Snippets: November 2018 (Downstairs, Upstairs, Abstracts)

Cult Gallery organized “Halal Haram”, a fundraising show that features a stellar line-up of 26 Malaysian artists. Many exhibits resonate with the chosen theme – from Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail’s ceramic cake adorned with a skull and flowers, to Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s faceless portrait of one in heels & kebaya holding a whip, to Chong Siew Ying’s delightful painting ‘Ceci Nest Pas Un Rambutan’ – each work effectively draws upon a familiar image as a starting point, thereby visually triggering viewers to contemplate on social norms. Striking also is ‘Kipas’ by Yee I-Lann, a bamboo weave made together with Julitah binti Kulinting, that features a cultural motif, paired with a flat black silhouette. One imagines the lively yet serious atmosphere while the weaving is worked on, underneath the breeze of a creaking ceiling fan, where the winds of change follows the rhythm of community. A rump in the lull, hah…

A post shared by Cult Gallery (@cult_gallery) on

After visiting a basement filled with neon lights, then a gallery display filled with busy installations, the walk from Medan Pasar to Jalan Sultan feels like a calm visual breeze. Clouds shield one from the blazing sun, as the coolness continues in Lostgens’ upstairs shophouse gallery. Ceiling fans blow at coloured papers, the hissing sound accompanying occasional photographs of Kuala Lumpur hung on the wall. “Can / Cannot” is an outcome from Maike Häusling’s three-months long residency, and offers a lo-fi yet effective record of the urban cityscape. “Stick colour paper on the wall cannot be called art la…” “Can la, already on the fan mah, got Goh Lee Kwang soundtrack somemore…”

Installation snapshot at “Can / Cannot”

One assumes that more visitors will step foot into an art gallery, located in the lobby of Malaysia’s largest commercial bank headquarters. Yet the weekday lunchtime crowd is oblivious to its presence. Or is it because the exhibition title is too obscure? Most words in “PURE Painting: An Exposition of Non Figurative Art” is incomprehensible to the corporate worker; “UNTITLED: Abstract Paintings” is perhaps a more inviting title. Most exhibits are predictable non-figurative expressions, i.e. colourful all-over paintings with gestural brushstrokes, or geometric compositions. Memorable displays include Lyne Ismail’s immersive “Birth” diptych, and the flat and quirky works of Liew Sze Lin. Despite a marked difference in the application of paints, depicted forms by both artists appear to be abstract shapes, and a synthesis of personal moments transmuted onto a two-dimensional canvas.

Liew Sze Lin – SR135/WPKL/18/AP1 (2018)

Another upstairs shophouse gallery Wicket Art Space hosts “MY[MORY]”, a group exhibition organized by Studio Mekar, featuring 12 artists, and performances from Jalan Dalam scheduled daily. Among the paintings, videos by Chua Kay Lynn screening on small television sets catch one’s attention. In ‘A Childish Bath’, the artist (I presume) covers her face in a round mirror while donning a bodysuit with large dots. The set-up recalls voyeuristic horror, an element markedly different had the performance was done in front of an audience. As a son and a father, the idea of seeing oneself in a child is poignant, thereby surfacing an unbearable truth where actions and thoughts are embodied within the other. What is learning, if knowledge is determined by adults only?

Installation snapshot of Chua Kay Lynn – A Childish Bath (2018)

Having ascended one flight of stairs, the visitor is greeted by a small video recording of a car drive, taken from a dashboard camera. There is nothing much to see, of course, but it is worth considering where Liu Hsin-Ying gets her inspiration from. Drawings & paintings cover the gallery, the purposeful forms and bold colours illustrating (what the artist calls) “…allusions to forms of primitive power, such as caves, forests, mountains, lakes, dwellings, paths, women and red triangles.” A raw sense of urgency, makes up for several works lacking in visual coherence. Most captivating is the “Landscapes”, where green, pink, and yellow lines, draw rich terrains of abstract forms. These pictures pulse with vibrant energy, where shades of hues coalesce with thick lines and deep points. As the artist writes in her exhibition statement/ poem, “(t)o fill is an act of painting, direct, touching, and substantiating”.

Liu Hsin-Ying – Landscape I (2018)