Friday, 21 February 2014, 8pm
Venue: Galeri Chandan @ Publika
Exhibition Duration: 18 February until 12 March 2014
In an age in which skills in the creation of ‘public personas’ are considered useful and public ‘facades’ are beneficial, an individual must be able to jump in between a number of personas as they serve act identity icons, as objects of consumption and as mediators for the dissemination of information to the external world.
Nowadays, one is required to juggle a number of social platforms and avatars of oneself in a variety of mainstream digital media outlets such as Facebooks, Instagrams and Second Life in which these alter egos provide the venue for the creation of personas on a small and manageable scale. Meanwhile in the fast, skin-deep and constantly shifting culture of international celebrities, alter egos are ‘fluid objects’ in which the performers of these characterizations are able to explore new identities, bottle them as products and test new combinations for unique experimental and profitable personalities.
Galeri Chandan presents Alter Ego, a group exhibition that attempts to display the ‘alter-egos’ of known local artists and to serve as a stage for the exploration and experimentation of potential personas. The exhibition encourages the artists to produce works outside of their ‘comfort zones’ and showcases works that are distinctive in relation to the participating artists more widely-known practices. Thus this shift into unfamiliarity by Marvin Chan, Awang Damit, Fauzulyusri, Haslin Ismail, Gan Chin Lee, Stephen Menon, Meme (Khairul Azmir Shoib), Izan Tahir and Chong Siew Ying would display new exciting pieces through sharing formal or conceptual strands with their existing approaches.
Marvin Chan’s woodblock relief print on canvas mounted on wood titled Pendekar Jari Kuat No. 5 (2013) depicts a parody that explores the idea of relics as evidences that are ‘important to the provenance of a nation’s identity’. Marvin is concerned with the desecration of these relics and the ‘attempt to wipe our evidence of early history in order to convene a new but more treacherous one’. The work consisting of a barrage of visual signs such as Buddhist and Chinese deities and animal and supernatural figures are created in layers implying the multiplicity of its meaning and the passage of time. It is a social commentary on the idea on ‘manufactured tradition’.
Awang Damit is well known for his textured abstract mixed media paintings usually with highly structured compositions and dry energetic brushworks that alludes to personal and universal narratives. The creation of meaning with the aid of store-bought texture pastes, distinct angular shapes and vibrant colours borrows visual elements from local sources. Awang juggles unique signs and shapes, generating expressive works that interrogate topics ranging from landscape and nature to sensitive cultural, social and religious issues. For Alter Ego, he sculpted instead of painting. A composition of found objects which refers to formal elements in his two-dimensional pieces, the two sculptures, one composed of a worn shovel and another a palette knife are strapped onto clay brick pedestals and decorated with rust and paint appears tired but noble.
They are objects saturated with meaning; their ragged forms suggests to struggle in past-lives, manual labour and gestural abstraction. Awang believes that “form does not exist for its own sake, but manifests a meaning above and beyond itself…” (Adapted from The Sufi Path of Love).
Fauzulyusri’s consciously naïve paintings layers abstract shapes with crudely drawn images and joyful scribbles almost in a de-skilled state. He is unconcerned with the challenge of rendering realistic images as his method is about looking back, mining his memories of making art as a child or painting in art classes in schools. His painting process in a way is an attempt to paint as a child, it is in itself a process of doing something that one is unfamiliar with, putting oneself in another mental state. Perfection is not his aim, but sheer enjoyment and the freedom of image making.
Haslin Ismail’s starting point of research for his Alter Ego’s work would be to look at the novel by R. L. Stevenson titled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). The classic fiction depicts a story of an educated and respectable gentleman struggling with his dark side thus unleashing his alter ego with the help of a serum initially made to suppress the ‘evil’ in him. The story to Haslin resonates with the archetypal scenario of the internal fight between good and evil. In an attempt to experiment with a different technique of image creation, Haslin recycles an older work and transfers the image onto another canvas through the process of collage therefore the original piece is mysteriously revitalized.
Gan Chin Lee, well-known for his densely populated pictures of social scenes in which distressed figures appear waiting or merely staring into space. His pictures have certain moral and social undertones, usually describing the precariousness of urban living in which he manipulates his characters’ postures to convey such viewpoints. For this exhibition, Gan paints Ellie Thinks About Art Through Me (2013), a portrait devoid of a social framework and concentrates instead on the single subject matter (the classical reclining female figure), the picture’s formal qualities and the reward from pure visual experience. During the sitting in the studio, Gan feels that the ‘gaze’ by him initially directed from the male artist’s to the female model is reciprocated, creating a tension of looking and being looked at. This reminded the artist of Paul Cézanne’s quote that ‘the landscape thinks itself in me and I’m its consciousness’. Thus this painting serves as a document of the relationship between viewing and consciousness, expressing the link between time and existence.
Stephen Menon looks at the alter ego in terms of its Latin definition of “the other I” or a second self and believes that a person with an alter ego leads a double life. His work, Seven Spiritual Blindness (2013) was derived from the concept of the mystical tarot cards. From the 78 characters of the cards, he selected 7 cards, which relates closely to his life. The cards are the Chariot, the Wheel of Fortune, the Devil, the Moon, the World, the Lovers and the Emperor. His fascination with the Tarot cards could be due to the dual nature of any card, in which when viewed from a single viewpoint, a card would only portray one of its sides, a generic or a unique face.
Meme, an alias of Khairul Azmir Shoib acts as a primary alter ego for the artist and for Alter Ego, Meme creates a third self which is ‘trapped in a form of a blue humanoid rabbit… wandering in the lonely snowy estate of his heart’. Thus, for an artist whose fantastical scenes and figures are mined from a multitude of popular culture motifs, video games character design and pop surrealist paintings, is normally already using an alter ego, this show allows him to test the creation of an additional character.
Working on the themes of ‘ the self and seeking’ and ‘losing and discovering’, Izan’s Tahir’s works address universal issues on a personal level. Alluding to ‘the other self’, her work for Alter Ego is framed within the female perspective. Izan believes that a person’s sexuality and the awareness and acceptance of it is conditioned from childhood until adulthood and that a person’s ‘scars and accolades lie together in’ the person’s ‘skin of the body’ and ‘consciousness/psyche.
Thus the work explores the dilemma of social conformity against being true to oneself and using the female reproductive organ as symbol in which its usage must be decided. The vagina, an organ of split identity displays power and vulnerability, is described by her as the source of the greatest pleasure (love, procreation, orgasm) as well as deepest pain (rape, childbirth, ageing).
Chong Siew Ying, a painter who studied in Paris, documented her last few days in the European city via a set of photographs. The photographs taken in 2011 before her eventual move back to Kuala Lumpur and using a traditional analogue camera are raw and unblemished by digital manipulation or Photoshop. She recalled it to be an ‘emotional, melancholy and lonely process’ and finds it as a progression of letting go and keeping in one’s life. An evident difference to her more refined painterly techniques of depicting hazy dreamy images, the practice of documenting her life via photography gives us a glimpse of an artist’s practice beyond the confinement of a traditional studio, in which the flow of life and the everyday become material for the creation of a meaningful and personal work.