Minimalist art is marked by absence of non-essential components or anything that could be deemed a distraction. The subject is pared down to its essence - a distilled, purified form of beauty. The clinical simplicity a constant feature.
When the movement emerged in the 1950s, it was given a few names by critics, including literal art and boring art.
“What you see is what you see,” American artist Frank Stella once said. How else could one succinctly capture the literal presentation of such art?
In Segaris Art Center’s M...Reinterpreting Minimalism, there are a number of works here that work closely with this definition.
“Minimalistic elements that are the focus of this show are the reduction of forms and images, as well as a strong monochromatic aesthetic. This is apparent in Sabri Idrus’s use of black, Fuad Arif opting for gold and Kim Ng’s use of red.
"There is also a distinctive geometric component, especially in works by Fendy Zakri, Zul Lee and Tajuddin Ismail; and organic shapes in works by Faizal Suhif and Anwar Suhaimi,” says Nizam Rahmat, gallery director of Segaris Art Center in KL.
But for the most part, many artists here have gone to town with the “interpreting” part, where they incorporated elements of minimalism into their work, but did not hold back on experimenting.
Not surprisingly, the result is a more vibrant, lively showcase than one would expect from an exhibition with “minimalism” in its title.
M...Reinterpreting Minimalism is a group show with 25 artists and over 40 works, including paintings, installations and sculptures.
Spheres and cubes take centre stage with Zul Lee’s Bentuk Dan Kelakuan installation piece in the middle of the gallery, while Saharuddin Supar’s very black Pink Object No. 3 slithers down one wall.
Hidayat Arshad’s paintings is an engagement with CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) colours, mixing and matching hues and shapes. Lee Mok Yee’s Pyramid No. 1 triangular mirrors wink at you in perfect synchrony.
Shahrul Jamili’s Metalanguage etched aluminium series is a winner, with its geometrical repetition, furls and curls, as with Hirzaq Harris’ The Eye which transports you into an optometry office - albeit, a slightly offbeat one.
“As a movement itself, minimalism originally set out to dislodge emotional factors employed by the previous expressionist movement, while in contrast establishing a rather cold and literal understanding and experience of art objects. Although its momentum has dwindled after the upsurge of postmodernism, namely, with the return of human narratives and issues with power, minimalism, in its many forms remain an ethos that is alive in current art practices,” says Nizam.
He adds that M...Interpreting Minimalism is a showcase that attempts to locate and challenge not only artists who are already incorporating minimalistic elements in their practice, but also artists who do not.
Almost all the works here are produced specifically for this show, but there are a few rarely seen older pieces included. Perhaps most notably is Redza Piyadasa’s Homage To Malevich from 1971, which is on loan from a private collector.
“We wanted to include his work as he is one of the earliest Malaysian artists who made a pioneering mark in the country, introducing minimalism through his style and concept in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"The work is also intended to provide the exhibition with some historical context, as well as to engage in a dialogue with newer contemporary works,” says Nizam.
He adds that the exhibition tries to open up alternative facets of Malaysian art by exhibiting art forms that conceptually and aesthetically challenge dominant popular art styles such as figurativism and abstract expressionism.
“It seeks to engage the general public through experience of and discussions on minimalism, to encourage a more well-rounded understanding of the subject.
"We hope that by experiencing minimalism through a more localised context, visitors will be enticed to learn more about the subject,” he says.
Boring art? The show here at Segaris is anything but. Sometimes less is more.
M...Interpreting Minimalism is on at Segaris Art Center, Publika in Kuala Lumpur till Sept 29. Opening hours: 10am to 7pm (closed on Mondays). More info: segaris-artcenter.blogspot.com. Call 03-6211 9440.
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