Room for GRAnDe visual thinking

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 16 Aug 2014

Louise Low’s Mahjong installation inspired by her family traditions called Huat Dao!

Does a painting work for the space? Or vice versa? Core Design Gallery’s latest exhibition explores this very notion.

IT is a commanding edifice. It alone stands unrivalled in build and stature. With its massive walls and ashen grey exterior, its presence cannot be missed.

It beckons you and as you walk through the doorway, a different world swims into view. To your left sits a giant Siamese cat in a pool of water. There is something submissive and sad about the feline. You quickly turn to your right and something strange, frightening even, meets your eyes. A gargantuan fly, almost as big as yourself.

With caution and trepidation, you move closer to this bizarre creature and to your horror, where there should have been red bulbous eyes, you find human heads and where there should have been antenna, you have hands.

This creature’s wings have strange markings on them, charred heavily. You begin to wonder if you had entered a house that belongs to Dr Moreau.

Zulkifli Yusoff’s Tun Razak Speech Series - Demonstration, which references the former Malaysian Prime Minister’s speech in the wake of student demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur in 1974.

This is the latest exhibition by Core Design Gallery (Core), called GRAnDe – Great Art and Design, which celebrates some of the country’s notable contemporary artists.

This exhibition also marks the fourth year anniversary of the gallery based in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

A good mix of senior and emerging contemporary artists are featured in this exhibition, namely Ali Nurazmal, Anniketyni Madian, Fauzin Mustafa, Haafiz Shahimi, Hamir Soib, Husin Hourmain, Jamil Zakaria, Louise Low, Masnoor Ramli Mahmud, Raja Lope Rasydi Raja Rozlan, Shafarin Ghani and Zulkifli Yusoff. Each contributes a new work to this exhibition.

Meeting the growing demand of the contemporary arts scene and challenging itself as a gallery, Core expanded its existing space and now presents something new for artists to work with.

“We wanted to have a show that celebrates both art and design. Most people would separate art and design but I believe they should come together,” said Scarlette Lee, Core’s art director.

Bali Bululai, a wooden sculpture, by Sarawakian artist Anniketyni Madian.

“And the artists found it to be a fabulous idea when I told them about this exhibition because now they have to work with the space,” she added.

Tan Chun Hooi, the gallery’s design director echoed Lee and opined that an art space must be flexible enough so as to allow “the artworks to communicate with the viewers and not the other way around.” The idea, said the duo, was to have a gallery space that could accommodate the different types of artworks that will be exhibited there. Thus, the wide white walls are contrasted with smaller slabs of walls, presenting different dimensions for artists to work with.

The gallery had also installed wire meshes as an alternative to hang artworks. Suddenly, the artists have to take the space into consideration before starting their artwork. And the space itself offers something that is between a contemporary and conventional arts museum feel.

One such example is the Wet Cat painting by Hamir Soib, known for his larger-than-life paintings. Lee shared that she personally requested Hamir, a UiTM graduate, to scale down his painting this time around and produce something that could possibly be hung in a house.

Moulding The History: Grey Area In A Grey Sky by Masnoor Ramli Mahmud.

The 150cm X 90cm painting depicts a Siamese cat, sitting subdued in a body of water, looking crestfallen. This is the artist’s social commentary on the recent military coup in Thailand and the sufferings faced by the citizens as a consequence.

Another social commentary piece that will surely resonate strongly with Malaysians is by Masnoor Ramli Mahmud called Moulding The History: Grey Area In A Grey Sky. The acrylic painting depicts a world engulfed in thick, grey clouds with no rays of sunlight. A plane is hovering above, lopsided.

Two characters take centre stage. One, a boy walking aimlessly with a black sleep mask. The other, an individual that many of us got acquainted with in the wake of the MH370 tragedy, Bomoh Ibrahim Mat Zin, who used bamboo binoculars to locate the missing plane.

Hamir and Masnoor are two of the five founding members of the Matahati collective, an artistic group well known for its collaborative endeavours. The group also initiated the House of Matahati in 2007, an independent art space that is part gallery and part studio.

Haafiz Shahimi’s pyrography painting Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam.

The artwork that arrested this writer and truly stands like a grand master in the midst of the other artworks is by veteran artist Zulkifli Yusoff. Called the Tun Razak Speech Series – Demonstration, the mosaic installation has a rhythmic and symmetrical element to it.

Each square (there are six in total) looks like an aerial view of an ancient Egyptian pyramid site. In the centre is the pyramid, with two large ovals on either side of the pyramid and four squares around the corners. These structures, made from resin, are placed on a black and white canvas base.

These resin forms punctuate the otherwise monochromatic tones with their bright colours and are filled with typography. The Manchester Polytechnic Faculty of Art and Design graduate had masterfully encased extracts of the late Tun Abdul Razak’s speech during the 1974 student demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur. Even the black and white base is formed with canvas strip collages printed with excerpts from the speech. Some of the resin forms also contain pictures from that difficult time.

Louise Low’s Mahjong installation inspired by her family traditions called Huat Dao!

The mixed media artist’s idea was to highlight parts of the prime minister’s speech which he feels have stayed relevant till today. In fact, his works often reflect his take on the subject of power and sociopolitical issues.

It is not something new to view great works of art under one roof. All you have to do is drive down to the nearest art gallery. But to do that in a space that is challenged by the artworks themselves and even more, that is something of a rarity.

GRAnDe – Great Art and Design will be on till Aug 29 at Core Design Gallery, 87, Jalan SS 15/2A, Subang Jaya, Selangor. Monday to Friday, 10am - 7pm. Saturday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. For more info, visit or contact 03-56121168.

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