Travel miles: Malaysian art steadily being noticed in Europe

Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal’s posthumous exhibition Guru Of Colour: Pelukis In Zagreb in Croatia.

Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal’s posthumous exhibition Guru Of Colour: Pelukis In Zagreb in Croatia.

The future of the Malaysian art scene looks ever bright and promising.

National laureate Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal’s immense legacy lives on. His art is even travelling far and gaining a new audience these days. The influential artist, who died in July 2011, aged 81, was celebrated with a posthumous exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Craft in Zagreb, Croatia (June 3-29). 

In many ways, this eye-catching exhibition abroad was made possible with loaned works sourced from three major local institutions, namely Bank Negara, the National Visual Arts Gallery and Galeri Petronas.

For the first time since his Between Heaven And Earth exhibition in 2000 at Galeri Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, the triumvirate of works of Antara Langit & Bumi I, II (both 1998) and III (2000) – there are four in the series – were reunited for Syed Ahmad’s posthumous Guru Of Colour: Pelukis In Zagreb exhibition in Zagreb.

The show, curated by his son Nurlhaq, also included works like Ruang Qiblat, Sireh Pinang, Keris, Saturday Night, Self Portrait, Nuraini, Warna Merdeka, Basmallah and Energy East.

Syed Ahmad’s show isn’t the only one from these shores on tour in Europe. Since early May, there has been a dozen art events and exhibitions involving local artists across Europe and Britain.

Through entrepreneurial savvy, sponsored projects and independent initiatives, the marketing scene is changing rapidly for Malaysian art.

Chang Fee Mingâ¿TMs â¿¿A Travelerâ¿TMs Diaryâ¿  is the veteran artist's first solo exhibition in London. A self-taught painter, Chang has carved out a niche painting the peoples of Malaysia and South-East Asia, capturing the colours, textures and diversity of life in this region. This piece is called 'Katijah Garden.'
Chang Fee Ming’s work called Katijah Garden.

Malaysian artists based in Italy and Denmark, namely H.H. Lim and Amir Zainorin, have also been busy. H.H. Lim’s latest video project Hula Hoop was shown at the Spoleta Festival in Italy (June 28), while Amir’s Dear Helle (ends Aug 29) at the Immigrant Museum in Farum in Denmark is an interactive art project to invite the masses to write postcards to the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt about anything.

These postcards will then be installed in the museum for the exhibition and later on be personally sent to Helle after the exhibition ends.

Veteran artist Chang Fee Ming, 55, is currently holding his debut show, A Traveller’s Diary (ends July 4), in London. His works are showing at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery. Terengganu-born Chang’s A Traveller’s Diary is a continuation of his touring exhibition which first kicked off at the Bamboo Gallery, in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia last year.

A Traveller’s Diary mainly showcases works from the private collection of Daniel Komala, the CEO of Larasati Auctioneers and chairman of Singapore-based art management outfit One East Asia, apart from a few recent pieces. The opening on June 27 was marked by the launch of a book, Chang Fee Ming: A Private Collection.

With a three-decade career, the self-taught Chang is mostly known for art surveying South-East Asian backwaters and beyond.

Elsewhere, 11 local artists are participating – separately – in a three-pronged initiative at the Start Art Fair held at the Saatchi Gallery (June 26-29) in London. The Prudential Global Eye Malaysian component, Galeri Chandan (KL) and Richard Koh Fine Art (KL/Singapore) are part of this programme.

The Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition, held in Kuala Lumpur in April, featured 21 artists here. Five selected artists from this inaugural KL show – Zelin Seah, Kow Leong Kiang, Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, Sabri Idrus and Anne Samat – were picked to exhibit their works in the Prudential Eye Zone show in London.

The Start Art Fair is part of The Prudential Eye Programme – an initiative that nurtures artistic talent, which was established in 2008 by David and Serenella Ciclitira and the Saatchi Gallery. The aim is to build networks and opportunities for artists and galleries through strategic partnerships and a variety of platforms.

For its Cheritera exhibition, Galeri Chandan’s catalogue features local artists: Ahmad Shukri Mohammed, Azrin Mohd, Chong Ai Lei, Fadly Sabran, Haris Abadi, Kow Leong Kiang, Marvin Chan and Stephen Menon. Elsewhere, Richard Koh Fine Art (KL/Singapore) has Nadiah Bamadhaj (based in Indonesia) and Chang Yoong Chia, while Thailand’s hotshot Natee Utarit completes its line-up.

The Anak Alam collective’s prodigal child Ali “Mabuha” Rahamad is showing 60 works in a 45-year survey Journey Of Art at the Edsvik Konsthalle in Sollentuna, Sweden (June 14-July 13). 

His Swedish sojourn takes up the story from his laidback Anak Alam days with surreal landscapes to the horrifying battlefields of the Gulf War, the fratricide in Rwanda, the ethnic-cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, 9-11 to environmental degradation of the BP oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico.

Nadiah Bamadhaj's 'Cina Wurung, Londa Durung, Jawa Tanggung (2014) is a highlight at Richard Koh Fine Art's showcase at the Start Art Fair in London.
Nadiah Bamadhaj’s Cina Wurung, Londa Durung, Jawa Tanggung (2014) is a highlight at the Start Art Fair in London.

Shooshie Sulaiman, one of the country’s most high-profile contemporary artists was featured in the Unlimited platform of the recent Art Basel in Switzerland (June 19-22). She was represented by leading Japan gallery Tomio Kayama, whose top artists includes Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara.

Curated by New York-based Swiss curator Gianni Jetzer, Unlimited was Art Basel’s exhibition platform for projects that transcend the limitations of a classical art-show stand, including video projections, large-scale installations, and live performances.

Photographer-dance instructor J. Redza was among 90 participants – and the only Malaysian – invited for the first Morphos: Sustainable Empires festival in Venice Italy (June 6-13). This international festival of architecture, photography, video art, installation and performing art was held in the prestigious Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice.

J. Redza’s photographic submission was called To You Be Your Faith, To Me Be Mine (digital C-Type print on Kodak Pro Endura paper), which was also shown at the The Good Malaysian Woman exhibition in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Two artists, A. Shukri “Lennon” Elias and Mohamad Samsudin, have also just returned from the 6th Byala Painting Exhibition and Workshop in Bulgaria, taking in a Turkish route.

Fai Zakaria is also the Malaysian representative at the Young Art Europe & Young Art Global show at the Museum of Young Art (MOYA) in Vienna, Austria, which ends on July 7.

Three artists are also involved in the Venice Architecture Biennale (ends Nov 23) namely Prof Ramlan Abdullah (Z&SR Architectural Ventures), Suhaimi Fadzir and Ch’ng Huck Teng with installations.

In this age of the “global artist”, these Malaysian artists mentioned are definitely on the right path for more adventures abroad. Others will follow soon. This small invasion of Europe is an encouraging sign of better things ahead.

Lifestyle , Lifestyle , Richard Koh , HH Lim , Prudential