Three artists visualise what the future holds for us.
YOU are looking inside an elephant, one that has been stripped of its outer layer. And in it are mechanical cogs bolted firmly in place. Just as the wheels go round and round in this work (at least, one easily imagines so), the entire show seems to be testament to a journey – of what has been, what is now, and what could be.
This group exhibition might be called Tomorrow’s Land, but tomorrow is very much influenced by yesterday.
“It is a route back to where it all started, getting back to basics, finding ‘real’ interaction and just being the person you are inside,” says Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail – rather simply – of her works. “It is a search for the beauty within.”
Working with white stoneware and high quality porcelain, the artist shares that what she enjoys most about working with clay is its malleable properties and the resulting unpredictability.
Out from the fire, her ceramic figurines freeze in mid-motion, dressed in brightly coloured clothes and sporting smooth, blank faces. Flowers and leaves scatter beneath a blue sky – all part of Umibaizurah’s allusion to an inner yearning to return to the familiarity of a childhood past, where things were simple and change was slow.
Ultimately, her work is about hope – the hope that our decadent ways can “fall back to a time where things were slower paced, a time where we were more in tune with the land.”
Describing her works as a sort of homage to nature, a reminder of how beautiful our flora and fauna is, Umibaizurah recollects that she grew up spending a lot of time entertaining herself outdoors and immersing herself in nature.
“So these things tend to be reflected within the source imagery of my current work,” she says, adding that she likes to incorporate elements that remind her of childhood and play.
Umibaizurah, 38, is part of the trio behind Patisatu Studio, based in Puncak Alam, Kuala Selangor. When the studio was launched in 2007, it was with the vision to promote ceramic art in Malaysia through workshops, exhibitions and residency programmes for international sculptors.
The studio got off to a grand start with its inaugural exhibition entitled Warning! Tapir Crossing, featuring the paintings and ceramic sculptures of founding members Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, 44, and Umibaizurah, respectively. The third member of the group, Mohd Al-Khuzairie Ali, 29, joined the husband and wife team a year later, and along the way, the works emerging from this studio evolved to incorporate other forms of art as well.
Now, six years later, they are having their first group exhibition featuring the works of all three artists.
“This is a group that has played a big part in establishing ceramic art in the country. It is the first time the studio members are showing their works together and a lot of people have been looking forward to this,” says Pace Gallery owner Yusof Majid.
Tomorrow’s Land is a two-part exhibition with the second part scheduled for July, with works created in Amsterdam during an exchange programme there last year.
The artists share that they felt the works needed to be shown separately, particularly as it took on a new direction while they working overseas. Some time for self-reflection here was deemed necessary.
“Especially since we felt that the work we produced in Amsterdam addressed the theme differently,” says Khuzairie.
Challenging as it might be to envision what tomorrow might bring, he takes a brave stab at prophesising what the future may hold for us. The elephant with cogs is his, a chilling glimpse into what could be.
“My artwork is inspired by robots,” he says. “And it addresses issues like human greed and the behaviour of humans.”
On a more literal level, Khuzairie talks about hunting and killing animals for their body parts, for profit. And then he shifts to talk of a future filled with mechanical animals (robots).
“I wonder whether our future generations will be able to see the animals we have around us now, or will they know only ‘animals’ created by humans,” he says in reference to man-made ones.
“Humans are territorial creatures, like animals. It is the meeting points where we cross over into another animal’s territory – and vice versa – that interests me. My work deals with our animal instinct to protect, to survive, and to tighten our grip on nature. My assemblages are therefore a reflection of us,” he says.
As bleak as his sounds, Shukri goes down the opposite path, painting light, breezy works of happy, smiling people. It feels like consumerism pushed to its limit, an explosion of colours and manufactured happiness. It is a decadent and materialistic existence – and looks really fun ... at least on the surface.
“The concept of this exhibition tells the story of change and transition.
“Through my works, I reference the passage of time and examine how time changes us and the way we see things,” Shukri explains.
“It is this uncertainty that is embedded into my paintings.”
Yusof expresses that he loves the fact that each artist has approached the theme in a different way.
“These are artists with their own career paths, they are very strong-minded artists in their own right,” he says.
And he is anything but uncertain when it comes to his thoughts on this exhibition.
“I find the show to be a well-thought out one because this is one studio that creates art with the gallery space in mind. The result? It looks absolutely incredible.”
> Tomorrow’s Land is showing at Pace Gallery, 64 Jalan Kemajuan, Section 12/18, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, till Feb 5. Opening hours: 11am to 7pm (Monday to Saturday); Sunday by appointment only. Call 03-7954 6069 or visit www.pacegallery.net for details.