ARTAID 16 @ White Box

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 symbol is a popular approach too, evident from the peacocks depicted in creations by Alexandra Hon and Kim Ng. Less subtle is ‘The Secret World of Love’ by Hisyamuddin Abdullah, the picture featuring on its foreground a duck ferrying a raincoat-wearing figure, whose face is buried in his hands in shame. Walking past the rather inappropriate up close and personal capture of an artist couple, then a large painting of young ladies in black singlets embracing, Khairul Azmir Shoib’s work stands out with its bleak mood. Looking at an illustration of a topless lady in pantyhose (with legs wide open) is already a disturbing sight, the discomfort aggravated further by the artist’s cartoonish characterization. 

Haslin Ismail – A Little Box of Miracles in the Solar System (2016)

Haslin Ismail’s cut-outs arranged in containers are always interesting, of which four examples are exhibited here. ‘A Little Box of Miracles in the Solar System’ is an exceptional small work, where images of cosmological diagrams are crammed within a compartmentalized wooden box. Space as human curiosity – defined from ancient times to the medieval era – is transcribed here as a literal display of curios, complete with arcane signs and oval shapes that become markers for other spatial dimensions. Taking a different approach is Tetriana Ahmed Fauzi, whose photograph projects a colourful and alien-looking plant emerging within an open oven. It is a curious image of hope (or the end of it), where the extra-terrestrial grows out of an extreme environment made by man. 

Tetriana Ahmed Fauzi – Siti (2012)

Resisting the temptation to treat such group shows as a survey of Malaysian art (now), I end up dwelling upon visually-minimal works. Acrylic drawings of humans from the back, are justaposed with various re-scaled plants by Poodien, the picture invoking a poetic sense of disconnectedness. Azam Aris’ ‘Belajar Untuk Pergi’ utilizes gold thread to depict pairs of hands, seemingly reaching out for help from deep pools of water. The embroidered pillow is endowed with cultural connotations that cannot be ignored, and the image of open-palm hands raised overhead, is a powerful one. From aspirations of self-actualization, to dreams of breaking away from one’s identity, to social events like weddings and migrations, the emotional charges that propels one’s motivation is always wading in a deep puddle. Sleep on it, and time to go.

Azam Aris – Belajar Untuk Pergi (2016)