Artworks of conversation

Exhibition highlights sociopolitical issues through contemporary art.

Beyond pretty pictures, Malaysian contemporary artists are now creating artworks that invite conversation on global and local issues.

Responding to the MH370 tragedy and the Gaza war, bold local artists have taken centre stage at the Great Malaysia Contemporary Art Show (GMCA) for the second year in Art Expo 2014.

Artcube gallery director Azhar Ahmad said the collaborative showcase between Artcube and Core Design gallery saw artists playing a pivotal role in initiating conversation on topics.

“Contemporary artists are now rising above commercial aesthetic work.

“They have begun focusing on creating art which has context, concept and a glimpse of stories close to their heart.

“We are now able to see their thought process and sentiments towards sociopolitical matters and how they dissect their meaning through an impressive range of techniques,” he said, while referring to the mixed medium artwork Bumi yang Berdarah by local contemporary artist Azrin Mohd, which depicts the continuous bloodshed in Gaza using 3D printing and acrylic paint on canvas.

“Malaysians would be proud to know we have such talented and intellectual artists that are on part with international standards,” he said.

Featuring 24 stunning artworks by handpicked local artists, Core Design gallery director Scarlette Lee explained that curating the unique showcase was an active process from the very beginning.

“Curating art is not just hanging paintings on the wall.

“As gallery owners, we not only handpick artists based on their critical value but also actively work with each artist from the very beginning to showcase a variety of mediums from painting to installation.

“For this year’s showcase, we did not give the artists any theme to work on.

“Instead, we allocated each of them exactly one year of freedom and space to work out the stories they wanted to project in their artwork,” she said.

She added that such curation enabled the artist to work in new issues and occurrences during the course of the allocated one year.

“One good example is Hamir Soib, who started his painting Hot Seat last year right after the first GMCA and worked on it for nine months.

“When you look closely, you can see the layers of stories he has added to the painting during the course of time given.

“As such, the content becomes much richer,” she explained.

Formerly a pharmacist by profession, Lee left her high-paying job to head an art gallery in Subang Jaya to develop local talent.

“I am very passionate about the artwork created by my artists and I believe in them.

“When I first met Haafiz, the youngest artist in GMCA this year, he was living in a small house with eight people,” said Lee, referring to a 27-year-old artist, Haafiz Shahimi, whose work she admired.

“I offered him a solo exhibition, but he just could not afford to do it.

“So I told him to come to my house and work on it there.

“I knew deep down that there was something exquisite about his technique and it just had not been showcased for people to see.

“Following his solo showcase, he gained greater confidence and is now a full-time artist,” she added proudly.

Lee said she not only admired the artist’s talent but also his tenacity.

Showing Haafiz’s painting Catfish, she went on to say, “Whether he had to borrow money to buy canvas and paint or take odd jobs, he never stopped producing art. The painting is a composition of pyrography print, charcoal, spray paint and oil on canvas.

Inspired by the grit of young contemporary artists, Azhar who also left his full-time job as a bio-chemist to set up Artcube gallery at Intermark, Kuala Lumpur, said gallery owners played a big role in creating platforms for artists’ work.

“The biggest difficulty in art is gaining prominence.

“So, as gallery owners, we do the public relations, marketing and sales to propel local artists into the international arena.

“GMCA has become the most important annual show for contemporary artists, because it is the benchmark in terms of quality of work, concept and context.

“It is something the younger artists, dealers and the public can look forward to, it changes the way people view art,” he said, adding that there had not been any platform that features contemporary art on such a grand scale, like Art Expo.

He added that Malaysian art collectors had also grown in showing their support towards contemporary art: “Out of 24 artworks we had on display during the GMCA preview, more than half have already been sold.”

Lee concurred, saying she is happy to see the Malaysian audience growing more receptive and appreciative of locally produced contemporary artwork.

“Malaysian contemporary artists have brought in their identity and the issues they face.

“It is our role through GMCA to educate and expose the public to these artists who continue to respond creatively and critically to contemporary issues,”she said.

She added that the public are welcome to take pictures of the artworks during their visit to Art Expo 2014.

“I think the more people take pictures of the art and share them on social media, the contemporary art and issues that are being addressed will enjoy greater awareness, as will the artists,” she said.

The Great Malaysia Contemporary Art Show will be at the 8th International Art Expo 2014 in Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur from today until Sept 28 between 10.30am and 7.30pm.

Admission is free.


Written by: Melizarani T. Selva

Published by The Star Metro

Date of Publication: 25th September 2014


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