View of Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Image courtesy of Mohd Jon Ramlan
This week, we spotlight Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and a city gleaming with skyscrapers, colonial architecture, natural attractions and bustling street markets. Interweaving Malay, Chinese, and Indian traditions into its rich heritage and culture, KL has produced some of the most important modern and contemporary artists as well as sculptors within the region. With a flourishing art market, it is perhaps the unique mesmerising charm of the city that has made it such an attractive environment for galleries, arts institutions, and artists to operate within.
Even though the Malaysian government have already started easing from imposed restrictions since 1 May 2020, many individuals and institutions from the country’s creative economy continue to be negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – and will be for the next few months. To ensure that people within the arts community are protected, CENDANA, also known as the Cultural Economy Development Agency Malaysia, stated that it had set-up the ‘Create Now Funding Programme’ to support individuals, collectives and organisations in the arts and cultural industry during the public health crisis. The initiative, which seeks to “cultivate and support artistic development and presentation of ideas in imaginative ways despite physical limitation to resources”, aims to provide RM 1,500 to individual applicants and RM 3,500 per submission of successful ideas.
Virtual Installation View of Works by Fadilah Karim in Unseen Conn3xion Exhibition at G13 Gallery.
Image courtesy of G13 Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Virtual Installation View of Works by Shafiq Nordin in Unseen Conn3xion Exhibition at G13 Gallery.
Image courtesy of G13 Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Some arts institutions and galleries in Malaysia were quick to adapt to the social distancing and lockdown measures that were initially put in place nationwide, by going digital. For example, G13 Gallery, impressively, already had its online viewing room set-up in early 2019, and have showcased four virtual exhibitions on their platform this year alone, with the latest being ‘Unseen Conn3xion’. The show focuses on displaying artworks that portray the current lives or circumstances amidst the pandemic by three artists: Fadilah Karim, Shafiq Nordin, and Winner Jumalon.
Ibrahim Hussein, Datuk, Little Things, 1995. Highest Selling Lot from Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers' "Malaysian and Southeast Asian Online Auction", 15 March, 2020. Sold for RM 403, 200.00.
Image courtesy of Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers.
Even auction houses like Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers, who specialize in the sale of Malaysian and Southeast Asian art, hosted their first-ever auction without physical floor bidding in mid-March. The auction was carried out entirely through absentee bids, telephone bids and online bidding, and achieved a total of RM 2.3 million in sales.
However, although some art businesses have managed to transition into the digital sphere, this has proved challenging for many other galleries, artists and institutions without the resources to do so. Most galleries in Malaysia have relied on art fairs and their exhibition spaces for collectors to visit, and less on their social media platforms. But with the rise of the coronavirus earlier this year, this certainly accelerated the urgency for many of these galleries to improve their digital presence, and to invest in creating some form of virtual space so that their business can exist beyond their mere physicality.
The increased transition towards online and digital platforms provides great optimism for the art world and the future for galleries as well as artists. The pandemic has forced the art community to strategize differently, and to find new and innovative ways to develop different solutions that will prepare them for the post-coronavirus world.
Yeoh Choo Kuan is a young artist working in painterly abstraction though he installs narratives and hints of figuration to the visual language of his paintings. He graduated from Dasein Academy of Art, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with a Diploma in Fine Arts in 2010. He lives and works in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is represented by Richard Koh Fine Art.
Aureole Design is a product brand founded by Wei Ming Tan. A typography major from the United Kingdom, Wei Ming Tan practised as a graphic designer for a couple of years after returning to Kuala Lumpur. Her passion for furniture and lighting design spurred her to explore beyond the two-dimensional. Aureole approaches design within the context of simplicity – be it in the purity of lines or the unadorned elegance of a material. Within this, the richness of Asian culture inspires the process before being translated into a form which allows its design and material to accent the finished product.
Aureole's Geometry series explores the Art of Paper Folding in the form of ceramic ware and comprises of both pendant and table lights. The simple symmetrical “folds” accent the light holder while white glaze finishes were selected to further mimic the colour and texture of paper.
Fuen Chin was born in a small town in Malaysia. She is a self-taught artist who eventually pursued a fine art research degree at the Royal College of Art in her late 30s. When Fuen presented her calligraphic painting on the wall to the panel of judges at Royal College of Art, ‘the panel very much enjoyed your proposal and presentation and thought there were a lot of interesting possibilities that may emerge from your works,’ this has encouraged Fuen to continue exploring the ideas, concepts and ‘drama’ embedded in Chinese calligraphy.
The motifs of Fuen's calligraphic paintings change from time to time. She introduces painting as a way to communicate, to disseminate ideas and to invite imaginations. The art of her paintings derived from Chinese calligraphy. She proposes that the uniqueness of the calligraphy is the multidisciplinary applications: writing, drawing, painting, marking, singing, dancing and playing.
Ipoh born artist Rajinder Singh received his MFA from LaSalle in Singapore and has shown widely across the world. In 2013, he was one of final 100 for the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London. He was also recently selected as the final 400 of the '100 painters of tomorrow' publication by Thomas & Hudson. His work has been featured in several other publications and art blogs worldwide. He lives and works out of studios in Dublin and London.
Represented by Wei-Ling Gallery, visual artist, Rajinder Singh works full-time out of his studios in West London and Dublin. His work today is often situated in between form and formlessness, either leaking away or resolutely building some potential for alternate systems of knowings. In M.O.L.C., Rajinder explores the idea of his paintings as dig sites to grapple with topics such as peculiar histories, dichotomies, mark-making, and the excavation of 'texts'.
Established Malaysian contemporary artist Husin Hourmain is an abstract expressionist artist at heart. His paintings are a pure expression of flowing energy. From his very successful solo Awal Hurouf Asal Hurouf show in 2013, Husin singlehandedly brought about a new perspective to Islamic calligraphy as we know it and proves to be the most sought after Malaysian contemporary Islamic calligraphy artist. His collection of 30 pieces from his Awal Hurouf Asal Hurouf is widely acclaimed and garnered much attention beyond the borders of race, religion and nationality.
Observing an impending decline of understanding the Jawi amongst our youth, Husin Hourmain continues to delve into his cultural and religious identity of being a Malaysian Muslim. He imbues his artworks with a culmination of his strong abstract expressionist brush strokes and Jawi calligraphy, bringing about a better understanding and appreciation of Jawi for his multi-cultural and multi-racial audience. Hourmain is represented by Core Design Gallery, and his works are collected by major public as well as private collectors in Malaysia.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.