CORE DESIGN GALLERY
This gallery’s core value is bigger than the art pieces hung on its walls – it revolves around moulding selected artists to be the best versions of themselves. This is evident after speaking to the team holding the creative fort down, who were able to explain each artist’s transitions and the steps they took to function as a cohesive unit. There was a sense of peacefulness amongst them that would successfully mislead one into believing the team weren’t in the middle of Subang’s craziness – trust us, they are.
Core Design Gallery aims to be a platform that showcases quality artists involved in contemporary arts. Artists who are in tune with critical thinking. This is a place to view visual thoughts that address issues endured by the masses using mediums that range from Jawi calligraphy, to mixed media, to sculptures and many more. If spending hours at cafes or walking aimlessly around shopping malls has become the norm for you, perhaps opt to spend a few hours at an art gallery instead – you’ll learn something, for sure.
After spending 10 years building her career in the pharmaceutical line, Scarlette was struck with an epiphany that she could be creating something greater for her community instead of following a system. She realised she had a penchant for the arts since she often helped friends set up their exhibitions and was intrigued by the fragile world that is contemporary art. JUICE spoke to the owner of Core Design Gallery about the art scene in Malaysia (as you would with anyone involved in arts), being an agent for artists, and what happens when one chases for material satisfaction instead of personal growth.
What did art mean to you before Core?
I felt it was a need for society, I felt that it would drive the people to a different level of intellectualism, but I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was all about – it was still on a very fundamental basis from what we read; what we read and what we experience are totally different.
Why would you leave something as stable as medicine for a less conventional career like an owner of an art gallery?
I felt like I wasn’t needed in pharmaceutical. As in, there’s a system for it already, so even if I did make it, I’ll just be known as another general manager or another director. Since I’d always been involved in the arts, why don’t I take the opportunity to do it full-time? Gladly, I did that, I was able to take a lot of what I’ve learnt in marketing or sales to arts itself as they are basic fundamentals of any business setup, but arts takes a lot more knowledge – not in technical terms but knowledge into philosophy and psychology because it can be challenging to handle an artist sometimes. (laughs).
They are emotional creatures. If you do not have the knowledge or the authority to be in the understanding of what is contemporary art or even the professionalism, they’re very quick to just cut the entire relationship. The first three years were humble for me because I had to take one step back like I was learning again.
What does contemporary art mean to you then?
The easiest definition is (that it’s) done by living artists, but I disagree with that. I think contemporary art needs to be something that correlates with society. Remember those earlier days when you’d go into older hotels and you’d see a very nice landscape painting of like sawah padi or bullock carts? The problem is you don’t stay in a kampung house, so you won’t be able to relate to that scene. What makes Malaysian contemporary art even more unique with its own identity is the integration of various cultures, that makes it very uniquely Malaysian. We have paintings, sculptures, mixed media, installations – the only problem is our infrastructure doesn’t support people like them to be known internationally.
So what is Core Design doing for society?
My biggest challenge is that the system (for art) is not there yet, so we’re trying to build an eco system. I am hoping that people will be able to see that we need museums for contemporary arts, we don’t even have proper art writers, it’s quite sad in that sense. I am doing everything from my individual capacity to try and bring this all up and we’re trying to make everybody understand – be it other galleries or institutions – that there is a goldmine in Malaysian contemporary art but it’s just a matter of bringing it to another level.
Speaking of perception, there seems to be one or two pieces here that have a religious theme to it, are you worried about misinterpretation for these works?
I work closely with the artists, so I understand it from their point of view. Previously, nobody wanted to do Jawi work at all, so when I knew that was the case, I questioned myself because Jawi is a form of art. I think as long as we’re sincere and respect it, I think they (the ones viewing it) are quite acceptable to it. I wouldn’t do things that are literal, it shows that the artist isn’t thinking enough because rather than leaving room for imagination for the audience, you’ve smacked them down with the answer.
You work with artists very regularly. How often do you come across good ones?
It’s not everyday that you get an A. It’s not everyday that you’d get a Siti Nurhaliza – who was the next one that really created an impact like her? When will you get another Chong Wei? Having talent is one thing, knowing where to put the talent is another. So, if Chong Wei didn’t know he had the talent to play badminton, and he didn’t have a coach to train him, who knows where he would’ve been? It’s just like football players. Take Cristiano Ronaldo, if they didn’t bring him to the right games and bring him to the right leagues, he wouldn’t be where he is. If you study carefully, this guy has an agent behind him, which is what I hope to be for these artists.
Written by: Rathika Sheila
Photography by: Rathika Sheila
Published by: JUICE Malaysia – June 2016 issue.