. Interpreted together with Kassim Ahmad’s stirring poem, the painting offers a contained reaction to the brash prose. Syed Ahmad Jamal – Sidang Roh (1970) “…kalau kau percaya kepada manusia sejahtera jangan kau bergembira mengikut hidup/ (karena kemenangan) kalau kau percaya kepada manusia bebas jangan kau berkata mengikut hukum/ (kerena taatsetia) k

Bukan Objek Seni @ Galeri Chandan

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‘Apa Yang Kamu Lihat Semasa Ke Pameran?’ ‘Sold Out!!!’ ‘Merakyatkan Seni Dengan Membawa Seni Ke Masyarakat’. ‘Tajuk apa ya nak tulis? UNTITLED aje laaaaa…’ ‘I Create Retinal Art’. ‘Seniman Adalah Seorang Pemikir Bukan Sekadar Tukang Buat Lukisan Cantik…’ These statements are among many printed on title cards, and displayed in a cluster (shape of an Arabic alphabet?), by Amir Amin. Complete with medium description and price tag, the artist points out the significance of a title card, in-forming an artwork’s (and its creator’s) identity. One’s imagination easily runs wild, when informed that a work titled ‘MALAYSIA OH MALAYSIAKU’ is made from “fibre glass, epoxy resin, fabrics & oil paint on MDF board”. Many other titles simply refer to questions about conceptual art.  Installation and detail snapshots of Amir Amin – I Thought the Definition if a Good Artist Is... (2016) Multiple mentions of a “J.A.W.I.” series make reference to the expected mode of being a Malay artist, i.

Fragile @ The Edge Galerie

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During my visit, an elderly Caucasian couple strolls from one Umibaizurah Mahir artwork to another, admiring and discussing each piece with the gallery attendant. Ten roughly A3-sized black & white reproductions of classical European paintings, hang high on the rough brick wall, where one can barely see it under glaring spotlights. Another series of wall hangings project a collection of mini ceramic townhouses on oblong plates, recalling a stroll along the river of a Dutch countryside. Black crows that resemble the Eames House Bird perch upon larger sculptures, which are placed upon roman pedestals and dark-coloured plinths. Among the sculpted figures are a pair of sacrificial lambs, queen chess pieces, and a flying elephant. This is an art exhibition targeted at a European audience, or what its aesthetic values inform this visitor. Installation snapshots of The Giver (2015–2016) [foreground]; 2 of 4 pieces for Share Location (2016) [background] In a recent interview, Um