Eight Malaysian female artists bridge the gender divide in digital, NFT space


  • Arts
  • Tuesday, 01 Mar 2022

Grey Z's 'Chasing The Gap' digital artwork. Designed as an interactive piece, the intention of the artwork is to highlight the human’s experience and engagement with the art. Photo: Grey Z

Eight women digital artists are in the spotlight - on-site and virtually - at the Break The Bias group exhibition, presented by the Digital Art Gallery (DAG) at Kedai KL, Mahsa Avenue in Kuala Lumpur.

The ticketed exhibition, launched to coincide with International Women’s Day (on March 8), features a series of new digital artworks and visual projections highlighting a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

Visitors can walk-in and experience the Break The Bias show at DAG, which is operated by multimedia art outfit Filamen. The exhibition daily runs (11am-6pm) until March 8.

The artworks at the show are also available as NFTs (non-fungible tokens), giving this introductory show of female digital artists a broader reach in the digital art market.

'Break The Bias' features the work of eight local digital female artists. Five of them are pictured (from left) Jem Kosmos, Pamela Tan, Fizah Razmi (curator), Grey Z, Nabihah Haiyee and Arda Baha. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin'Break The Bias' features the work of eight local digital female artists. Five of them are pictured (from left) Jem Kosmos, Pamela Tan, Fizah Razmi (curator), Grey Z, Nabihah Haiyee and Arda Baha. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

“We are no strangers to NFTs and working with brands on different projects but working with eight female artists gave us the chance to showcase the works of artists that are unseen in the mainstream NFT art space,” says Shakir Muhammad, co-founder of Filamen.

“A lot of digital artists dealing in NFT projects are usually male and this encourages a lot of stereotypes and assumptions about digital artists. We want to show that women are also an important part of the scene and that their works are just as unique and valid,” he adds.

DAG, which opened in early 2021, serves as a venue for digital artist to showcase their work, curated by Filamen and other selected curators. This gallery is a joint effort of Filamen and also Kedai KL in providing a platform for digital and new media artists to exhibit and produce their own shows.

A screen shot of Oli's digital artwork 'It's Ok To Feel', taken from her Instagram page. A screen shot of Oli's digital artwork 'It's Ok To Feel', taken from her Instagram page.

The young artist line-up includes Arda Baha, Grey Z, LakarUmbi, Jem Kosmos, Nabihah Haiyee, Oli, Jasma Jamaludin and Pamela Tan, who have all been active in the digital art scene.

Break The Bias is co-curated by Fizah Rahim from local design outfit Machineast.

“This show allows these female artists to imagine a world without prejudice, biases, and stereotypes. We want to give the artists - and gallery visitors - the freedom to explore the hidden sides of femininity, both beautiful and grotesque. That was really exciting for all of us,” says Fizah.

“The artists we’ve chosen come from a diverse background in graphic design, and multidisciplinary arts. Some are also quite new to the NFT scene, doing it part-time,” she adds.

A screen shot of LakarUmbi's digital artwork 'Pengantara', taken from her Instagram page.A screen shot of LakarUmbi's digital artwork 'Pengantara', taken from her Instagram page.

“Being a graphic designer myself for 16 years, I know commissioned art can be limiting. For the first time, the NFT space provides a chance for artists to make the art they want to make and sell it to their audience directly. As a female artist this is very much empowering as we get to take full creative ownership of our art.”

In the gallery, visitors will be hit by an assorted of colours and also monochromatic moods.

It's Ok To Feel by self-taught artist Oli features a psychedelic flurry of pastel colours surrounding the central image of a flower-headed person crying.

“I was going through a wild emotional journey in life. My emotions were all over the place and my friends and relatives kept telling me to ‘calm down’ and get a grip of my feelings,” says Oli.

“When Shakir reached out to me with the theme of Breaking The Bias, I wasn't sure what my artwork was going to be at first. But then all the experiences I had hit me and I knew I was going to challenge the notion that women are too emotional to make clear decisions. I wanted to tell people it's okay to wear your heart on your sleeve,” she adds.

Grey Z's Chasing The Gap offers a darker, more reflective tone.

"Designed as an interactive piece, the intention of the artwork is to highlight the human’s experience and engagement with the art. With the piece shifting itself and the never ending action of chasing the gap, this artwork’s intention is to shed some light about the significant amount of effort needed for women to gain equality of opportunities because we are simply not afforded the same opportunities as men," says Grey Z, a 3D digital artist.

"I believe in a world where we all have the same opportunities, regardless of our gender, but simply because we are more alike, men and women, than we are different," she adds.

Digital Art Gallery by Filamen is a venue for digital artists to showcase their work. Photo: Kedai KL Digital Art Gallery by Filamen is a venue for digital artists to showcase their work. Photo: Kedai KL

For some of the newcomer artists, digital art has given them a new platform to express their creativity.

“I am a multidisciplinary artist. Doing everything from graphic design to film. Recently I’ve been delving into sculpting the female anatomy, the vagina. It just so happened when Fizah reached out to me with the theme that it fell in line with what I was trying to say at the time. I wanted to show the vagina as a source of beauty, life, and power among the many special things about it. It is a bridge for new life to emerge from and that should be celebrated, not shamed,” says Jem Kosmos about her digital artwork.

Tan's digital piece Morphosis III - which combines movement and light projection - reflects the architectural designer's background, where her creative process is linked through art, architecture and design.

"Life is a cyclical change. As a female artist, I have my own personal growth. My work is an ongoing exploration without rules and conventions, continually generating new forms, patterns, and themes. I’m in a constant state of transformation and my life continue to shift and evolve with every season. The art that I make mirror these changes. In a sense, I realise I am undergoing this morphosis - transitioning to a new version of myself. I believe art reflects the lives we live, and often serves as a deeper extension of ourselves," says Tan.

A screen shot of Pamela Tan's digital artwork 'Morphosis III', taken from her Instagram page.A screen shot of Pamela Tan's digital artwork 'Morphosis III', taken from her Instagram page.

Another highlight is Pengantara or Mediator by LakarUmbi, which shows a stunning portrait of a mysterious woman symmetrically placed between two crows and an animal skull.

“When presented with the theme my mind immediately went to the role of women in conflict as mediators,” says LakarUmbi.

“At the domestic and community level this important role women have is often overlooked. With this piece I wanted to emphasise the value of women in peacekeeping and gender equality,” she adds.

For this work, LakarUmbi collaborated with her partner tingkahlagu to add animation and soundscapes.

“This is the first time my work will be projected in a gallery. I hope visitors will be transported to a mythical place,” she hopes.

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