Written by : Zena Khan
The Auctionland is a 2013 acrylic and bitumen on canvas painting by Hamir Soib. It marks Hamir’s return to the social-political content art that he is famed for producing, in the vein of paintings such as Pilihan and Sepat O Sepat after a stretch of large-scale calligraphic works.
Across the main body of The Auctionland, Hamir has painted a large koi fish in a lateral view. On either side of the koi are bars, receding into the distance, and after a brief inspection, the viewer notices that a landscape has been dreamily painted both around and within the fish, it forms a background on which the fish has been overlaid. Hamir cements his reputation as one of the most technically proficient Malaysian Contemporary artists with the highly skilled layering effect as well as an astounding realism of the large central koi.
It should be noted that The Auctionland not only hails Hamir’s return to commentary based art, but also a re-emergence of his desire to use colour in his paintings after a five year monochromatic period. Hamir is famed for developing and refining his painterly techniques via a work, or series of works, and then coupling those techniques with new developments to push him to new levels. This is evident in his new work as he marries the layering technique he has refined in his series of four Quls from his calligraphic period with a renewed sense of colour.
Layering is crucial to Hamir not only technically but also philosophically, which is reinforced with the concept that inspired The Auctionland. An expensive commodity, the koi has been used as an icon to represent the ideas of value, buying and selling and the auction market. Within the Malaysian Contemporary Art scene, there has been an explosion of auction houses. Hamir questions the significance of these institutions within a booming contemporary art market when they promote and idealize Nanyang art over contemporary. The lateral position of the koi becomes the key in this context, as within Nanyang art there is frequent representation of koi in a bird’s eye view, Hamir asks the audience to look at issues from new perspectives.
The background scenery adds a second level of meaning to the auction metaphor. Hamir depicts a submerged backdrop to reflect the loss of land through excessive development, the initial step in which is always the transaction of buying and selling the land. Environmental concerns and the resulting effect on the Malaysian countryside are a recurring concern for Hamir, as seen previously in Sepat O Sepat.
Commenting that everything is for sale, Hamir draws parallels between the glamorous auctions with the chaos and mess of a fish market with the use of the super sized koi. Despite the superficial differences between the two environments, the artist feels the principles that underpin the two are the same. Clearly, Hamir is urging his audience to stop and consider what values should be held important before there is a disintegration of our physical and intellectual landscapes.The creative content and masterful execution of The Auctionland underline Hamir’s reputation as a true master in the Malaysian Contemporary Art scene.
Artwork Caption :
Artist : Hamir Soib
Title : The Auctionland
Size : 150cm x 360cm
Medium : Bitumen and Acrylic on Canvas
Year : 2013