Exhibition duration: 5th May – 2nd June 2016
Opening reception: 20th May 2016, 8:00pm
de\corum: re-accepting visual conventions
by Amar Shahid
There is nothing wrong in exploring form. Post-modernist values had more or less scrambled our view on the timelessness values of enjoying forms and adhering to our basic tendencies towards aesthetics.
To us layman, that would mean that there is nothing wrong or unintellectual in enjoying simple values of beauty in art. We may like the choice of colours, the use of shapes, and the nice accents that go along with it. We might not want to apply any taxing interpretation and spend our energy decoding inexistent Freudian metaphors. We love art too much to try that hard. We prefer it to be effortless. We and art are in a relationship, and it is by no means a fun relationship if we have to put in effort every time we would like to have a conversation. It is tiring, and most of the time it is a sign of pretentiousness. But a relationship is one of effort and not apathy: one would have to put in effort to be surprised or delighted.
In all these uncertainty, there are few lighthouses that could be considered to fulfil one’s curiosity. John Berger had been quoted repeatedly as a response that perfectly comments on the nature of images and our commercial consumption of it. Though it may be tiring to hear his quotes again and again, it is not unfounded. Berger’s comments are still relevant today, despite being increasingly cornered with our new way of consuming information via digital distribution and social media. Further back in time, one could consider René Magritte. His exploration into the nature of visual images and their treachery serves to remind us of the importance of our senses and self-consciousness in appreciating an image.
Yet, it is not as easy as it seems. I believe a major cause for it is our unwillingness to trust our own judgement. We often encounter the tools in the critical description of art: either mysticism or deliberate confusion. Red herrings and made up statements are very much common, instead of acknowledging our wants and needs of producing beautiful pictures and stuff for our enjoyment and fulfilment. Artwork often comes with a certain need to be seen as something intellectual and ungraspable by most but the enlightened.
It is important to understand the importance of our own judgement and trust its legibility before we are to embark on the effort of understanding a visual work. This is, therefore, a call to re-accept visual conventions, and for audiences to come forward to consider these works in their entirety and intention. The honesty and openness goes both ways.
* * *
A brief inspection and consideration of the works featured in the current show presents us with two significant approaches towards the making of an artwork: to create form with attached meaning, and to create form entirely for the sake of it – in other sense, to create out of the love for aesthetics and accepted concepts of beauty. Sometimes the works stray a little to stretch the possible length of this description, but nevertheless it serves to further deepen the art by presenting us with possibilities that are available in the creation of an artwork.
As the works are progressed in the form of gallery positioning throughout the show, the works can be seen as progressing from the commonly encountered forms of visual metaphor (read: forms/works with meanings attached to them), towards a purer form of work almost void of a concrete meaning.
Consider the works of Safar Zin, which includes texts in his works, much like the works of Barbara Kruger. As the works of the latter suggests, advertising plays much of a role in dictating the output of the artwork. Indeed, Safar is advertising an idealism of his own, and in such doing, avoids any vague interpretation and enhances theatricality – much like an advertising piece. But the communication is not entirely direct: you would have to read his work statement to understand his intention. The work is kept sufficiently vague to give an illusion of sophistication, yet it is still direct enough to easily attract interpretation. That the naiveté message is laden with youthful angst is of no great concern, for we are for the most part attracted to its theatrical presentation. On the contrary, even though Haslin’s work are also peppered with collaged text, it is not the main attraction of the piece. Haslin is famous for his pop-surrealist works, and his current work is the last in his surrealist period before he embarks on a different direction of his art. His current work is a response towards the scribbles by his child, which shows a pure and honest form of communication. Haslin’s works are more introspective, and deals mostly with personal meditation and experience. His is a work that offers to share, rather than to preach. But do not expect to find a clear and objective answer, as surrealists are not meant to represent the concrete.
Anisa Abdullah’s work are technically made of texts, which are residues from the magazine cut and shredded to form pictorial collages. But it deals not with text as a visual tool, but with images. Much like Haslin, Anisa was inspired by her newly born child. And in a similar vein to Haslin, she is trying to convey an introspective view of her experience as a new mother. It is very interesting to compare the work of Haslin and Anisa, as both are inspired by the same source, used mainly images as a visual tool, yet still have traces of text and graphic visuals in their works, but their works are very much in a different place than the other. Equipped with the understanding of these conventions, we can thus easily interpret the works of Shahrul Hisham and Siti Sarah Ameera. Both offer an introspective approach, by attaching meanings to forms. Siti sarah Ameera suggests the idea of racial assimilation, while Shahrul Hisham is concerned with symbolic representations of a jumble of things concerning his worries of war and contemporary global conflict.
From this point on, the rest of the works gradually stripped its attachment from applied meanings, and focuses on form instead. The ceramic work of Erry Khuzairi Ali for example, represents mastery in form and technicality. It is a piece that demands constant care and attention, as well as an element of chance – there are always risks of failure in accomplishing a ceramic work. Similarly sculptural are the works of Danial Fuad and Abdul Mohsin Aminuddin. These are the works that expands and explores from its original conventional forms. Abdul Mohsin creates image that are sculpturally juxtaposed to induce an optical illusion, and the same could be said for Danial Fuad. But Danial Fuad extends the form towards a time-based dimension, by incorporating videos and holographic emulation. This is an example of work that aims to push the boundaries of existing medium. The stillness of movement is reminiscent of Bill Viola’s video pieces, but now presented in a local context. In all of these works, the medium and the form it represents take a centre stage.
As we move on, any observant audience should notice the parallel of the progression towards the progression of post-modernist arts. Works of recent decades exemplifies an exploration in form, with meaning only applied as necessary and in a more direct approach. Such is the work of Hawari Berahim, with a penchant for the conceptual. Hawari strives to present an unusual setting of object usually inaccessible, such as a tall stack of (fake) gold bars, which is in itself is quite a humorous setting.
The work of Faisal Suhif is an interesting case. Instead of attaching meaning to objects, Faisal found meaning by exploring forms and objects. Faisal is an accomplished printmaker, and he often pick out forms from his prints that utilizes element of chance. He found parallels of meaning between his identity and self-consciousness, through the forms produced by his works. This is an example of a dedicated process of exploring a single theme or form (he frequently used the form of buried tapioca as well as its symbolic meaning), and forwarding it until it is uniquely his. His work reminds us of the dedication and passion often found in old masters such as Albrecht Durer.
Edroger, on the other hand, just want to produce something. He clearly laid out his intentions and proudly announcing it. He is now actively experimenting multiple technical forms of sculptural works, and found his fascination in abstract works, though ultimately unattainable by his standards. One could easily conjure up a parallel between his works and the ideals of post-modernist values, but the artist prefers to call a spade a spade. He is interested in making forms, and so it is best described. No meanings attached, unless it is up to us to do so. In a sense, this is the pinnacle of the exploration of form, or rather, the “back to square one” of the cycle of form research.
Each work in the show is an invitation, and we as audiences are encouraged to be critical and judge with our own sets of values. My response towards these works is an example of form as literal meaning, instead of a poetical or symbolic one. As John Berger would eloquently put it, “(…)consider what I am presenting, but be sceptical of it.”
Abdul Mohsin Aminuddin
Shahrul Hisyam Ahmad Tarmizi