Snippets: Q4 2016

Some artists leave the audience bowled over with sheer technical skill, yet the work’s emotional impact is zero. Hasanul Isyraf Idris’ all-over illustrations belong in this category, where contextual terms such as ‘drawing’, ‘surreal’, and ‘pop’, have failed to register significance in my personal appreciation. Finally, I come across one work which strikes a chord, but I am unsure which observation holds the key in attracting my attention. Is it the unique logos that form the frame? Is it the fantastic waves that set the scene for a mythical narrative? Is it the blocks of ice and yellow jump suits that recall Bruce Lee in The Big Boss? Is it a necessary violent depiction of bloodletting? Is it the familiar sight of an oil drilling derrick? Is it the caricature of a bubbly climax after oral sex? Is it the ogres, snakes, and faceless characters? Is it the layout of an archaeological excavation site? Is it…

Detail snapshots of Hasanul Isyraf Idris – Krishna Tongue (2016)

A movie about exorcising living ghosts from the past. Who was created because photographic snapshots were crystallised on glass plate negatives. In Borneo, in 1915. A mythical bird lives on in human form. Which feeds on living ghosts. In a city that looks like Kuala Lumpur. Despite its urban locations and fast-paced action, Dain Iskandar Said’s Interchange is grounded less in reality as compared to his previous feature film Bunohan. Everyone who becomes part of the myth, has their fate sealed with inevitability. The myth consumes its characters, literally. Photographs record memories; Its flat form and more fragile source manifest physical evidence of life. Inserting philosophical questions into a crime noir, the director exhibits great flair in storytelling via strong characters and a mysterious backdrop. Cannot wait for his next feature in five years time!

Movie still from Interchange (2016) [picture taken from]

Japanese department store Isetan opens its swanky The Japan Store, which top floor The Cube houses a bookstore stocked with art-related titles, a collaborative makespace with 3-D printing facilities, and exhibition spaces featuring works by Japanese artists. Media artist Yoichi Ochiai 落合陽一 stages one curious yet fascinating show “Image and Matter”, that experiments with technological modes and visual perceptions. Amidst the flickering light & shadows, floating dust & orbs, I stand fascinated viewing one video about creating a light-object with a femtosecond laser. That tiny physical matter is malleable by bursts of light to create 3-D images, distorts further the truthfulness of human visual perception, and that informative realisation itself is worth the RM 40 entrance fee. 

Digital Nature Group – Fairy Lights in Femtoseconds (2015)

A visit to the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum provided a wonderful respite, from the bustling traffic of Hanoi Old Quarter. A number of 17th century lacquered wood sculptures on the ground floor, enthral with its sheer beauty and expressive features. Wise man, old man, or servant to the Buddha, one detects certain exaggerated characteristics in each creation. Walking past galleries of wall hangings – silk, lacquered, and oil paintings – I visually marked down works that caught my interest, and was amazed to find this shortlist mostly populated with works by Trần Văn Cẩn, one of the “four masters” in Vietnamese fine art canon. Working across mediums and styles, an attractive composition is a key feature across the artist’s varied output. How did artists from that era become proficient across multiple mediums? 

Trần Văn Cẩn – Mùa thu đan len (1959 – 1961)