Arts

Published: Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 8:34:17 AM

Findars: Building an art community

Experimental artist Goh Lee Kwang, whose works are mostly associated with sound installations, is one of the key curators at Findars Arts Space. - Photos RAYMOND OOI/The Star

Experimental artist Goh Lee Kwang, whose works are mostly associated with sound installations, is one of the key curators at Findars Arts Space. - Photos RAYMOND OOI/The Star

Art, music, coffee, mayhem: art collective Findars makes a smashing return with its new gallery.

BEING hidden at the top of four flights of stairs is one way to make people breathless about the artwork, jokes a visitor to the Findars collective’s new art space in the old heart of Kuala Lumpur.

“If you have the passion you won’t make excuses,” states artist Tey Beng Tze, motioning to his bicycle parked in the gallery, which he drags up those four storeys every day.

“On the bright side, I lost some weight.” he adds.

This new art space is truly a passion project, the third time the collective has run a gallery since Tey first got together with fellow Malaysian Institute of Art alumni Wong Eng Leong, Lim Keh Soon, and Wong Min Lik, in 2008.

The latest address for Findars, located in the maelstrom of MRT development right off Jalan Sultan, is a homecoming of sorts for the roster of varied artists. Findars was originally based in a non-profit art space in Central Market in Kuala Lumpur before moving to parts unknown in Wangsa Maju.

Hustle bustle: A floor-to-ceiling display of Findars co-founders Wong Eng Leong and Tey Beng Tze's artwork take up the back wall. The display is
Hustle bustle: A floor-to-ceiling display of Findars co-founders Wong Eng Leong and Tey Beng Tze’s artwork take up the back wall. The display is “semi-permanent” in the sense that it’ll stay there till the pieces are bought. — RAYMOND OOI/The Star.

Wong says they almost moved even further, to Rawang, before an invite from LostGen gallery’s Yeoh Lian Heng lead them to open shop just upstairs from LostGen.

“We’ve always toyed with the idea forming an art community, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Plus, Jalan Sultan has an interesting vibe, walking around here you can see these old businesses and its history,” shares Wong. He admits that local artists have been talking about forming an “art hub” for years, but humbly adds that he would be happy just to have like-minded people around him.

In line with building bridges among artists, the group started its own residence programme with the cheeky acronym FAIR (Findars Artist In Residence programme). The first FAIR, in collaboration with Goethe Institute Malaysia, features German sound artist Tim Blechmann.

“The residencies are one month long and will conclude with an exhibition or event by the artist themselves. Tim will have his performance, workshop, talk and share through out the whole programme at Findars,” explains Wong.

“We also encourage artists having their exhibitions to organise talks and workshops to share their artworks with other artists, students and the public,” says Wong. The programme titled “Artist Talk C**k”, he jokingly insists, is not a jab at how some people think art conversation tends to devolve into self flattery.

The fine-art major opines that art education would be an important issue moving forward.

“Being Findars’ third move, we wanted to take a different approach to running the gallery. We were too underground, and that made people uncomfortable,” says Wong. And the new space had exactly the right quality for Findars to explore that new direction: it was a bare-bones hall.

The members of Findars' Art Collective (from left) - Wong Eng Leong, Thong Yee Theng, Bannai Roo, Wong Min Lik, Chiang Meei Yi, Tey Beng Tze and Lim Keh Soon - posing at their newly completed art space, featuring wall-to-wall collaborative paintings, a coffee bar, woodwork and sculptures. - BANNAI ROO
The members of Findars' Art Collective (from left) - Wong Eng Leong, Thong Yee Theng, Bannai Roo, Wong Min Lik, Chiang Meei Yi, Tey Beng Tze and Lim Keh Soon - posing at their newly completed art space, featuring wall-to-wall collaborative paintings, a coffee bar, woodwork and sculptures. - BANNAI ROO.

“It was completely empty when we came in, unlike those rental galleries where you just turn on the lights and hang your stuff,” recalls Wong. Not wanting to spend on furniture, they put their talent to work designing and making the tables and chairs out of recycled metal pipes and wood planks.

“Why buy (furniture)? We can do it ourselves,” he says, gesturing to the collection of functional furniture that fills the gallery.

Tey notes that in the month (early January) Findars opened its doors, it has seen many new faces visiting the gallery. Findars hosted its first exhibition Food, Drink, Play & Enjoyment, which was curated by art scene maverick Goh Lee Kwang.

The group exhibition featured Findars regulars like Wong Eng Leong, Tey Beng Tze, Goh Lee Kwang, Lim Keh Soon and Wong Min Lik.

Food, Drink, Play & Enjoyment was the first exhibition in Findars’ new programme at this new venue. The plan is to host between six and eight art exhibitions this year.

On the independent literary front, Findars also opened its doors to the first writers’ session called the UnRepresented KL programme earlier this month.

“The new location is easier to get to compared to the old gallery in Wangsa Maju. I think there’s also people wandering in after checking out the other nearby galleries,” says Tey.

Findars is the third art gallery to be housed in the same building across from the old theatre (now a restaurant) on this old Kuala Lumpur street. On the first floor is chic coffee house/art gallery Aku Cafe & Gallery, on the third floor LostGen, and now Findars at the literal top of the roost.

Findars founder Wong Eng Leong talking about the collective's new space, while seated on a piece of their handmade furniture.
Findars founder Wong Eng Leong talking about the collective's new space, while seated on a piece of their handmade furniture. 

Taking a page out of Aku Cafe’s cafe-in-a-gallery concept, Findars has introduced a coffee bar. Wang Liang Roo, the man behind the brew, explains that it was an idea the collective had mooted some time back but never had the space to execute. “For me, brewing and enjoying coffee is an art form in itself,” says the self-taught barista.

The Coffee Bar is no mere decorative touch, added to keep up with the hipster cafe scene. Wang reveals that introducing the bar was a business decision, to provide an additional income stream for the gallery. The AV + Coffee night sessions which involve documentary screenings have also packed the venue on quiet nights.

“It’s a perfect fit, having a cuppa while you take in the art. Even if you’re just looking for a quiet place to lepak (hang out), you’ve to admit this beats your average noisy cafe,” he jibes.

The larger space also means Findars can get back on track with its pursuit of aural art. It recently hosted China’s one man shock-rock band GuiGuiSuiSui, then a performance by artist-in-residence Blechmann, right to Japanese singer-songwriter Nacca Natsuka and local songbird Sulyn and folk rocker Azmyl Yunor.

Tey says they are still testing the waters with the bands and how much noise they can make.

“Now we’re not in the middle of nowhere (the last venue in Wangsa Maju) any longer, we might have to start caring about what the neighbours think!” he says.

However, considering Findars’ art-inclined neighbours and the noise from the MRT construction next door, signs are good that this arts hub will be free to rock whatever madcap idea comes to mind. And that’s just how this bunch likes it.

Findars Art Space is located at 8 Jalan Panggong, off Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur. The gallery opens 2pm-10pm daily. For more information, check their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/findars) or e-mail findars@live.com.

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, art, findars, jalan sultan

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