Sunday March 10, 2013
Shaping the future
By OOI KOK CHUEN
There is no shortage of newcomers to provide a new focus and perspective on culture and the arts. But are they original enough?
YOUNG artists have never had it so good. Nowadays, many newly graduated artists feel confident enough to go full-time into art, if not selling works, then at least seeking experience and exposure in the numerous artist’s residencies, art fairs and specific programmes all over the world.
Even before they are matang (graduate) and leave their art colleges/universities, they are grabbed by the commercial galleries to feed a market hungry for the next Ib (Datuk Ibrahim Hussein) or Latiff Mohidin. While in the past, dealers such as the late Rahime Harun had done that, it was not on this scale or in such a frenzy. Rahime saw the potential of Juhari Said, for instance, and followed and nurtured Juhari’s career.
In the past, young artists went through the demoralising ritual of knocking on doors, and found that they needed to develop themselves fully before they could get a foothold in a gallery space.
Now, though, there are several galleries consistently offering new artists opportunities undreamt of.
Just look at Klang Valley-based galleries such as Galeri Chandan, Wei-Ling Contemporary, House of Matahati (HOM), Segaris, Pelita Hati Gallery of Art, Pace Gallery, Core Design Gallery, Annexe Gallery, Taksu KL, RA Fine Arts, NN Gallery, G13 Gallery, and, in Penang, The Warehouse, ChinaHouse, Galeri Seni Mutiara and a2 Gallery. The industry standard, Valentine Willie Fine Art, was known for its annual 3 Young Contemporaries show that did much to launch the careers of young artists, until it shockingly exited the scene at the end of last year.
Galeri Chandan and HOM have collaborated in organising the biennial Malaysian Emerging Artists Awards since 2009 – an award that has come to rival even the Young Contemporary Artists (YCA/BMS) award organised by the august National Visual Arts Gallery.
It is good to catch-em-young but all this “cradle-snatching” does have a downside. Some young artists peter away like comets, streaking hot one time but then are heard or seen no more. And the brasher ones might mistake an initially good reception as a sign of their arrival instead of using such recognition/validation as a stepping stone.
Galeri Chandan recently cast its net again, pulling in a new batch of 23 young artists in an exhibition aptly called Platform. The artists, aged between 21 (Adli Nazrin) and 29 (Raja Azeem Idzham), work in paintings, prints, ceramics, installation, and wood and metal sculptures.
At around the same time, HOM unveiled a new harvest in its fifth edition (since 2008) of its signature Young & New in an exhibition being held until March 23 (subsequently to be shown at ChinaHouse in Penang from April 17-May 12). Elsewhere, RA Fine Arts has Akhmal Asyraf’s Chapter 1: Rebirth (until March 19), Pace Gallery has Plane Face (Hirzaq Harris and Azaikmal Rashid, March 13-24), while the Pelita Hati Gallery of Art plans a photography-based Subject Of Dreams II (April 20-May 18).
It says much about the “supply” chain that you don’t get the usual suspects in all these exhibitions.
For these new artists, it may sound unfair that just one or two of their works at such exhibitions could make or break them, but then, like an American Idol contest, they may only get this one shot.
In an “Idol Envy” homage of sorts, some of the works of these young artists betray traces in forms, styles or pet themes of their well-known predecessors – whether intentional or not.
For instance, Nor Hidayaah Shahrun’s ceramic wrappings remind me of Din Omar’s nasi bungkus concoctions in the 1980s; Mohd Azami Ismail seems like a sequel-parody of Ahmad Zakii Anuar’s Smoking Man with his “sofa” thrown in; Alif Che Berahim’s Perahu Boggo-Boggo is reminiscent of Mohd Azhar Abdul Manan’s warrior assemblages turned into boat-shaped frames; Arikwibowo Amril’s work reminds me of the Pop Art of Ahmad “Jeri” Azhari and Amir Zainorin; Adli Nazrin’s the prismatic Gunungan vistas, of Anuar Rashid and Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal; Mohd Aliff Ahmad’s Beware work on wildlife has a zebra-environmental theme similar to that of Ahmad Shukri Mohamed’s Golden Gate series; and Nor Amirah Kamuddin’s work reminds me of H.H. Lim’s toy planes installation at the Rome Railway Terminal in 2001.
In a parallel to a work by 2009 MEA (Malaysia Emerging Artist) winner Samsudin Wahab, newly-graduated Mohd Rusdi pits the face of his father against that of Hitler, with a gun from a turret on his forehead aiming at Hitler in The Philosophers (After Samsudin Wahab), but Rusdi’s cartoonish Imagination Of Happiness looks more promising.
Azami puts a sinister twist to Ahmad Zakii’s inner drama by putting a dagger in the conspirator’s hand with back turned, hoping to occupy the prized “throne” while the incumbent in the coat looks smugly prepared with folded arms.
Arikwibowo, who is also musically inclined (he plays the guitar), spins from the Sex Pistols’ single, God Save The Queen, for his title piece to comment disparagingly on a “queen” who is notorious in the local political landscape. Arikwibowo, from the class of 2012 at Universiti Teknologi Mara, had a stint as resident artist at KL’s Morne Art Gallery and featured in the Locals Only exhibition at Taksu KL in February.
In Paradigm Rebellion, Adli, only in his fourth semester at UiTM, reprises the “Gunungan” symbol as a jumble of glass shards at the bottom. When it comes to symbolising the moon, he prefers to write it out in cursive calligraphy. How interesting it might have been if the word were to be rendered in neon a la Tracey Emin, of the Young British Artists group!
Some of the works are also “framed” differently in terms of concept and as objects, like Norhaizan Bais’s 3 Bingkai Berangkai which has one frame that is empty with a black backdrop, another whitewashed with a rose relief, and the other broken with stains and a big gash in the centre.
Muhamad Nizar Sulaiman plays on the shadow metaphor of the elusive and mysterious Indo-Pacific humpback and bottlenose dolphins, sometimes seen off the shores of Pulau Langkawi. He uses tangled wire metal rods to denote a hindrance or obstacle. The works called Consequential Atonement I and III come from his involvement in dolphin research under the NGO, MareCet. New graduate Nizar has also taken part in exhibitions like the Rice Plate Project (KLCC, 2010) and Precious Little Pieces (Wei-Ling Gallery, 2012).
On painterly concepts, two artists deserve to be looked into: Ainurfatin Majid’s traipse on the dark side is well represented by the mixed media on canvas, Alone, comprising the glow of an antique street lamp against a small dark closed window, while Mohamad Nor Hakim’s Hue In Integration presents seasons of youthful revelry and energy in four different panels.
Multimedia artist Raja Azeem Idzham’s Siri Raksasa – Pegun Si Rasuk, Serpih Cahaya, is caught in stasis by a labyrinth of choking tangled forms, the yellow openings providing little respite. Raja Azeem is also skilled in animation and music and has a recording studio with his similarly inclined siblings; they call themselves JuxtaposeD – like a Jackson 5 outfit.
Some works are also print-based like those by Mohamad Ridzwan Mohd Fuzi (screen and linoprint), Muhammad Faiz Ghazali (screenprint on mengkuang-woven paper), and Fateen Ilahi Kamarudin (etching).
Platform is on until March 21 at Galeri Chandan at Lot 24 & 25, Level G4@U1, Block C5, Publika Shopping Gallery, KL. For more information, call Hasni at 03-6201 5360, e-mail email@example.com or go to galerichandan.com.