Tag Archives: Contemporary Malaysian Art

Footnoting our being as humans …


I was asked to write something about the work of art present from several illustrious fine artists. The moment I take a look at the papers in which their works were printed on, my mouth coincidently mumbling, “…life-notes.”

Those notes are life documentary as suggested by Danny Gregory (2008) which ‘is an art form that must be experienced as it was created’. These are works that is actually not intended to be shared to everybody. What would we see in this kind works of art is:
“You see moment being recorded in sequence. You see ideas unfold and deepen. You see risk, mistakes, regrets, thoughts, lessons, dreams…” (Gregory, 2008, p. 1)

Artists who passed over their works here are sharing their secrecy and intimacy, and their works disclosed the world of being. The kind of work that preceded the work of art is considered as a work of art by its own being. Oliver Mongin (1993) in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader said that ‘it is the gestation of humanity that will go on completing itself forever improvising opened a limitless field of discovery, set forth the world “to be painted” or “to be sketched,” calling for an indefinite future of painting’.

Exploration. Observation. Expression. Construction of lifes. Whenever one may think, he/she could made contemplative act in his/her everydayness through sketching or doodling on merely any surface spontaneously. It is a way of being creative, a primordial talent that God gave to us as human being. Visual thinking is a mode of being that was practiced daily. Being open, seeing, listening, elucidating and participating in the world is essential. Although these Paperworks were made individually by particularly artists involved here, their identities appeared as suggestive reading sequences. It is necessary to mention notes from Robyn McCallum (1999):

“Concepts of personal identity and selfhood are formed in dialogue with society, with language, and with other people, and while this dialogue is ongoing,…. Conceptions of subjectivity are intrinsic to narratives of personal growth or maturation, to stories about relationships between the self and others, and to explorations of relationships between individuals and the world, society or the past …”

The identity being appears through the Paperworks is socially constructed in a dialogical space-time. The identity is not calculative or summative but subjectively correlated each works to others upon its mysterious gaze. “… a view that the mysterious and unknown remains relevant to our everyday life, “said Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei, “as a potential halo surrounding the most ordinary things and experiences”. Nevertheless, in his seminal essay ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ Martin Heidegger refused the accounts of the artwork as representation of actual objects, as the container of aesthetic feeling, or as self-expression of an artistic genius. Simply to put, art is the manifestation of truth itself for truth is Being’s self-disclosure in tension with its concealment and this Paperworks is consider as the happening of such truth. “All art, as the letting happen of the advent of the truth of being, is as such, in essence, poetry.” According to Gosseti-Frencei (2007) poetry for Heidegger means a projective saying, “…by naming beings, language makes them manifest as something; it draws them out, projects them as what they are, in their Being.”(p.186) Truth is not the adequate correlation between a thought or idea and external facts; rather it is unconcealment.

Creating. Writing. Footnoting. The role of a writer is to capture and construct the world manifest through language, whilst language is not merely an abstract system of signs perse. We experience and understand language as opening us onto a world, to such quasi-perceptual effects as mood, inflection and silence. Literary language has a ‘halo signification’ comparable to ‘the mute radiance of painting’. There is a tacit language, and painting speaks in this way says Maurice Merleau-Ponty. As a matter of fact, this Paperworks is a kind of writing, as aforementioned above that it is a ‘life-notes’. Footnoting is a bodily act that is an intertwining of vision and movement. The visual world is saturated with motor sense in virtue of our bodily continuity with the world we perceive which according to Merleau-Ponty that visibility is the intuitively felt reality of things disclosed to us as part of dense, opaque world, the milieu in which things show up, amid other things. This Paperworks explicate the world through its writing and it is footnoting our being as humans.

Karna Mustaqim

Gregory, D. (2008). An Illustrated Life: An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers. Cincinnati, Ohio: HOW Books.
Mongin, O. (1993). Since Lascaux, in Johnson, G.A., The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader. Illinois: Northwestern University Press, (pp.248-249).
McCalum, R. (1999). Ideologies of Identity in Adolescent Fiction: The Dialogical Construction of Identity. New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc., (p. 3).
Gosseti-Ferencei, J. A. (2007). The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, (p. 9).
Heidegger, M. (1977, 2008). Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger. New York: Harper Perrenial. (p.197).
Carman, T. (2008). Merlea
u-Ponty. London & New York: Routledge, (p. 198)
ibid., (p. 184-190).


For the love of Gold : Possibilities of Maybe

Title: “For the love of Gold”
Size: 82 cm x 82 cm x 26 cm
Material: Glass, aluminium frame, skull & 8k gold

Art takes place within power associations and is always a political phenomenon. There are two type of political dominion in art but I’m more interested in the politics that deals with the struggle of meanings and power. In art, the artist’s intentions and the viewer’s interpretations meet and clash (whether it is coming from the public viewers or the artists’ community). Art keeps talking about values and ethics; about what is important or whose art is ‘artier’. That is why it is always a political struggle. Thus power for me is an unconscious tactical maneuver that artist do and create to get advantages over the idea of what makes them different. Thus most artists are actually inclined to take on a political quality, although we often see artist as detached from politics parse. We all must understand that creator of a work of art has power over the viewers particularly when the viewers do not use the power they are entitled to, neither questioning the given or trusting their own interpretations (which is for me another issue that needs to be discussed and looked into). But still, this is by no means a simple hierarchical position, as the viewers may disagree with and give their own observations. It may well be that an artist can recognise aesthetic triumphs while ignoring society, but to unruly disregard concerning social matters is ironically also a political position.

“Internal No.7”


When looking at a piece of artwork, we tend to focus on the surface of the work. Our judgment is usually based on what is obvious without taking into account the meaning behind it. This feeling of dissatisfaction is what drove me to create this piece. It is about exploring the innards of an object. My experience with using glass and its transparent nature has an influence in the creation of this work. Glass though solid, allows us to see what is inside. This creates a kind of subconscious feeling similar to what one might experience under water. I invite the viewer to explore the perforation on this metal sculpture and ‘float’ into a space that transcends the ‘box’ that is the boundaries of the sculpture. The viewer is free to make up whatever they desire.


Title: “Internal No.7”
Size: 3 Panels with overall dimension: 193 cm x 122 cm x 13 cm 
Material: Metal & 2K paint 

Portraits of Bidong : Impressionist works by Razak Abdullah

“There isn’t a single person or landscape or subject which doesn’t possess some interest, although it may not be immediately apparent. When a painter discovers this hidden treasure, other people are immediately struck by its beauty” (Pierre Auguste Renoir)  

Impressionist art as I understand it, is about the thrill and delight of the visual sensation. It took me awhile to understand that to appreciate an impressionist painting is to take a few steps back and enjoy the broken colors to fall into place to form the subject of beauty right before your eyes. 
I often wonder whether it is my eyesight that is taking its time in absorbing the colors or my brain in registering and digesting it. 
The power of concentration and observation is compelling in the impressionist artist. The understanding of colors and light and how this is recreated with paints and brushes on canvas is truly an innovative visual thought. 
Razak Abdullah paints directly from nature and celebrates this technique of expression to achieve the color blends and capture the energy behind the subject. In conversations with him on his work, you can feel the thrill of his intimacy with the subject matter. His animated descriptions and detailed understanding of the layers and relationship in nature, expresses his faithfulness to and enjoyment of the vibrancy of the subject, as tasted through his eyes.  
His impressionist art has now taken another dimension. He invites us to appreciate the symphonies of light and color under the sea in his Portraits of Bidong series. It is a pleasant departure from the normal impressionist landscapes as the colors and light are ‘tasted’ through underwater vision. 
Illumination under water depends on the thickness of the layer and the reflection and scatter of light rays in the water. Sunlight is reflected in by the surface of the water. The amount of refracted light not only depends on the angle between the rays and the surface of the water but also in the quantity of the air bubbles in the surface layer that have been formed by the motion of the water. 
Razak’s underwater panorama would have been an interplay of light and color dancing to the tunes of these refractions and the vibrancy of life under the sea.
He seeks to convey this impressions to us, communicating the delightful sensations and inviting us to delve, observe and celebrate the colors and energy of nature.
“It is on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly”, (Monet)  
Mohammad Nazli Abdul Aziz
Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur
Razak Abdullah’s Potraits of Bidong will be on show from August 12, 2008. The images of the artwork are the copyright of the artist. No part or image may be reproduced by any process without written permission of the copyright owners.

Peta Mimpi by Hasanul Isyraf Idris

“I employ my position as a spectator of global issues related to war, terrorism, super-power alliance, and regimented ruling for this series of artwork. I am interested in the images that typically related to war such as weaponry, aircraft and tanks, in combination with images of toys, flowers, birds, Bali offering and images that imply happiness, freedom and hope. These subject matters, derived from the bombardment of mass media, have become my main tools in expressing my concerns towards the turmoil of war and its casualties. I organised my composition by playfully selecting images that can make my painting appears like an interesting and almost decorative piece of art. I always try to create pleasing (but mocking) game-like and playful look by arranging overlapping and intersecting the silhouette and patterns of the images. The ambiguity of the purposes of the shapes and pattern suggests some hidden agendas”


Hasanul Isyraf Idris (b.1978) is a graduate of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) who has been known for his pop-oriented artworks since he emerged into the local art scene in 1999. His works has been selected for the Malaysian Young Contemporaries in 2004,2006 and 2008. This work in currently on show at Galeri Chandan, Bukit Damansara www.galerichandan.com

Semangat Chandan : Contemporary Artists from The Land of Grace

click to enlarge exhibition leaflet

 click to enlarge curatorial summary

Galeri Chandan, Bukit Damansara

Newcomers as gallery owners but not to the world of art, three art lovers want to raise the bar for artists, especially those from Perak, writes INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL

The guys are in high spirits. The launch of their first exhibition, Semangat Chandan, officiated by the Raja Muda Perak Raja Nazrin Shah ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbudin Shah, was a success.

Art-lovers Nazli, 41, Faisal, 47, and Azim, 48, are bubbling over with enthusiasm as they talk about the new Galeri Chandan in Jalan Gelenggang, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur which showcases stunning pieces of art by Perak artists.

As they walk me through the unique contemporary space that used to be a furniture showroom, the pride in their eyes and voices is obvious. 

True-blue Perakians, save for Nazli, who’s only half Perakian (his mum is from Terengganu), they tell me that the gallery was born out of a love for their ‘homeland’ which is rich in its cultural heritage.

“It all started when Faisal and I went to an exhibition in an art gallery,” begins Azim, who’s been in banking all his life, and is also a politician and businessman. “We were told by the owners that not one piece had been sold. To think that after all their work, the artists, all from Perak, couldn’t even sell one piece.”

Taking a drag of his cigarette, the Cancerian continues: “I remember telling Faisal and Nazli then that maybe we should consider having a space that focuses not only on Perak art but also her culture because there’s definitely a void of it in KL.

“When people talk about Perak handicraft, they think labu sayong only. But there’s also the art of tekad and we also make keris. That’s how it developed. It was meant to be a centre for Perak arts and culture but we needed something that could generate income. So we turned to something else – Perak artists.”

When they sat down to review top names in the local art scene, they realised that few were from Perak. When they eventually decided to proceed with the gallery, they had one condition – the opening exhibition must comprise only Perak artists. 

“Our first show was Semangat Chandan. Chandan is a town in Kuala Kangsar,” explains Faisal. “Istana Iskandriah is located on Bukit Chandan. In Perak, if you say you’re from Chandan, chances are you probably have a link to the palace.”

Azim, who comes from Batu Gajah, says: “Chandan also evokes a sense of royalty, pomp and pageantry and it’s the centre of culture for the State too. If the gallery does well we might be able to dedicate a space for non-profit making elements like tekad, keris, songket and tenun.” 

The chaps have big plans but for now, they’re content to let the gallery find its own footing. Says Nazli, whose background is in professional building (architecture and quantity surveying): “There are lots of galleries in KL. We just want to see ours evolve. We’re not going to decide what and how it should be. That’s why we’re going back to our roots and see how it takes off from there.”

The exhibition aims to capture the point of return of the artists in their journeys – pointing to a shared sense of belonging that’s culturally driven and spiritually rooted.

“Artists have their artistic journeys and along the way they’ll yearn to return to their roots. With this exhibition, it’s like a signpost for them to come back to a point of their common origin,” adds Faisal, an interior designer by profession who also has an investment in a small art gallery in Plaza Damas.

They began with a list of 60 artists from Perak and made cold calls. Nazli, a youthful-looking father of four, remembers it as very challenging. “Many were not convinced that we were for real! Thankfully, we managed to gain their trust and ended up with work from 21 artists.”

As for their vision for the gallery, Azim, confides: “We want it to be different. We’d like people to enjoy art and realise the value that’s attached to each piece of art. We also want to gain the confidence of artists and art lovers to our gallery.” 

The guys aim to raise the bar for Malaysian artists by instilling professionalism into their work. “We want to document pieces we sell,” says Nazli. “People buy not only for the love of art but also for its value. And creating value isn’t just about having good PR. You do it by having an analysis from an expert – curators, people who bring the value of the work and immortalise it — making it a reference for other analysis.”

Faisal concludes: “As a gallery, we’re also looking at art that makes good expressions rather than just good impressions.”