GMCA in 360 Magazine August 2013

Scarlette Lee, the director of CORE DESIGN GALLERY, an exclusive boutique art gallery which specializes in Malaysian Contemporary art, talks to us about the gallery’s new project, the Great Malaysia Contemporary art (GMCA)

Malaysian art has been very much sought after especially with the emergence of art auction houses over the past 3 years. What is the current scenario for Malaysian contemporary art?
For the past 10 years, Malaysian Contemporary Art has been receiving tremendous awareness and response from art enthusiasts, collectors and public alike. However, due to the lack of proper representation from art dealers, galleries or even agents, top notch Malaysian Contemporary Art has never been displayed at a major scale event like this which is open to the public. It has always been the privileged few who have access to contemporary art galleries and get to collect and amass many seminal works of art.

Due to the lack of infrastructure in the Malaysian art market, many can only head to fairly accessible art auctions which showcase mostly Malaysian Modernist works of art. As for those without access to local events and news about them, they will source works from the international art market without knowing that Malaysia does have artists of international calibre that can match or even superceed Masriadi of Indonesia or Zhang XiaGang of China, be it in value or quality of work.

What is Contemporary Art?
There have been many definitions put forth by various scholars, academicians or auction houses on what contemporary art is all about. Some speak of contemporary art as art made during the post-war era whereas some have defined it as work by any active artist.

Before we attempt to hypothesize on what contemporary art is, we need to understand the question of contemporaneity itself. Is contemporaneity shaped by the current world picture? How has it changed since the post-war era and decolonization of Asia and Africa?
Contemporaneity is the most evident attribute of the current world picture. From human interaction with the geosphere through the manifolds of cultures to global politics to the unique character of each individual. All these cannot be defined or characterized by modernity anymore. Contemporary art is the art of today shaped by current situations. In short, contemporary art deals with issues directly related to its present day world.

And how do we define the quality of contemporary art especially seminal works of art?
Contemporary art is one complex world and it is not easy to make an intelligent acquisition especially when it concerns a major work or seminal art. I once read that when one is in doubt over the purchase of an artpiece, one can consider the use of past, present and personal (PPP) elements to help make a decision.

• PAST : Does it understand the past?
Artwork that is too involved in the past tends to be derivative and more decorative. However, artwork that is ignorant of visual history will tend to be naive in its concept.

• PRESENT :Does it explain the present?
Artwork that is too ahead of its time will typically lack the universal aspect of ageing with time. On the other hand, artwork that is not in tune with its time will not serve as a predictive and interpretive tool for the future.

PERSONAL : Does it reflect a personal vision?
Artwork that is too personal or self involved work like diary entries, offering insights into the life of the artist. However,artwork that lack personal reflections are harder for viewers to relate to, as they will not be able to see through the eyes and imagination of the artist.

What is the concept of GMCA?
For the first time in Malaysian art history, Core Design Gallery brings together selected Malaysian contemporary artists whose works have the critical value and are of museum quality through our project – the Great Malaysia Contemporary Art (GMCA). GMCA will present top contemporary artists whose works are critically acclaimed and sought after. GMCA is a curated exhibition that will showcase insights into the painstaking process behind producing seminal artwork.

Which Malaysian contemporary artists are involved ?
All the Malaysian contemporary artists we will feature have been specifically selected for being the best in their specific genre from paintings to sculptures to installation works. These include Ahmad Fuad Osman, Anuar Rashid, Eng Hwee Chu, Fadhli Yusoff, Hamir Soib, Haslin bin Ismail, Husin Hourmain, Mohd Noor Mahmud, Muthalib Musa, Shooshie Sulaiman, Tan Chin Kuan and Zulkifli Yusoff.

How will GMCA take Malaysian contemporary art to the next level?
The first GMCA show will take place during the Malaysia Art Expo from September 19th to September 22nd at Matrade, Kuala Lumpur. Core Design Gallery will make this its continuous trademark project that seeks not only to bring all top notch Malaysian contemporary artists to important art fairs like the Malaysia Art Expo but also to international art fairs as a next step. It is high time we brought the our deserving local talent to the international arena.

HAMIR SOIB
Appearing in the contemporary Malaysian art scene in the early 1990’s as a founding member of the MATAHATI collective, Hamir Soib combines his theatrical approach to painting with a magical fantastic realism style to create works that act as a critique of the socio-political state of today’s society. The Auctionland marks Soib’s return to sociopolitical art. Soib has painted a large koi fish, in the lateral view. The koi has been used as an icon to represent the ideas of value, buying and selling on the auction market. He depicts the landscape as submerged to reflect the loss of land through excessive development, in which the initial steps always involve the buying and selling the land.Environmental concerns and the resulting effects on the Malaysian landscape are a recurring concern for Soib. Commenting that everything is forsale, Soib draws parallels between the glamour of auctions and the chaos and mess of a fish market with the use of the super sized koi.

TAN CHIN KUAN
Hailed by the Fukuoka Asian Museum as the representative of 80s Southeast Asian artists, Tan’s work often expresses severe social criticism. In Rainy Day, Chin Kuan’s dead horse describes his sense of being lost as an artist when he first moved to Seremban. He felt his artistic vision was sliding downhill, reflected by the death of the horse. Taking a central position on, just in front of the horse is a self-portrait of Tan. Despite the heavy rain and animal carcass behind him, and the slightly bowed head stance, the viewer is given the impression of the strength of the central figure and his desire to move forward and rise again artistically.

ENG HWEE CHU
Eng Hwee Chu, one of the most prominent contemporary female artists in Malaysia. Her works are a visual narrative of her inner struggle, culture, tradition and change, while celebrating her love and marriage to Tan Chin Kuan and an outlet to rebel and break free. They are also vehicles in her quest for the truth. Not only does Eng explore her own personal issues through her work but she also emphasizes on issues surrounding a woman’s role in society. Hwee Chu’s use of her trademark black shadow and red figure are the viewer’s first clue when she creates an autobiographical piece. Eng’s

inner self, is a dark looming figure in a frightened or heavy stance. In Searching-Facing to the New Age, Eng has chosen to represent her inner self in an energetic position, flying freely across the top of the canvas, reflecting the confidence she has at this stage of her life. Representing Eng’s true self is the red figure that is central to the painting. A sense of curiosity radiates from her new red figure; she seems to appreciate the value of her new life. Eng’s works often revolve around her cultural identity as a Malaysian Chinese woman.

ANUAR RASHID
Anuar Rashid has always been a maverick. At the tender age of 20, he had his breakthrough with Birth of Inderaputera (1978) #31, and Syed Ahmad Jamal, the then director of National Art Gallery declared him as “the new sensation of the Malaysian Art scene, perhaps its brightest star yet”. After a highly successful solo exhibition “Wind, Water & Fire (1983) in Kuala Lumpur, he left for Europe on several grants and scholarships. Upon his return to Malaysia in 1986, he completed a mural for Central Market titled Farewell. The Home Sweet Home North Star Constellation of Galaxies was the pinnacle of his Mih(raj) series. Here, the golden peacock and his winged horse (artist’s version of Al-Buraq) ascends towards an opening glow of the heavens. Highly skilled in the use of oil, he enthralls viewers with the watercolour like effects he archives in his work.

SHOOSHIE SULAIMAN
Shooshie Sulaiman has had her works exhibited internationally at the Asia Pacific Triennial 2009, Brisbane; Documenta 12 2008, Kasel Germany; The 9th Havana Biennale 2006, Cuba; Art Spce Gallery 2005, Kuala Lumpur and The Guangdong Museum of Art 2004, Guangzhou China. Her most recent works include a project with Art Stagefeaturing Kedai Runcit 2011 and Kedai Gambar Goldie 2012. For the first time in many years, Shooshie presents 2D paintings after embarking in a different artistic diretion altogether. Demokrasi and Propaganda represent her reaction to the recent GE13. As the smallest number of works in the show, they convey the intimacy and debate between viewers and the subjects she has chosen.

HUSIN HOURMAIN
Husin Hourmain’s long route to fulltime painting began with his studies in graphic design and photography. A lucrative career in advertising followed his graduation from the Malaysian Institute of Arts until he took up the brushes fulltime in 2003. Having recently concluded his monumental solo exhibition Awal Hurouf Asal Hurouf which took him three years to produce all 30 Jawi alphabets, this abstract expressionist’s works are collected by the National Art Gallery as well as by major Malaysian corporate and private collectors. Nota dan Yasin Untukmu is a five-panel mixed media work that reflects the five pillars of the Islamic faith. They have been worked in the detailed calligraphic style which represents Hourmain’s homage to his late father and also Malay and a Muslim. It is said that everything has a heart, and the heart of the Quran is the (Surah) Yasin. The panel bordering the painting on the right is inscribed with stamps from the passport of Hourmain’s father, a journalist who traveled regularly for work. Using his father as a reference point brings a personal insight into the painting. Husin records his memories of his father and is speaking to him in a personal manner as a son,underlined by the fact he has signed this painting with his father’s nickname for him, “Man”.

AHMAD FUAD OSMAN
Ahmad Fuad Osman has had numerous solo exhibitions and residencies around the world. His work has found worldwide acclaim and has been exhibited in institutions such as Tacheles Berlin, The Seoul Metropolitan Art Museum, Singapore Art Museum, Gertrude Art Centre, Melbourne, Australia, Guangdong Museum of Art China, Manes Gallery, Czech Republic and Red Mill Gallery, Vermont USA as well as the National Art Gallery and Petronas Art Gallery in Malaysia. His awards include the Juror’s Choice at the Philip Morris Art Awards in both 2000 and 2003. Fuad was granted residencies at the Vermont Studio Centre in America in 2004, at the Goyang National Art Studio in South Korea from 2005-2006 and the Rimbun Dahan Residency in Malaysia from 2007-2008. Leap of Faith is a social critique of the contemporary society in their conflict of holding on to the cultural relevance whilst trying to survive in this materialistic world.
The multicoloured use of the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram on one side against amore monochromatic expression of traditional elements captures the emotions of the viewer.

ZULKIFLI YUSOFF
Zulkifli Yusoff is the second Malaysian to showcase his works at the Venice Biennale Exhibition (‘Don’t Play During Maghrib’, 1997, mixed media installation & painting, ‘Modernities & Memories: Recent Works from the Islamic World’). Being recognized for his sharp commentary and deep insights into the Malaysian psyche and historical context through his art, Zulkifli has since held successive critically-regarded solo exhibitions at leading institutions in Malaysia and Singapore. These include the Malaysian National Art Gallery, Petronas Art Gallery and the National University Singapore Museum. He has also represented Malaysia in the inaugural Asia Pacific Triennial, 1993, Queensland Art Gallery, in Queensland. Pahang Warrior represent his dual fascination with history and Malaysian politics. The entire background of Pahang Warrior is fashioned from strips of canvas that have been printed with Jawi script. Pahang Warrior is a crucial development in this series as it furthers his existing palette with newer, brighter hues. Spaced out at the four corners are the namesand references to Mat Kilau, Tok Gajah and Bahaman, four warriors during the British occupation of Malaya who were central to the fight for independence. Zulkifli takes it upon himself to underpin how the actions of these figures have given rise to the freedoms and privileges enjoyed by Malaysians in contemporary society.

MOHD NOOR MAHMUD
Mohd Noor Mahmud‘s work has remained true to the concept of spiritual and perceptual art. His works often highlight the influence of external cultures, traditional art and the evolution of mankind. While composing his masterpieces, he often draws inspiration from past experiences, interpreting and manifesting subject matters into thought-provoking images and objects. Mohd Noor’s recent artworks have been inclined towards decorative textiles with symbolic motives associated with Malaysia’s East Coast region. The Great Malaysia Contemporary Art Exhibition will take place during the Malaysia Art Expo from 19th to 22nd September 2013 at Booth 52 by Core Design Gallery.

For more information please visit http://gmca.coredesigngallery.com or contact Syikin at 03-56121168


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