BLUES MALAYA BY ZENA KHAN
Abdullah Jones’ new series of paintings and mixed media artworks, produced from 2010 to 2015, and presented under the poetic title Blues Malaya, show evidence of the artist’s penchant for social critique. Bold, witty, and colourful, the works on display powerfully combine lively imagery, nods to art history, and text as an entry into a myriad of discussions which can be tied together by a simple concept: patriotism. Past works by Abdullah, such as “Cakap Pasal Outside” and “Patriot Tak Reti Bahasa” have previously touched on this topic; now in Blues Malaya audiences are invited to join the artist in a discourse through an expanded body of artworks.
Born in Kuantan, Pahang, in April 1964, where he continues to reside, Abdullah’s socially active position is manifest both in his artistic practice as well as his key involvement in the artist-run space Rajawali Art Studio. Themes of patriotism, self-critique, and social critique recur throughout his portfolio of artworks, which have received critical recognition both in Malaysia and abroad. Abdullah’s interest in social discourse is embodied through several multi-disciplinary formats, including writing, which he engages in both conceptually as a poet, and from an observational standpoint with short stories. In 2016 he published two collections of past writings: Sajak Sajak Suci, a collection of poems from 2002 to 2015, and Hikayat, a collection of short stories documenting the everyday. Locally Abdullah has presented work at several exhibitions such as Gabung at Pahang State Art Gallery and Saudagar Cinta at Pahang State Art Museum, T!GA (2014) at National Gallery Kuala Lumpur, Benchmark (2016) at Artcube Gallery and Love Me and My Batik (2016) at Ilham Gallery. Internationally, he has participated in events such as Un-Cut at Gallery Shambala in Copenhagen, The Outsider Art at Octane Photographic Studio/Gallery in Ferndale, Minnesota and most recently BATIK: Expression of Identities at Chinese Cultural Centre Museum, Vancouver, Canada in 2016.
In 2007, upon his return to Malaysia after a spell living abroad, Abdullah was instrumental in the creation of Rajawali Art Studio. An artist-run space in Pahang, Rajawali Art Studio was born out of a gap identified in support structures for artists living and working in Pahang at the time. Artist-run studios occupy an important position in the global art ecology, and this is no different in Malaysia as evidenced by other artist-run initiatives, such as 12 by Shooshie Sulaiman, or artist collectives such as Empat Persepsi, and Matahati. Rajawali describes their mission as aiming to help artists based on the needs of the individual – from supplying materials for production, to studio space, to accommodation. In providing a space for artists to interact freely, Rajawali fosters critical discourse and intellectual engagement in Pahang, thus can be viewed as a crucial component in the development of a critical contemporary art scene on Malaysia’s East Coast.
Abdullah’s involvement in Rajawali speaks to a practical awareness of structures that need to exist within the local art world, and the forms they should embody in order to provide support. In examining this socially active position, alongside certain artworks on display at Blues Malaya, in particular “Scare Monger” and “Sketch for Patriot Tak Reti Bahasa”, it becomes evident that he is engaged in institutional critique. A strand of conceptual art emergent in the 1960’s in Europe and America, institutional critique has long sought to unpick the ideologies and structures that underpin the circulation, display and discussion of art. A complex and multi-faceted form of discourse, institutional critique is acknowledged as encompassing intellectually advanced artists, theorists and critics. With this acknowledgement arises a problem – how can general art audiences enter such theoretically complex conversations? Abdullah circumvents this potential issue by infusing “Scare Monger” and “Sketch for Patriot Tak Reti Bahasa” with lively and relatable imagery and text, rendering his works visually accessible, so as to seamlessly include his viewers within a critical discourse.
Both “Scare Monger” and “Sketch for Patriot Tak Reti Bahasa” are mixed media works who use the newspaper “SeniKini”, rather than canvas or paper, as a base. “SeniKini” is a quarterly art publication set out by Balai Seni Lukis Negara, the Malaysian national art gallery situated in Kuala Lumpur. In refashioning these pages from “SeniKini” in his own artwork, Abdullah aims to draw attention to its content, and in the process questions what content would an audience expect to find in the art publication of a national art institution? The artist imagines a publication that incorporates a mix of critical inquiry with facts, and information presented in a visually arresting arrangement. Pre-existing imagery and text on the pages are used a base from which Abdullah builds up a layered final visual. Indeed, these artworks can be viewed as a proposal by the artist for an alternative format which uses creative display as a means through which viewers may be fashioned into engaged discussants.
The intense layering of paint, media, text, and imagery visible in “Scare Monger” and “Sketch for Patriot Tak Reti Bahasa” are a thread that runs through the entirety of Blues Malaya, as Abdullah uses layering as tool to represent the multitude complex ideas that have informed the creation of the works in this solo. At times, these layers signify a cross-pollination of ideas, as Abdullah works across several themes and canvases simultaneously. Consistently however, they reflect the depth that arises from a vigorous pre-production process, as the artist pursues several lines of research inquiry. His multiple interests, arising from this network of various research methodologies, from literature to artworks to intellectual discourse, are made evident throughout this solo exhibition.
Furthermore, the artworks presented indicate Abdullah’s strong knowledge not only of art history, and current social, political and cultural events, but the formal traditions of art creation in which his practice is steeped as well. His vibrant neo-expressionist works are carefully constructed compositionally, easily leading the viewer’s gaze across the surface. As such, the artist is allowed to construct each artwork as a mini narrative: relating a story, offering an opinion, or posing a question. Bold colour palettes are reflective of both an adept insight into colour theories, as well as the colour choices that inform local craft traditions and histories. The influence of the East Coast, often referred to as Malaysia’s ‘cradle of culture’, and local heritage such as batik is most apparent in Abdullah’s choice of colours. Having studied the local craft tradition in Cherating, Abdullah pulls in lessons on composing and merging colour and pattern into Blues Malaya, contemporised by graffiti-like elements and typography. Thus, the artist’s ability to seamlessly represent typically Malaysian culture and commentary within a highly contemporary framework becomes apparent.
In some of the canvases, Abdullah introduces speech bubbles emanating from the central figures with speech that strike at the concept of that work, such as “Siti K”, which shows lawyer and activist Siti Kassim. The speech bubbles highlight particular aspects of Siti’s identity, such as her support of the Orang Asli community, and position as a Malay Muslim woman. “Siti K” is composed in classical portraiture style, contemporised by a looser neo-expressionist treatment of the figure, and overall vibrant, playful tone. “How A Punkster Says Goodbye To His Dead Friend” is again centred around a large portrait. However this painting, which references Jeff Ooi’s controversial comments at the passing of Haron Din, abstracts the figure further, through the use of colourful, expressionist gestures to build up a portrait. The third work in Blues Malaya to use this style of composition is “Openly Closed”, which centres around overexposure arising as an impact of social media in the twenty-first century. The central figure here is completely abstracted however, appearing as a large army-green shape who speaks simply in social media iconography.
Other works such as “Freedom of Speech At Its Highest Level (Free To Insult)”, which acts as a response to Anurendra Jegadeva’s (popularly known as J Anu) controversial artwork “I is for Idiot”, have also utilised the speech bubbles and sock puppets as a means of direct expression. Shown at Whitebox, Publika, during an exhibition meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Merdeka, “I is for Idiot” caused controversy as J Anu stencilled the title phrase over a canvas which featured the Islamic phrase Bismillahirrahmanirrahim printed in reverse, along with the image of a monkey cycling, and an American flag. Local opinion was divided, with certain factions defending the artwork under the headings of artistic freedom and free speech. “Freedom of Speech At Its Highest Level (Free To Insult)” is a response not only to “I is for Idiot”, but these defensive arguments as well, as Abdullah questions where the lines delineating respect and critical thought are in a multi-cultural society.
The sock puppets lined up along the bottom half of “Freedom of Speech At Its Highest Level (Free To Insult)” that call out “K is for Anu” are an icon developed by Abdullah as a representation of individuals or a group, with a humorous twist. Messages that could be interpreted as sharp or stinging are softened though this embodiment of a playful icon rendered in a caricature style. In the works “Kritik Bukan Bangkang” and “Anak Mak Ke Anak Abah?” Abdullah graces his sock puppets with increased human like characteristics, through the addition of thick white teeth that are visible as they cry out their opinions. This inclusion of a childlike element is reminiscent of the works of pioneering Malaysian artist Zulkifli Dahlan, who Abdullah has cited as an inspiration in the past, and was fond of exploring social issues through cartoons and caricatures in works such as “Kedai-Kedai” (1973). Abdullah recognized the tension that results from merging contrasting whimsical and sombre elements as being highly reflective of the issues swirling throughout contemporary society, resulting in these satirical artworks, such as “Comolot (After Klimt)”.
Compositionally, “Comolot (After Klimt)” references Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting “The Kiss (Lovers)”. Painted between 1907 to 1908, this modernist masterpiece centres on two lovers locked in an embrace, and clothed in elaborately decorative robes reflective of the Art Nouveau, and Arts and Crafts movements of the time. Abdullah draws on the central composition of “The Kiss (Lovers)” which is mirrored by the blue, red, and white sock puppet reaching down over the shorter green sock puppet as they dominate the left side of the canvas. Speech bubbles emanating from their ‘mouths’ ascertain their identities, and hint at the political narrative underpinning the artwork, as one appears to proclaim the UMNO logo and the other the PAS logo. This acrylic on canvas painting unpicks the reactions towards political cooperation between UMNO and PAS, and acts a base from which local reactions and critical analysis of politics can be understood.
Grounding this artwork in the framework of art history, and pairing it with a title alluding to ideas of closeness and friendship, it becomes apparent Abdullah is highlighting political affiliations. Surrounding the sock puppet icons are several phrases, amongst them: “Orang lain yang bergaduh, kita yang bersungguh”, “Rakyat kenyang makan janji” and “Jangan bakar jambatan”. In etching the phrases in a style reminiscent of graffiti, Abdullah introduces the views of the everyman into “Comolot (After Klimt)”. He questions the impact of political affiliations and pacts on the general public, not only in how it affects them directly, but also in the perceptions of politics within wider society. Rather than offer his own views on the situation, the artist is attempting to encourage his audience to position their views from an analytical standpoint, as opposed to repeating shallow sentiments that have gained popularity.
It is clearly apparent through Blues Malaya that Abdullah is a firm believer in the notion of patriotism. This is perhaps expressed most simply in “Kepala Angin #2”, an acrylic on canvas work measuring five feet by seven feet. An abstracted figure fills the centre of the canvas; from whom a speech bubble emanates declaring “She’s not beautiful you know, but I love her”. Surrounding him are smaller sock puppets chirping comments such as “sweetnya” and “romantisss”, yet the viewer is left with the impression that the sock puppets are mocking the central figure. Abdullah metaphorically speaks of the derision that often meets citizens who openly declare a sense of patriotism, commenting that is often construed as aligning oneself with the ruling political party. The artist rejects this view, stating instead that it is key citizens take pride in themselves and their country, so as to improve on their own situation.
Both through text and imagery, Abdullah has infused his works with a great deal of meaning. At the heart of it, the social commentary existing here at Blues Malaya focuses on the idea of ‘critique’- be it institutionally, socially or politically – while encouraging notions of patriotism. The artist underlines a very present local characteristic of quickening to criticise, and asks if instead criticism should be padded with research and critical analysis? Additionally, he gently raises the issue of ‘self-critique’: can individuals in a society begin to accept a greater responsibility for both their own situations and global issues? As such he attempts to broaden the local understanding and use of criticism and critique from harbouring a possibly negative connotation into a social tool. In merging a complex discourse with vibrant visuals and a sense of fun and wit, Abdullah has produced a portfolio of artworks that are an accurate representation of himself as an artist, activist and individual.
TANAH TUMPAHNYA DARAH is the latex solo exhibition by Malaysian renowned figurative painter; Md. Fadli Yusoff. The exhibition is showcasing 15 artworks that will be on display from 20th October until 27th November 2016.
TANAH TUMPAHNYA DARAH
by Zena Khan
Born in Kelantan, Malaysia, where he continues to reside and work, artist Fadli Yusoff casts an analytical eye over his environment as a source of inspiration. His keen sense of observation acts as a technical, as well as conceptual entry point. This is evident both in his skill as one of the most talented Malaysian contemporary figurative artists, as well as in the complex subject matters addressed through his portfolio of large scale figurative paintings that have won a series of critical awards. These include the Juror’s Choice Award at the Philip Morris Art Awards (1999), 3rd place in the Formula Malaysia Art Award (2000) and Grand Prize, Kijang Award from Bank Negara Malaysia (2004). Indeed, the figure is a unifying theme that binds the works presented here at Tanah Tumpahnya Darah to address questions on a variety of issues running through Malaysian society today, from the political, to social, to religious. The subjects of his portraits are a mix of well-known icons and acquaintances, used as cultural references to establish the shifts and status of present day Malaysia. In the process, Fadli creates relatable imagery that open up lines of communication between artwork and audience, resulting in a conversational atmosphere between his thought process and his viewer.
Tanah Tumpahnya Darah has been two years in the making, a time frame that suits Fadli’s chosen genre of contemporary realism. This exhibition marks his fourth solo. In 2000 he had his first, Matafizik, at Pelita Hati Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, his second, Md Fadli Yusoff 2007- 2013, was in 2013 with Gallery 12, and in 2014 he showed a smaller solo A Day In Kota Lama at Whitebox, Publika. With Tanah Tumpahnya Darah, Fadli builds strongly on techniques and threads of thought he began exploring with Md Fadli Yusoff 2007-2013, a body of seminal paintings created over the span of five years. In the catalogue accompanying Md Fadli Yusoff 2007-2013, curator Shooshie Sulaiman touches on the importance of observation in visual art, an idea that holds particular resonance in contemporary realism. In working through the figure, Fadli uses traditional painterly techniques to accurately illustrate his subjects as close representations of his observations. This is indicative of a natural skill bolstered by rigorous training in classical painting skills, including anatomy, figure drawing, composition, and techniques in oil paint. Over the years he has honed these skills through a discipline of practice and experimentation within the genre, beginning from his time as a young fine art student at MARA University of Technology (UiTM), under Amron Omar. Amron is widely recognized as a master of figurative art in Malaysia, particularly with his widely acclaimed Silat series. At UiTM, Amron was notorious for running a figurative class marked by strict standards. In this space, Fadli blossomed, impressing his tutor greatly and attaining the highly coveted, almost mythical A Grade that Amron handed out sparingly. As he graduated with a BA in Fine Art, a bright future as a figurative painter beckoned, or so it seemed.
As Fadli began immersing himself deeper into his religion, a chasm began to appear between his artistic inclinations towards the figure, and the obligations he perceived for a devout Muslim. Questions arose in his mind over the acceptability of a figurative practice for a Muslim. This was compounded by a book he read from the United Ullama Council of South Africa, The Ruling on Photography based on Islamic Law according to Fatwa Issue, and for the next eleven years, he turned his attentions strictly towards experimentations in abstract work.
The mark of a great contemporary artist is their ability to communicate observations and analysis on events – be they social, cultural, political, or religious – which often stems from an inquisitive, experimental nature. Certainly this holds true for Fadli, who is known for a curious nature. Even after making the decision to set aside his figurative career out of religious obligation, he continued to research the subject, curious as to the rules and guidance for individuals such as himself. Eventually he concluded that his artistic practice was in fact a form of dakwah, a conversational process through which he could spread knowledge on Islam, but that he would be most successful engaging an audience if he worked with his strongest talent – realism. Thus in 2007, Fadli returned to figurative works. From 2007 to 2012 he worked on a series of paintings centered around the figure through which he established himself as a leading contemporary artist and critical thinker in Malaysia’s contemporary art scene, culminating in a solo exhibition, Md Fadli Yusoff 2007- 2013, with Gallery 12.
One of the most seminal works from Md Fadli Yusoff 2007-2013, “Stand Here and Choose Yourself (Museum Piece)”, speaks to the ideals that formed the basis of this return to the figure. A piece that merges a large scale acrylic on canvas painting with an instructional performance, it demonstrates a keen desire to engage audiences in physical and conceptual interactions. The left of the canvas features a contemporary figure in suit and tie, while the right of the canvas is dominated by a man in a thobe (traditional Islamic tunic). In presenting the two ‘choices’, that is secular versus Islamic, Fadli invites his audience to choose the figure that best represents them, their belief systems, and way of life. For the artist, choices are made based on knowledge, a concept that has deep roots in Islam where believers are encouraged to read and seek knowledge at all times. In the instructional performance accompanying “Stand Here and Choose Yourself (Museum Piece)”, audiences are questioned on their choice of figure along with a justification for their choice, with their answers recorded on video. This produces a documentation on the knowledge and reasoning existing within society at large at that point. As a result “Stand Here and Choose Yourself (Museum Piece)” articulates contemporary thoughts on the parameters of knowledge through Islamic philosophy in contemporary art practice.
This interest in including Islamic philosophy in his artistic practice extended to contemporary calligraphy. Indeed, Fadli can be seen as a key contributor to the development of a contemporary calligraphy movement within Malaysia. What is particularly exciting about Malaysian contemporary calligraphy is the way local artists use Arabic or Jawi script as an icon through which they transmit broader conceptual, cultural, social, or political ideas and commentaries. Fadli is no exception, but pushes this boundary even further by merging calligraphy with realism. Earlier experimentations into communicating Islamic themes and discourse through a figurative practice featured neat lines of romanized writing woven through the Arabic script and deep dark backgrounds, with beautiful realistic images overlaid, resulting in arresting visual tensions.These are continued in the body of works brought together at Tanah Tumpahnya Darah, especially “Ampunkanlah Aku” and “Dua Muka”. “Ampunkanlah Aku” features a man on his prayer mat, presumably post- prayer, with his hands raised as he makes doa. Overlaid on the figure is a column of romanized text that reads “Ampunkanlah aku wahai Allah, Ampunkanlah aku wahai Allah yang Maha Agung” (“Forgive me O’Allah, Allah is Great”). The use of realism and romanized text lend a truly contemporary atmosphere to the painting as it deals with issues resonating
with tradition, culture, and religious practice. As such, Fadli makes these weighty issues relatable to a wider audience, both Muslim and secular, engaging a younger generation in his conceptual practice. The emergence of the figure and colored text from a deep, dark background are classic Fadli, and mark his formal interest in working with established painterly techniques, particularly chiaroscuro.
An Italian term meaning “light-dark” that originated during the Renaissance, chiaroscuro makes use of light and shade to create strong tonal contrasts to suggest three- dimensionality. Paintings seen here at Tanah Tumpahnya Darah such as “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!” or “Hope” feature figures set against deep, dark backgrounds, giving the illusion of a spotlight on the central image. Drawing viewers into a close visual relationship with his subject in this manner, Fadli subtly narrows their focus onto the concepts represented by each portrait. By including several other elements in his compositions, in the form of architectural drawings, pop culture references, and text, the paintings are grounded within the framework of specific contemporary conversations. At times these build on earlier dialogues – as can be seen in “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!”, which continues an examination first initiated in 2011’s “Stand Here And Choose Yourself II”, of state versus federal governance in his home state of Kelantan.
This idea of contrast between heritage and the now via two figures is one Fadli has reworked here in “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!”, but can be traced back to works such as ”Stand Here And Choose Yourself (Museum Piece)”. Compositional links can be made through the framing of each canvas by figures linked through a broad central element, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Perfect Man or the Malaysian flag. “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!” relies on a series of opposites – colour versus sepia, light versus dark, calligraphic fonts versus graffiti, and the past versus the present – to ruminate on ideas of duality, and the line between perception and reality. “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!” delves into this theme by raising the issue of separation between state and federal governance.
At an impressive 18 feet in length, “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!” is the largest work in this solo exhibition, and a confident assertion of Fadli’s skills and experimental desires within portraiture. An acrylic on jute piece, it draws inspiration from a billboard displayed in Kota Bharu in 2012, coinciding with Malaysia’s 55th Merdeka Day celebrations. On the right of the painting, Fadli replicates the famous image of Tunku Abdul Rahman raising his fist as he declares Independence. Painted in sepia tones, the work easily marks itself out as a historical reference, whilst bringing to mind the values on which the nation was founded. A large crowd is hinted at behind Tunku Abdul Rahman. Administered in a range of abstract brush strokes in sepia tones, they come together not only to build depth, but also the sense of a host of individual characters, gathered in unity; an idea reinforced through the 1Malaysia logo stenciled on this edge.
Directly opposite the reproduction of this archival image is a larger than life portrait of a young woman, whose Kelantanese identity appears confirmed by the batik scarf draped over her head. In contrast to the strong sepia figure of Tunku Abdul Rahman, this anonymous Kelantanese woman is painted in colour, cementing her as a contemporary figure. Her gaze on the historical leader appears fixed and softly questioning. A fluttering Malaysian flag is stretched out across the centre of the canvas, bridging not only the two
figures, but also creating a temporal link between past and present. He lays the text “Aku Anak Malaysia” over the flag, a direct nod to the original billboard that sparked this work. Punctuating this proud statement however are the words “Pung” and “Jugok”, Kelantanese terms for “as well”. Bright red with an exclamation mark, they are rendered in a graffiti style that sits in opposition to the carefully painted decorative words, emphasizing their role as a declaration of inclusion.
Through “Aku Pung Anak Malaysia Jugok!” Fadli raises awareness on the country’s history and inception, with a focus on values of identity and inclusiveness. Concurrently he opens up examination into the place Kelantan occupies within overall federal governmental policies. What is of note is that yet again Fadli does not offer a fixed position on the issue he is addressing. Rather, he draws attention to the contributions Kelantan makes as part of Malaysia, through the oil industry, or as the nation’s cradle of culture, which is strongly hinted at through the prominent pink batik in the work, and the complaints that some of the state’s residents have. In the process, he aims to create an intellectual space where audiences can be made aware of historical and current issues, but through self-reflection arrive at individual conclusions.
As mentioned earlier, the search for knowledge through self-reflection and research is a defining characteristic of Fadli, both personally and professionally. One of the threads running through Tanah Tumpahnya Darah is the idea that things may not always be as they appear, and that we live in a world of dualities. As in “Kambing Hitam”, he indicates a distaste for assumptions. Each canvas in the triptych features a statement over a figure; “kambing hitam“ (black sheep) over a black sheep, “kambing hitam bukan hitam” (black sheep that isn’t black) over a brown sheep, and finally “kambing hitam bukan kambing” (black sheep that isn’t a sheep) over a man dressed in a thobe. Taking the idea of the black sheep from the literal to the metaphorical, and including the social media concept of hashtagging, he points out the ease with which society accepts a truth. This has become particularly prevalent through the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and is indicative of refusing to think and analyse to come to independent conclusions.
The need to form conclusions independent of existing or popular opinions in fact comes back to a critique of the local contemporary art industry. Despite the highly acclaimed standard of critical contemporary artists and artworks emerging from Malaysia, historically there has been a lack of support for the contemporary in terms of institutional collections, archives, and documentations. This writer in particular, has examined existing curatorial theses alongside evidence such as artworks, archival imagery, and artist interviews, in an attempt to circumvent this issue of discursive exclusions, such as questioning the established narrative on figurative art in Malaysia. This act of setting aside ‘received knowledge’ to allow for the birth of ‘actual knowledge’ parallels Fadli’s perspective of refusing to blindly accept information, and continuously reading, researching and analyzing. “Hope”, a larger than life portrait of this writer with a line drawing of the Royal College of Art (RCA) overlaid, addresses the value of research, documentation, and curating as a necessary support for contemporary artists, that has been absent to a large degree locally. At the time of working alongside Fadli to produce documentation on Tanah Tumpahnya Darah, this writer was pursuing a Masters at the RCA, which as an institution is known to
prize the production of new knowledge and theses. It is interesting to note that Fadli often tackles stronger statements through the use of an identifiable female icon, for example Aung San Suu Kyi in “We Who Are Left Behind I” and “We Who Are Left Behind II”, or Malala Yousafzai in “Malang Malala”.
In his quest to produce faithful depictions of his observations, Fadli engaged in a thorough pre-production process. Beginning with clear concepts in mind, he approached several acquaintances to act as sitters for him, styling and posing each in a series of specific ways, and having them photographed professionally. The most extreme of these was for “Tanah Tumpahnya Darah”, where the sitter agreed to be tied up, and hung upside down from his feet, as the myth relays was Tok Janggut’s fate. Working from these posed photographs adds a layer of depth to Fadli’s pre-production process, allowing him greater creative autonomy and reproductive ability, while cementing the value of observation for him as an artist. Indeed, it is this skill to observe the world around him, and transmit his observations through a mix of technical skill and critical commentary, that has always set Fadli apart. As he continues to grow, spiritually and intellectually, audiences are able to see these growths mirrored through an increasingly complex, and layered portfolio of paintings which cement Fadli’s reputation as one of Malaysia’s most talented contemporary figurative artists.
You are cordially invited to the opening reception of
A Solo Exhibition by
To be officiated by
3-10 & 3-13, Level 3, Intermark Mall
The Intermark, 348 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
SPACE INVADER(S) is Azad Daniel Haris inaugural solo exhibition which showcasing 19 artworks that will be on display from 15th July – 31st August 2016.
(visit our facebook page to view the artworks)
by Zena Khan
From the mid-twentieth century, globalization has been on the rise. Demarcated by several factors, amongst them, an increase in free trade, economies of scale, as well as international media and multinationals. Along with rapid technological advancements, globalization shrinks the spaces between countries and cultures. While the term itself seems to imply cross-pollination, questions arise if it is actually a new route through which Western civilizations are able to assert dominance in the post-World War II landscape. Indeed, in his essay “Globalization and Political Strategy”, celebrated American literary critic Fredric Jameson asks, if what is really meant by ‘globalization’ is a spreading of American military and economic power, representing new forms of imperialism? At the heart of globalization lies the increasing standardization of world cultures, along a Western (usually American) trajectory, as local cultures and traditions are replaced by American food, TVs, clothes and films. These questions, along with those of consumerism and identity, often inform the practice of Azad Daniel, who continues these explorations in his inaugural solo exhibition, Space Invader(s).
A young Malaysian contemporary artist, Azad has been garnering notice for his portfolio of distinctive super-glossy artworks that extend the precincts of painting as a genre. Influenced by popular culture, and ideas of appropriation, he translates everyday objects such as iPhones and doughnuts into witty, thought-provoking artworks. Over the past few years he has worked to refine an experimental style of painting, where he primes MDF boards or cast fiberglass and Perspex surfaces with cement, before painting on them with auto paint, in a process usually reserved for the automotive industry. While auto paint might not instinctively lend itself to detailing, Azad circumvents this by illustrating his images on a computer, and then prints these images out as a series of super-sized sticker stencils. Layering them onto his surfaces one at a time, he builds up his painted surfaces to achieve sharp, detailed and glossy images that have captured the attentions of critics and audiences alike. This acclaim has manifest in several ways, such as his participation in several key exhibitions, including Iskandar Malaysia Contemporary Art Show (IMCAS) in 2009, the National Portrait Exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur (2013), Young Malaysian Artist – New Objection at Galeri Petronas (2013) and World Art Festival in Seoul, Korea (2008). Space Invader(s) excitingly provides audiences with the first opportunity to view an entire body of Azad’s works at once, which conceptually and technically build on his earlier efforts.
Space Invader(s) can be separated into two sets of works: one series of super-flat works and another of three-dimensional cups set against MDF boards. Visually, the series is reinforced as a single thread of thought, via a series of black lines painted on the gallery walls, connecting the pieces, and providing a linear map to guide viewers through the space. Anchoring this exhibition is Azad’s first major installation, titled “Space Invader(s): I”. Standing at 17 feet in length, it is primarily made up of around 800 cups with cast fiberglass lids that replicate Starbucks’ takeaway coffee cups. Azad began working with this fiberglass technique in 2013 with “Private Funk”, a flat fiberglass work finished in auto paint. He went on to experiment with this technique by casting 6 feet high iPhone covers in his popular iPhone series, indicating a desire to push his practice into three dimensional shapes. With “Space Invader(s): I”, he successfully achieves this through the production of these complex-shaped coffee cups and lids; indicating advancements in his mastery and control of this medium. Their cylindrical shapes proved to be technically-challenging, and had to be worked on a 360-degree plan, versus the artist’s typically flat stencils. In order to seamlessly connect the two different materials, Azad glued the lids to the bases before meticulously sanding them down, and applying a second undercoat over the first plastic glue primer. The cast cups are stylized; the distinctive Starbucks logo has been removed, and they are painted in a variety of auto paint colors, overlaid with a high gloss lacquer sealant. The cups were finally arranged in a meticulously pre-planned composition, building up images of Space Invader icons across the length of the installation. Thus, the original connotation of the logo-stamped coffee cups has been recast, and conversations on globalization and youth culture are initiated within a local context.
As Malaysia becomes increasingly educated, urbanized, and affluent, so too has there been a rise in consumer culture, a subject that holds known fascinations for Azad. These changes are occurring against the backdrop of twenty first century globalization, and the rise of social media. As such, individuals now have unprecedented access to products and lifestyle options. Consequently, larger global realities are integrated into smaller local ones, changing the landscape of how consumers think, act, and perhaps most importantly, spend. Social and cultural systems are now overlapping with each other’s values, morals, skills and tastes. Azad, in pointing to himself as a representative for the Gen Y demographic, dissects this phenomenon within a local context, utilizing the cups as metaphors for the shifting social landscape he observes. Where previous generations might have gathered at a mamak stall or kopitiam, Azad sees his generation drawn to the rising ‘café culture’. Throughout the city, international coffee chains such as Starbucks are springing up, pointing to a growing Western influence and homogenization of culture. While on one hand this can be viewed positively as a sign of society’s growing affluence, there is a flip side to the preference of a uniform global identity, particularly for a post-colonial nation. Recalling colonial ideas of Western moral and cultural superiority over the local, the artist questions if this homogenization is instead the surreptitious form of neo-imperialism suggested by Fredric Jameson? In trying to reconcile the multiple facets that construct his identity – from being a Muslim, to a Malaysian, to a member of Gen Y – Azad analyses the possibility that such a homogenization is in fact, an incomplete set of values that gloss over the complexities involved in carving out a contemporary cultural heritage? Or, he asks, is he being paranoid; and is a cup of coffee simply that: a cup of coffee?
Azad’s dialogue with Gen Y is made clear in these works, especially through the use of Space
Invader icons running across the exhibition. Indeed his ability to engage audiences in complex, critical discussions through highly relatable aesthetics is well documented, demonstrating an innate understanding of society’s functioning. The Space Invader icon here is directly appropriated from the popular video game that was created in the 1970’s, and has been a popular cultural icon for Gen Y. As Space Invader itself was a hallmark game that broke the barrier from novelty activity to global industry, it can be seen as a general nod to the gaming industry, as an example of how technology rapidly seeped into the everyday lives of today’s generations. Much like the rise of ‘café culture’, video games have transformed the social landscape, with regards to social and interpersonal interactions. Azad comments on his choice of this motif as an investigation into contemporary forms of ‘invasion’. He deconstructs the word ‘space’ into having a duality of meaning. On one level it could be referring to the galaxy itself, as a literal comment on the video game that aesthetically inspired him. This introduces an element of ‘lightness’ into what is essentially a serious discourse on globalization and neo-imperialism. On the other hand Azad speaks about the creation of a ‘space’ for dialogue, offering the staging of his solo exhibition as an area where audiences are able to reflect on a series of questions and thoughts, in an effort to consolidate their own critical viewpoint. As such, he indicates a desire for Space Invader(s) to act not only as a conceptual and technical progression for him creatively, but also as a ‘space’ in which critical thoughts and debates can be sparked.
What can be inferred from Space Invader(s) is perhaps the fact that a growing world economy and free trade cannot inaugurate a universal culture. With this body of works, Azad comments on the need to strike a balance between achieving modernization with a renewing of individual cultural traditions, as opposed to mimicking the ideas of an overarching Western identity. These ideas connect to his previous inquiries into consumer and popular culture, and subtly propose increased investigations into the rituals of daily life in twenty-first century Malaysia, in the search for a contemporary identity that can successfully invoke the complexities of mixing heritage and development.
Siri Rasa Bertuhan
Karya seni pelukis Mohd Noor Mahmud berkait rapat dengan tradisi kraf Kelantan. Seni Kelantan memberi pengaruh kuat kepada kebudayaan Malaysia seperti batik, kain songket, pertukangan perak dan ukiran kayu. Pengaruh budaya kraf ini telah menajdi sebati digunakan oleh Mohd Noor dalam kerjayanya. Bermula dengan karya seni pertama beliau iaitu Siri Imaian (1988), Sekebun Bunga III (2013), Alun III (2013) dan karya terbaru, Siri Rasa Bertuhan yang mempersembahkan 99 nama Allah SWT.
Pameran ini dijangka akan diadakan pada Mac nanti di Galeri Artcube, The Intermark, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.
Jumlah karya yang dihasilkan kali ini adalah sebanyak 99 buah. Mohd Noor menghasilkan setiap satu nama Allah ke atas setiap helaian kanvas yang berukuran 5 x 5 kaki. Karya ini telah dimulakan prosesnya pada 2008 dan kerja yang memakan masa lima tahun ini akhirnya siap sepenuhnya pada tahun lalu.
Mohd Noor telah meneroka penggunaan teknik kraf tradisional unutk membawa satu seni bertema kontemporari. Justeru beliau telah menggunakan campuran akrilik bersama habuk papan yang diletakkan keatas helaian kanvas.
Teknik ini digunakan bertujuan untuk memberi kesan yang lebih lembut ke atas karya serta dapat meggantikan teknik ukiran kayu yang lebih sukar.
Mohd Noor pertama kali menyedari teknik ini dalam karya Siri Gua yang merujuk kepada Gua Cha di Ulu Kelantan. Gua tersebut merupakan tapak arkeologi paling aktif dikaji di Semenanjung Malaysia dan peninggalan bahan-bahan artifak zaman Hoabhonians dan Neolitik telah ditemui di situ.
Tapak arkeologi paling aktif adalah tempat mayat Hoabhonians dan Neolitik ditemui dengan artifak mereka. Objek-objek yang terdapat dalam pengebumian kubur manusia seperti barang kemas, tembikar dan peralatan batu telah memberi ilham kepada artis ini untuk mengkaji bahan-bahan kasar seperti serbuk kayu untuk menjadi sebahagian bahan mentah karyanya.
Serbuk ini dicampur dengan gam untuk mendapat satu tekstur yang kasar dan mencapai kesan lapisan yang cantik.
Keajaiban teknik ini telah memberi satu hasil karya yang berkualiti kepada arca kanvas itu sendiri. Jika dilihat dari sudut tepi, jelas kelihatan beliau betul-betul teliti dalam penghasilan kerjanya kerana kerana helian kanvas diregang kemas dan permukaan elemen tiga dimensi menampakkan karya seni ini seperti bercahaya.
“Andai aku Tuah…”
Merupakan sebuah karya lukisan yang telah dihasilkan oleh seorang pelukis terkenal pada tahun 2013. Lukisan itu telah dipamerkan di Artcube bersempena dengan pembukaan galeri tersebut pada 28 November lalu.
Lukisan tersebut diinspirasikan daripada sebuah pantun melambangkan falsafah melayu dalam mencapai kejayaan tanpa menyinggung perasaan orang lain. Selain itu, ia melambangkan corak keamanan yang infiniti.
Melalui karya tersebut, pelukis telah memaparkan potret seorang pahlawan yang menjadi simbol kebanggaan bangsa Melayu iaitu hang Tuah sebagai watak utama dalam lukisan tersebut. Yang menariknya, pelukis telah menggunakan konsep media campuran yang dihasilkan diatas kertas kanvas.
Pelukis juga telah menggabungkan beberapa elemen seperti kraf tradisional dan teknik-teknik seni akademik dengan unsur-unsur moden dimana beliau menggunakan kedua-dua keping ukiran asli dan cetakan pada kayu sebagai metafora kewujudan realiti dan ilusi. Ia merupakan satu usaha yang mengagumkan kerana bukan senang untuk menghasilkan sekeping naskah kontemporari yang sarat dengan nilai kemelayuan.
Berbicara lagi tentang idea untuk menghasilkan lukisan tersebut, sebelum melukis potret Hang Tuah, pelukis terlebih dahulu mengkaji mengenai sifat dan jati diri yang ada pada pahlawan tersebut.
Sebagaimana yang kita tahu, Hang Tuah memang cukup terkenal dalam dunia Melayu. Ini kerana sifat yang ada pada Hang Tuah itu sendiri telah menjadikan bangsa melayu dipandang tinggi dan dihormati oleh bangsa-bangsa lain.
Antara sifat yang ada pada dirinya adalah setia kepada negara dan pemimpin, bertolak ansur, dalam ketegasan ada santunnya, mempunyai semangat setiakawan yang tinggi serta mempunyai kemahiran berdiplomasi.
Sebab itu jugalah pelukis memilih Hang Tuah sebagai ikon penyatuan masyarakat di Malaysia. Padanya, semua rakyat Malaysia perlu mempunyai pertalian dan sentimen positif terhadap pahlawan mereka tanpa perlu dibuat-buat dan mengetepikan sentimen-sentimen negatif dalam hidup bermasyarakat.
Tambah pelukis itu lagi, seni seharusnya dapat menyatukan orang ramai. Malah, karyanya ini menunjukkan dengan jelas bahawa beliau tidak secara amnya membawa kearah unsur-unsur kiasan dalam karyanya, tetapi lebih mentakrifkan ajarannya seperti yang ada dalam “Andai Aku Tuah…”
Bagi menghasilkan potret tokoh pahlawan Melayu tersebut, beliau menjadikan arca Hang Tuah yang dipaparkan di Muzium Negara, Kuala Lumpur sebagai sumber rujukan visual. Pada karya yang dihasilkan olehnya, tertulis juga tulisan jawi dengan perkataan ‘Tuah’ dan ‘Jebat’ yang merujuk pada pahlawan, sahabat dan lawan.
Ia juga menjadi lambang metafora bagi memaksudkan unsur-unsur positif dan negataif yang wujud dalam masyarakat. Satu lagi simbol keharmonian yang seimbang boleh didapati pada corak ukiran kayu di sepanjang sempadan atas dan bawah lukisan tersebut.
Anda hendak tahu siapa gerangan pelukis diatas? Pelukis yang dimaksudkan ialah Fauzin Mustafa, 47. Beliau merupakan seorang artis kontemporari yang sangat berpengalaman dan terkenal di Malaysia mahupun dunia. Banyak hasil seninya telah dibeli oleh syarikat-syarikat besar didalam mahupun luar negara. Antaranya ialah syarikat dari Jepun, Amerika Syarikat, Denmark dan banyak lagi.
Beliau juga cukup terkenal dengan hasil lukisannya yang berunsur kemelayuan. Malah setiap hasil seninya mengandungi unsur kemelayuan. Walaupun lukisan tersebut bertaraf universal. Karya “Andai Aku Tuah…” juga merupakan satu lambang kehormatan kepadanya sebagai orang Melayu.
Sepanjang penglibatan beliau dalam dunia lukisan, pelbagai anugerah telah dirangkul. Antaranya ialah memperoleh tempat pertama dalam pertandingan melukis mural 1Malaysia di Balai Seni Negara di Kuala Lumpur pada tahun 2010, mewakili Malaysia dalam pameran-pameran lukisan yang berlangsung di Conpengahen, Denmark, Brunei dan juga Singapura.
Sebenarnya, bakat Fauzin dalam dunia lukisan ini telah dicungkil sejak kecil lagi. Disebabkan minatnya yang mendalam, beliau melanjutkan pelajaran dalam bidang Fine Art dan Design di Universiti Teknologi Mara sehingga ke peringkat Sarjana.
Berbicara tentang dunia lukisan, Fauzin menyatakan bahawa tidak ramai yang berminat untuk menjadikannya sebagai bidang pekerjaan. Ini kerana, ramai yang berpendapat bahawa kerjaya ini sangat susah serta memerlukan bakat dan kemahiran yang tinggi.
Tetapi, mereka tidak sedar sebenarnya hasil lukisan akan meningkat seiring bersama-sama pelukis. Ini kerana, masyarakat kini yang semakin menghargai nilai sebuah lukisan secara tidak langsung memberi penghargaan kepada pelukisnya juga.
Kebiasaanya, pelukis akan menghasilkan satu jenis lukisan sahaja. Disebabkan itu, nilai sesebuah lukisan ada yang mencecah sehingga puluhan ribu. Malah, ada juga mencecah hingga jutaan ringgit.
Ini menyebabkan beratus-ratus peminat lukisan akan berebut satu lukisan tersebut untuk dijadikan koleksi mereka. Mereka akan saling membida harga sehinggalah lukisan tersebut menjadi milik mereka.
Gabungan pelukis hebat
Bagi meluaskan keterbukaan masyarakat terhadap dunia seni Malaysia, Galeri Artcube merevolusikan industri ini menerusi pameran pertama sempena pembukaan galeri itu di The Intermark, Jalan Tun Razak.
Pameran ‘Making The Mark’ adalah gabungan hebat pelukis berpengalaman dan muda dalam pelbagai campuran media.
Gabungan dua tenaga kerja pemilik bersama galeri terbabit, Azhar Ahmad dan Fuad Salleh mengetengahkan 17 pelukis terkenal bersama 24 karya.
Pameran itu berlangsung sehingga 20 Disember ini.
Hamir Soib menerusi The Will menggunakan akrilik dan bitumen di atas kanvas membawa frasa ‘Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani’ yang diambil daripada surah Ar-Rahman.
Kaligrafi Arab mengingatkan diri Hamir pada amanat arwah bapanya.
Shooshie Sulaiman yang popular di peringkat antarabangsa membawa karya tahun ini yang berjudul Purely Love: Leman & Meriam yang dihasilkannya ketika mengadakan siri pameran Sulaiman itu Melayu.
Karya ini sebagai penghormatan kepada arwah bapanya yang menjadi inspirasi sepanjang pengamatan Shooshie terhadap dunia sekeliling.
Karya Hello! Obama Speaking… memaparkan dua elemen yang ditonjolkan Ahmad Shukri Mohamed. Panel pertama menggambarkan situasi Obama bercakap di telefon namun dalam keadaan telinganya merah umpama Obama menahan diri daripada memarahi atau dimarahi.
Mohd Noor Mahmud menerusi karya Sekebun Bunga III dan Alun III mendekati seni tradisi kraf Kelantan. Bermula dengan Siri Imajan (1988) dan dua karya terbarunya membabitkan penggunaan habuk kayu.
Iqra’ antara hasil seni teragung Husin Hourmain yang membawa maksud ‘Bacalah!’.
Husin memang terkenal dalam seni kaligrafi Jawi.
Pameran ini turut membawa karya artis Fauzan Omar, Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail, Daud Rahim, Azad Daniel, Azrin Mohd, Mohd Fazli Othman, Dhavinder Singh, Fauzin Mustafa, Haslin Ismail, Masnoor Ramli, Suhaimi Fadzir dan artis patriotik, Zulkifli Yusof.
INFO Lokasi: Artcube Gallery, 3-10 & 3-13, Intermark Mall, The Intermark, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
Tarikh: Sehingga 20 Disember ini
Masa: 11 pagi hingga 7 petang
Telefon: +603-2181 1787
Local Contemporary Art Goes Global
Malaysia’s latest gallery focus on high-value works by criticcaly- acclaimed Malaysian artist.
New gallery Artcube is set to make its mark in the Malaysian art scene by revolutionizing the way it is presented on the global platform. Joint gallery directors Azhar Ahmad and Fuad Salleh who are art enthusiasts themselves believe that Malaysia already has a strong cast of highly conceptual artist whose technical and experimental abilities have set an international benchmark.
“With the global shift towards preference for art that not only possesses intelectuall depth but also crucially involves great artistic skill, Malaysian contemporary art has all the ingredients to take its rightful place as one of the major art industries in the world, “ said Azhar at the gallery opening at Intermark recently
Artcube features artists like expert handler of acrylic and sawdust on canvas mat Nor Mahmud; veteran painter Hamir Soib; and calligraphy expert Husin Hourmain. Also featured Artcube is Ahmad Shukri Mohamed’s ‘Hello! Obama Speaking…’.
The gallery aims to portray a new environment with new collectors and art lovers, completely different from the set of gallery going people. “ To me, it is great that my work will be seen by a new set of people. It is very interesting to see their reaction,” explained Hamir.
Besides showcasing paintings, sculptures, installations, large scale assemblage and experimental mixed media Artcube will also assist collectors in amassing artworks of significance and act as consultants to serious corporate and private collectors of Malaysian arts.
Original and funky was the official opening of the ArtCube Gallery, a new entry in the artistic scene of Kuala Lumpur. Fuad Salleh and Azhar Ahmad, ArtCube’s art dealers, put together some of the most peculiar and unique pieces of Malaysian contemporary art, and created an exclusive gallery that spans 3,000 square feet.
The guest of honour for this elegant event was Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri, Minister of Tourism and Culture, who helped the two art dealers launch the gallery. Some of the artists who brought to life the creations displayed in the gallery also joined in the celebrations, and had the chance to explain their masterpieces.
Guests were seen enjoying the unique and intricate artwork by the many artist, including Tunku Myra, Mi-ki Choong and Tina Fazlita.
Malaysia’s latest Art Gallery, Artcube, that was launched yesterday, is intended to take Malaysian contemporary art to the world stage. It will focus on high-value, investment-grade contemporary art to the world stage.