Shooshie Sulaiman- participating artist in the GMCA (Great Malaysia Contemporary Art)
Written by : Zena Khan
Photography by : Puah Chin Kok and Artist Contribution
About the Artist
Arguably the most prominent contemporary Malaysian artist on the international art scene today is Susyilawati Sulaiman, or as she is popularly known, Shooshie. Famed for her highly personal, narrative works which consist of paintings and installations, Shooshie embodies the true spirit of an artist through her thorough understanding of her craft, the immeasurable depth with which she conceptualizes and the magnetic connection she establishes with her spell bound audience.
Born in Muar in 1973, Shooshie is of mixed Malay and Chinese heritage, a fact she has drawn on in works such as Siapa? [emak saya Cina, bapak saya Melayu] (Who? [my mother is Chinese, my father is Malay]), which combined both Chinese and Malay elements to speak about the artist’s quest to reconcile both cultural identities within herself. Indeed, in the tradition of female artists, who tend to produce extremely personal bodies of work, Shooshie consistently draws on her own memories, experiences and reactions, yet is gifted with the ability to involve the audience within the artworks themselves, often times with installations which are site specific or include intimate contact in some form between viewer and artwork.
Critical acclaim began pouring in for Shooshie not long after graduating with a BA in Fine Art from the MARA University of Technology (UiTM) in 1996. 1997 brought the National Art Gallery Malaysia’s Young Contemporaries Award and participation in the Philip Morris exhibition. Since then, Shooshie has partaken in numerous exhibitions and residencies, both in Malaysia and internationally, and is noted as the first ever South East Asian artist to be invited by the curators of the tremendously prestigious Documenta 12 in 2007. One of the most highly anticipated shows on the international art circuit is Documenta, which only takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany, and is affectionately referred to as “The Museum of 100 days” due to it’s 100 day run of thematic exhibitions of contemporary and modern art.
The extensive list of international exhibitions incorporating Shooshie’s work also includes Art Stage Singapore, from the inception of fair, the Singapore Biennale (2011), the Asia-Pacific Triennial (2009-10), Continuities: Contemporary Art of Malaysia At The Turn of The 21st Century, Guangdong Museum of Art and the Florence Biennale (2003). It should be noted that to participate in a single of these events is a major endorsement of an artist by the international community, therefore the repeated recognition of Shooshie by the art world at large serves as a ringing endorsement of the caliber of artist she is.
Shooshie produces paintings and drawing which, despite being small in comparison to the often large scale works Malaysian artist lean towards, are full of a raw energy that fills them with personality. Her installations on the other hand are extensive, both in size, often filling entire rooms, and in content, with their intimate insight into the artist herself. At Documenta 12 she showcased her seminal Emotional Library, comprised of diaries titled Anna and Botanical Garden. In an example of the contact she offers her audience Emotional Library featured a curtained area, not unlike a Church’s confessional, in which they may peruse the diaries and converse with the artist. This theme was explored further in 2008 when Shooshie produced a sequel of sorts in the form of Emotional Baggage, where she journeyed with 16 of her private journals to Japan to exhibit in The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.
Shooshie has recently joined the stable of highly regarded Japanese gallery Tomio Koyama, whose roster includes superstar names such as Yoshimoto Nara. As the eyes of the international community focus on contemporary Malaysian art, it is clear that Shooshie, who has been described as an artist’s artist, is a prime candidate for the one to be watching.