Soul of a nation

Ilham Fadhli Mohd Shaimy's work titled 'Teduh', finished by acrylic and collage on canvas.

Ilham Fadhli Mohd Shaimy's work titled 'Teduh', finished by acrylic and collage on canvas.

'Kembara Jiwa Fukuoka: Expanded Passion' is a sampler of Malaysian contemporary art bound for Japan in October.

A FINE selection of different modes of Malaysian contemporary art practices will go to Fukuoka, Japan, as part of Galeri Chandan’s Kembara Jiwa (Soul Train) project.

With the subtext, “Expanded Passion”, Kembara Jiwa Fukuoka will feature 17 emerging and established artists selected by project curator Nur Hanim Mohamed Khairuddin, including seven from the 21 who took part in the first Kembara last year in Jogjakarta (Taman Budaya) and Bandung (Sunaryo Art Space) in Indonesia.

The exhibition “proper” will be held at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (FAAM) in Japan on Oct 3-8. A Malaysian preview is currently being held at Galeri Chandan, Publika in Kuala Lumpur till July 22.

Gallery founder cum owner Nazli Aziz said that the annual project is a vehicle to expose and raise the profile of Malaysian artists abroad, with the next stop planned for Singapore next year.

“The project falls under the ‘community’ component of Galeri Chandan’s three-pronged strategy with a view to upgrading the Malaysian art ecosystem, the other two being ‘commercial’ and ‘charity,’” said Nazli, whose core business is in interior design (ThreeHundredSixty).

“This is not a profit-making enterprise. Whatever revenue made will be ploughed back into the project fund, to ensure its sustainabity, and the gallery is not making money from this,” he added.

Galeri Chandan also supports an artist’s residency called Nafas in Jogjakarta for periods of one, three and six months, with a recent addition in Penang, in collaboration with Universiti Sains Malaysia.

The Fukuoka-bound works include two collaborations of Kamal Sabran (Space Gambus Experiment)-Goh Lee Kwang (20-minute short film of improvisational sounds screechy jerks in part, Bunyian Aneh Dari Batu Gajah), and Izan Tahir-Marvin Chan’s Pendekar Jari (oil, lino print and resin). Goh has another work, a Conceptual Art of a dumb incapacitated TV with the tagline, Boycott, but with a RM5,000 tag.

A husband-and-wife team, Azliza Ayob and Ilham Fadhli ‘Kojek’ Shaimy, presents two different world-views, both using collage.

Azliza entices with her amorphous rainbow-hued fractal of objects of feminity with shades of Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe. Azliza had spent 70 days in a residency at FAAM last year.

Ilham insinuates Lilliputian figures with an Antony Gormley loneliness. It is the Theatre of the Absurd in a mock apocalyptic Hieronymus Bosch scenario.

The works are irreverent, ironic and facetious with a serious socio-political sandiwara, with some touching on gender, identity and heritage. Not all works are wall hangings, with some New Media installations like those of Hasnul J. Saidon, Haris Abadi and to a lesser extent, Samsudin Wahab with his flashing coloured bulbs on Damien-Hirst skull imagery; or the De-Constructed contraption of Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman (better known just as Paiman), or the whimsical stand-alone ornamentative ceramic totems (on cylindrical concrete base) of Umibaizurah Mahir@Ismail.

Samsudin, Haris and Umibaizurah were from Kembara 1, the others being Jalaini Abu Hassan (‘Jai’), Juhari Said, Phuan Thai Meng and Haslin Ismail.

Jai’s diptych, Tiger Tamer, is layered in meanings and subtexts about cultures (clash of?) and desires (individual and regional/location) using symbolisms and Malay pepatah with one half using a backcloth of Nusantara “teardrop” paisley-leaf motif which doubles as a tattoo on the “protagonist” wielding an odd floral-duster cum fan – his talismanic “weapon” to subdue the tiger? An added ambiguity comes from the side inscription, “Omotesendo Hill”, referring to Japan’s Harajuku park, in the other half of the work which also has an insignia of the dragon of Imperial Qing. Will the tiger lose its stripes, and thus power and identity?

Juhari uses the dog, a pedigree dalmatian in a side-winding double image because of its stark design, in a begging stance to reflect on the docile nature of society, in Two Dalmatians And Red Line, using woodcut on large watercolour canvas (230cm x 110cm). Juhari has consistently taken printmaking to new areas, like in his ground-breaking Okir (Carving) printmaking on wood stumps in 2007.

He will be reunited with his woodcut sinseh, Yoshisuke Funasaka, who is one of two Japanese artists invited to join the show, the other being sculptor Mamoru Abe.

Haslin, a major award winner of the coveted Young Contemporary Artists 2010 noted then for his architecture from book shreds, plumbs for an organic bioscape of internal protoplasmic entrails in intricate tangle from his just-ended Transfiguration solo at G13 gallery, combining bio-fantasy with mock sci-fi.

Phuan’s trio of works I See, is a pun on identity cards and the IC issue in Sabah.

Hasnul’s Ripples In Fukuoka is an updated version of his work during his research residency during Ramadan in Fukuoka in 2003, which became strangely what he conceded as a “spiritual catalyst” in consonance with the lucidity of Zen. Morphing altered faces questioning notions of self, identity and existence appear and vanish in a flat “crystal ball” here.

Paiman is back with more “madcap” gizmos, this one from his Circus Elementary School series with a symbolic doll bust on a console pedestal (with fake drawers) on either side. On one side is a diva of extravagance (an expensive-looking ring is seen on its back window when lit) while the other side is dominated by the iconic Psy doll with a trigger for the sensational Oppa Gangnam Style song and a Duchampish miniature toilet bowl in its casing. The “magic” is in the duck effigy, the proverbial quack, encased in a coffin-like box which somehow survives as a sawn-off groove in the centre reveals.

Fauzulyusri and Suhaidi Razi complete the list, with Fauzul popular for his beauty in imperfections of child-like conteng (graffiti-like), stains, mottling, textures and layers.

This will be the first time a dedicated selection of Malaysian art gets to show in Japan. In the past, it was under the South East Asian or Asian umbrella like the Contemporary Asian Art Show (1980, 1984, 1989, 1994), Asean Art (1990), the New Art From South-East Asia and the Asian Art Show in 1992, the Birth of Modern Art In South-east Asia (1997), and Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (1999 onwards). The only Malaysian to have featured under the museum’s Asian Artist Today programme was Tan Chin Kuan, in 1991.

Kembara Jiwa Fukuoka: Expanded Passion is on till July 22 at Galeri Chandan, Lot 24 & 25 (G4) Publika, Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur. Opens 10am-5.30pm. Hotline: 03-6201-5360.

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