Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition catalogues the bright lights of local contemporary art.
DON’T walk under the circular festoon of “dirty” shoes, an installation by Andrew Chong Boon Pok, at the Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition now on at MAP’s White Box and Black Box art spaces at Publika in Kuala Lumpur. It might just be a pet superstitious aversion like walking under a ladder.
But Chong’s installation Circumrotation rigged with all kinds of footwear – suspended in a single-direction loop on the ceiling – hints more at the ephemeral quality of life, with shadows of a zombie existence. Circumrotation features men’s and women’s shoes. It also doesn’t discriminate in age. Add baby shoes, sports shoes, work boots, sandals, sexy stilettos and trendy flats. All the shoes are worn ... with their soles and “souls” worn-out. They are the discards that have outlived their usefulness and succumbed to new trends.
On the floor nearby at this art space you will also come across some “leaden” stone shoes. They look like discards too. But these works by sculptor Azli Wahid are more like relics. Azli, 29, is an artist deeply rooted with themes of civilisation, culture and history. He is also known for his Major Award at the Penang Open art competition in 2009.
While Chong, 50, may not yet be a familiar name in local art circle despite his three solos in London, he comes with the same pedigree as painter-printmaker Kim Ng (Ng Kim Peow), 49. Their artworks are making heads turn at the Prudential Malaysian Eye. Both have won the prestigious first prize of the Owen Rowley Award in London (Chong in 2001 and Kim Ng in 1996).
Back to the exhibition, Chong Kim Chew’s Unreadable Wall Bricks moulded from newspapers, in a twist to American minimalist artist Carl Andre’s stacked bricks, is a subtle reference to an obdurate barrier of obfuscation or hidden contexts.
All four artists are among 75 selected for the Malaysian Eye component of the Parallel Contemporary Arts country artbook series that has covered Indonesia, South Korea and Hong Kong in recent years. The Malaysian Eye book, which was launched in Kuala Lumpur together with an exhibition of works of 21 of the artists, is the latest documentation of contemporary art here.
A selection of works will also be shown at the Prudential EyeZone exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery from June 21 to 29.
The oldest of the pack on show at the Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition is watercolourist extraordinaire Chang Fee Ming, 55, best known for his epic survey of the communities and cultures of the Mekong River up to the river source in the Tibetan Plateau. At this exhibition, he parades his Banjarmasin sextet of female boat-rowers taken from a top-down dramatic side angle.
The youngest artist at this exhibition is Khairuddin Zainuddin, 27, a two-time winner of the Tanjung Heritage Art Prize (2010, 2011).
Elsewhere, Ramlan Abdullah, 54, intrigues with his stand-alone sculpture Monumenta, using stainless steel instead of his usual cut-glass-and-metal repertoire. Standing 200cm-tall, the work looks like a woman’s bodice with simple designs that perhaps could pass for lace. The sculpture is propped on 11 stick legs. Ramlan’s career is impressive with accolades such as the Anugerah Seni Negara (2006), the Zain Azraai Award (2001) and the hugely lucrative Oita Asian Sculpture Prize (1995).
Another major international star featured is Kow Leong Kiang, 44, with his rollicking tumbling torsos from his Soft solo exhibition at the Yogyakarta Contemporary in 2011. Kow hit the bright lights when he won the Major Award at the Philip Morris Asean Art Award in the finals in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1998.
The largest piece on show is the Veil Of An Artist (2010, 244cm x 1,219cm), a video-projected installation artwork across nine mixed media paintings, by local e-art pioneer Hasnul J. Saidon, 49. It was first shown at the Penang State Art Gallery in 2010, depicting three video projections onto paintings on the introspection of self, religious ritual and communion, and a dance of life.
Chong Ai Lei, one of the 2013 winners of the Malaysian Emerging Artists Award (MEAA), is represented by two works from her True Romances series. Here you will find Ai Lei’s solitary young girl lolling in bed in a somewhat provocative pose and with a sense of boredom despite being surrounded by all the modern-day gadgetry as shown in greater details. Ai Lei had her first major solo Pink, at the Sangkring Art Space in Yogyakarta last year.
Another MEAA winner, Sun Kang Jyi, 36, who won in 2011, has two works relishing the rural divide in his usual positive-negative veneer.
French-trained Chong Siew Ying, 45, continues her monochromatic mock Chinese-ink (actually acrylic and charcoal) “landscapes” in A Thousand Year and The Gift Of Rain (triptych). Both works are reflections on the great natural succour and sustenance of life.
Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, 45, the sole artist from the cult Matahati group on show, is represented by his 2012 work, Miracle, from his Golden Gate solo exhibition. Shukri looks like he is recreating what looks like a sumptuous scene from the 2009 sci-fi movie, Avatar, with the floating day-glo “flowers” in a primeval forest allegory.
Sculptor-painter Sabri idrus, 43, fresh from his recent Rimbun Dahan artist’s residency – the last since the dual Australia-Malaysia programme started in 1994 – plays on a centrifugal view of a rattan-like craft object with patterns and tensility and earth-brown raw quality. He was the winner of the UOB Art Award in 2011 and was one of three in the group of 21 here with Rimbun Dahan credentials. The others being Siew Ying (1999-2000) and Ahmad Shukri (2003).
Phuan Thai Meng, who was selected from Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific Triennial 7 in Brisbane, Australia, in 2012, continues the pop urbanscapes of Kok Yew Puah (1947-1999) but with greater emphasis on the scale of the infrastructure.
Chee Eng Hong, better known as E.H. Chee, 51, creates great psychological insights with his “inner portraits”. Just take a glimpse of the rough-toned flesh in works such as Sang Froid 1, Brothers and Mak Cekek, a wizened aboriginal woman Chee met during an Endau Rompin artist expedition.
Other artists featured are Seah Ze Lin, art-photographer Eiffel Chong, textile artist Anne Samat, assemblage artists Azrin Mohd and Hasanul Isyraf Idris.
The Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition runs at both the White Box and Black Box spaces, MAP at Publika, Level G2-02, Block A5, Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur, till April 30. Free admission. Opening times: 11am to 7pm. Website: www.malaysianeye.com.