Local artists Skinner and Art:tech have a fascination with the nightmarish and the weird, and their works are reminiscent of the Twilight Zone. It's positively Kafkaesque.
TW Chang hasn't had a haircut in three years. Whether he realises it or not, the tall and lanky artist – better known as Skinner – emulates his physical self in his work somewhat. In a double solo exhibition with fellow artist Muhammad Najib Timiran aka Art:tech, Skinner is in fine morbid form. Skinner's Deconstruct collection features 15 works of bones and all, while Art:tech delivers 16 works in his Dark Light series.
Can one gallery, in this case Artemis Art, contain such an amount of weirdness and the macabre?
“While it’s probably noticeable that Dark Light & Deconstruct is a big stylistic departure from the other exhibitions we’ve had previously, it does fit within what we set out to achieve," says gallery owner S Jamal Al-Idrus. "One of our key focus areas has been to promote young art and young artists, including outsider artists who may have not gone through the traditional fine art route."
Skinner, 35, has a respectable profile in the homegrown indie pop culture scene. Apart from regular group exhibitions, his work was showcased at last year’s Urbanscapes festival, while local street art events have introduced him to other audiences. He also holds a degree in computer science.
Skinner’s Deconstruct collection illustrates a literal anatomical deconstruction where his subjects are stripped to the bone, leaving behind more than hair, clothes and eyes for expression. “Most of (Deconstruct) is a mixture of history and modern art. Some of the subjects are my friends. Instead of a portrait, I’d do a skull,” says Skinner.
The obvious pieces of the series include MONOlisa (an exposed version of the Mona Lisa), The Undead with the Pearl Earring (from Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring) and Trippy Night (a reinterpretation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night ). There are also skeletal portraits of Audrey Hepburn, the Chinese Monkey God Sun Wukong and a selfie of one of Skinner’s friends.
With the exception of one piece that uses shimmering violet florescent acrylic, the other works were made with Indian ink, pigment ink and watercolour, and aim to make a bolder statement that goes beyond detailed simplicity.
Artemis Art is no stranger to Skinner's imagination. “We first featured his works in Emergence, a group exhibition in 2012. The exhibits were a mix of very different styles, from Skinner’s darker-themed pen and ink works to oil impasto scenic paintings by another young artist, Shyevin S’ng,” says Jamal.
“Everyone has a skull. It’s part of being human,” Skinner adds. “I don’t like people labelling skulls as scary and (associating them with) death. These skeletal impressions show the subjects as themselves.”
Another notable characteristic of the young artist's work is the cosmic backdrop set in all his pieces. This intentional decision is a homage to him overwhelming appreciation of the night sky. “It’s like the universe!” he proclaimed. “The universe is too gempak (awesome)!”
Meanwhile, Art:tech’s work consists of detailed black lines that symbolise the contradicting symbiosis between darkness and light – that without the other, each would be meaningless.
The most eye-catching piece of his Dark Light series is Legasi, a sizeable digital print on canvas that features local indie musicians in faceless forms. There are singer-songwriters Yuna and Zee Avi, Noh Salleh from Hujan/Da Vagabonds, Lan of Azlan & The Typewriter, and Aizat Amdan with his inverted triangular head. Legasi is also the planned artwork and title for Aizat’s upcoming EP.
Each character was illustrated individually in pencil on plain A4 paper before being scanned and combined to create the final piece, which could be seen as five pop artistes combining their musical talents into recording one album.
Art:tech, 30, is a self-taught artist,
illustrator, designer and drummer from KL, a dapper young man who graduated with a multimedia diploma from
Polytech Mara College in 2006. “This is the first time I’ve exhibited my original sketches,” he says. “Usually I exhibit canvas prints because my final artworks are digital.”
This technique explains his pseudonym of choice, Art:tech being an abbreviation of “art is technology”. As a pop art surrealist, he creates intriguing pieces that feature a juxtaposition of seemingly random items. Also in his Dark Light series is a piece called Smoke, created to accompany a mystery short story of the same name that portrays an unconscious boy falling onto a larger-than-life cigarette below a magnifying glass above a flat head.
Elsewhere, Art:tech’s piece The Silence, created in pencil and gold ink, features a fictional tribal girl with woven hair and an intimidating stare. In the details of her clothes are miscellaneous icons that include a fox, a key and an anchor. “I think for most of my artwork, I don’t look for references,” Art:tech says when asked where his ideas stem from. “Over the years, I’ve looked through many books and stuff, so somehow I think I’ve just combined everything.”
Dark Light & Deconstruct is showing at Artemis Art, Lot 21 & 22 Level G4, Publika at Dutamas, Block C5 Solaris Dutamas, KL, until April 27. Open Monday–Saturday, 10am–7pm. For details, visit artemisgallery.com.