Showing posts from September, 2017

16/16 Musings about Negaraku @ NAG

Looks like erected nipples. Constructs by Elias Yamani Ismail are always beguiling, and this grid of 81 (wooden? plastic?) squares, each with a protruding tip at the centre, is no different. The tension is palpable – is the flat surface transforming before my eyes? Does each dot/button trigger a reaction? This picture-sculpture is more erotic than the voluptuous lady, printed by Long Thien Shih, that hangs on the opposite wall. The gap between squares are wide enough to suggest individual drawers, like those in a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy. What lies within? Are these concealed stupas on a Sudoku grid? Seen from the front, the reflected spotlights assume gleaming triangular shapes, adding a silver thorny pattern to the confounding image. Looking at this visually ambiguous artwork, I feel hopeful about how some affinities just cannot be explained - like being a Malaysian . Elias Yamani Ismail – Regangan No. 2 (2010)

15/16 Musings about Negaraku @ NAG

Notwithstanding a red egg and other constructs viewable from Jalan Tun Razak, ‘Pemain Rebab No. 1’ by Mad Anuar Ismail might as well also be labelled as “public sculpture”. I see it every time I enter the lobby of the National Art Gallery. And how well it has aged! The stylized representation of a musician is always a welcome sight – culturally relevant, striking aesthetic, invokes other non-visual senses, grand scale, and technically refined. Placed underneath the spotlight again in “Negaraku”, the piece serves as a reminder that re-contextualised art can improve looking, and visitors should give themselves more leeway in creative interpretations, and how a work may look different each time one sees it.  Mad Anuar Ismail – Pemain Rebab No. 1 (1991)

Malaysian Art: A New Perspective 2017 @ Richard Koh Fine Art

While this exhibition claims to showcase “unconventional approaches demonstrated across various mediums”, it is more interesting to note the diverse backgrounds of the six featured artists. The ascending visitor is greeted with angled perspective lines and small found objects on a painting, its coloured and monochromatic elements combining, to form a contrast between nostalgia and outlook. Dhavinder Singh worked at Galeri PETRONAS, is associated with an Ampang upstairs shop lot gallery, and has shown once or twice at most major commercial galleries in Kuala Lumpur.  His last solo exhibition presented captivating works that memorializes the artist’s former residence, a now-demolished apartment complex. This exhibit continues the style seen at “Recollectus”, although Dhavinder’s acrylic box-and-spices installation works, are more indicative of his oeuvre to-date. Dhavinder Singh - Great Black Divide (2017) A standing Jun Ong construct illuminates one section of the gallery, i

14/16 Musings about Negaraku @ NAG

Mohd Salehuddin’s ‘At the Kampung Shop’ stands out as a personal favourite in the National Collection. Some writers claim the picture reinforces racial stereotypes, but what I see is a brilliantly framed modern-life scene, with its socio-political lens still intact. The picture utilizes classical painting devices – an arch leading to a horizon line and a lush landscape, outstretched arms which positions are aligned, indicative texts printed onto an object, and the drain on the painting’s lower-right hand corner that further foregrounds the whole scene. One songkok -donning figure (the driver?) whose back is turned to the viewer, literally stands out from the rest, and is the key person. Was this picture painted before or after the first Malayan general election? Was this person an Alliance, Socialist Front, or PAS supporter? Every time I see this picture, its displayed title changes: Mohd Salehuddin – Membeli Belah di Kampung (1959)

13/16 Musings about Negaraku @ NAG

The National Gallery Singapore, is where I last saw Cheong Soo Pieng’s ‘Tropical Life’. The rather-simply-executed picture – oft-quoted in writings about Malaysian art history, and referenced in Ho Tzu Nyen’s 2005 television series “Episodes of Singaporean Art” – recalls Paul Gauguin at first glance, and looks like a preparatory drawing for a batik painting. The idyllic scene is complemented by a turquoise sea in its background, although I wonder what the lady at the centre is doing, and whether the person carrying something on her head is a servant, or depicted as dark-skinned because she was standing in the shade. The illustration of an extended Malay family is likely imagined, yet possible to envisage as being based in either Malaya or Singapore. There is no way I can look at this painting, without thinking about the art and national histories of both places. Cheong Soo Pieng – Tropical Life (1959)