Moulding the History: Grey Area in a Grey Sky

Written by Zena Khan

The development of the aviation industry has transformed travel in the modern age. With the advent of airplanes, it is now possible to circle the globe in twenty-four hours, a journey which historically would involve ships and months of sailing. Flying has become so commonplace, it is an act most travellers take for granted. Indeed it is said statistically to be safer than driving a car. March 2014 however saw many nightmares come true with the shocking disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, leading to widespread speculation and conspiracy theories regarding the fate of the missing plane and its passengers. Masnoor Ramli chronicles the confusion and desperation for answers in this morbid mystery with his latest painting Moulding The History: Grey Area in a Grey Sky.

Beijing bound Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic control in the early hours of March 8th 2014, and was officially reported missing a few hours later. Despite one of the most extensive and expensive search and rescue efforts ever undertaken in the history of aviation, no trace of the plane has been recovered yet. In a world tracked by satellites and technology, it seems bewildering that such a large vehicle carrying over two hundred people could simply vanish in the night, and theories began emerging within hours of the news breaking. Masnoor, fresh from an adventurous air expedition with aviation enthusiasts across the Atlantic, wonders what the fate of MH370 really was, and questions how the mystery will ever be solved?

Fitting in with the title of the painting is the stormy grey background of Moulding The History: Grey Area in a Grey Sky, which alludes to storms and perilous travel conditions. Overlaid are images of satellites and radars, forming a modern interpretation of maps and silently offering up endless possibilities for MH370’s location. On the right of his large grey canvas, he paints a boy, blindfolded with his arms outstretched as if playing a game. Frozen on the canvas, the child is looking for something he is not likely to find. Masnoor likens the fruitless efforts of the blindfolded boy to the frustrations of the search and rescue team. He comments such an extensive, international search aided by top of the line technology should theoretically have uncovered clues by now. The absolute lack of wreckage, debris or passengers simply serves to deepen the enigma of flight MH370. On the left of the canvas, Masnoor depicts a bomoh, sitting cross legged and anxiously scanning with his bamboo telescope. As is often the case when faced with the unknown, people turn to prayer or superstition, especially when technology is perceived as having come up short. In the instance of MH370, experienced bomoh Ibrahim Mat Zin independently offered up prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in a controversial move. Large factions of society felt the ceremony was conducted too publicly, and so not appropriate at the time. Masnoor doesn’t offer an opinion on the actions of the bomoh, instead presenting him as a character in the mystery of MH370.

Masnoor claims that despite his use of figurative elements, he is not a realism painter. Instead he uses key symbols to weave a narrative of events he observes unfolding in real time, aided by the highly atmospheric tones he sets. Indeed with Moulding The History: Grey Area in a Grey Sky, Masnoor opens up a conversation on travel in the modern era, and the comforts we seek when faced with the inexplicable, demonstrating an innate understanding of the secret workings of the human psyche.


Title: Moulding The History: Grey Area in a Grey Sky

Artist: Masnoor Ramli

Size: 140 cm x 215 cm

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas

Year: 2014


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