Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the impression of an impressionist

zainal and his wife

a day with zainal, the artist. he whispers about life and light of the green. appreciating monet's and turner's great master piece. enjoying the lovely space of an environment that he had struggle before. life's make him to learn and understand the meaning of happiness, and the impression is a way to talk how the world suppose to be. zainal's impressed the moment he has now. the moment where he feels the whole world is an energy and coming back to a reality.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Zac Lee, Development 1(New Species),
Digital Print, 48in x 48in, 2010

Nirmala Karuppiah, Dancers, Silver Gelatin Ed. 8

by Shalini Ganendra

The thrust of exceptional and notable contemporary art – the world over, is creation of works that through their formation, presentation and/or purpose – captivate, educate and are memorable. Certainly one art market development in the last 20 years is that there is less distinctions between local and international are less, as artists, like all other professionals, participate in globalization and have to distinguish themselves in that mire of competition. Art has become hugely commercial, academic and demanding. Demarcation of high art and merchandising is also blurred.
Malaysia‟s art world has been busy too – developing ideas, artists, public institutions, collectors and patronage. During the last 20 years, the new location for the National Art Gallery opened, very visibly on Jalan Tun Razak. The Gallery has hosted a number of exhibitions and continues to focus on presenting Malaysian art history through programs and curated shows. “NAG”, as it is familiarly called , has launched a newsletter this year, Senikini, which comments and informs on art happenings. The NAG website is a resource for exhibitions, awards and events.
Galeri Petronas opened in 1993 at the Dayabumi Complex and in 1998 moved to the elegant and hi-tech space in the KLCC. The gallery boasts 2000 sq. meters of sleek, circular space.
The Islamic Arts Museum opened in 1999. Its establishment also marked a significant development for the Malaysian art scene because of its international stature and collection. Though not a venue for Malaysian fine arts per se, the museum has contributed to the perception of Kuala Lumpur as a growing cultural centre.
Both the Islamic Art Museum and the National Art Gallery have strong conservation departments, with the much needed expertise to repair damage from the humidity, poor storage and other tropical delights.
With all these attractions, are these institutions drawing in more visitors? A senior artist comments that despite the existence of stronger art venues, visitor numbers have not increased significantly. This is not entirely true. Local visitors now have more to see in KL, and there appears to be increasing traffic at these institutions for specific purposes.
Note also that, Museum visits are not the only way to learn about local art movements (though this writer maintains such visits are crucial for gaining aesthetic insight into local art in local contexts). By setting up physical presences along with active electronic and hardcopy supports – these institutions are participating in the development of the local art scene in a positive and necessary way.
One way to gauge the impact of exhibitions is to read some entries on the numerous blogs and websites that have been launched. Kakiseni, established over ten years ago, was the first site to cover the local happenings including art exhibitions. Last year, Time Out Malaysia , ARTERI and What’s Art set up websites.
Local art fairs and social „ art activities‟ are another measure of KL‟s growing importance as a viable art center. 2007 saw the launch of Art Expo Malaysia, now an
annual event. Galeri Shah Alam held the first Mail Art Festival in Malaysia earlier this year. Kuala Lumpur Design Week 2009 drew in a number of interesting entries with sculpted functional art and design collaborations. Charities and NGOs more regularly raise funds through art auctions and exhibitions.
On the international front, Malaysian artists have been featured in Art Fairs and exhibitions in the USA, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Beijing, Australia and Singapore.
International Auction houses invested in Malaysia some years back. Sotheby‟s and Christie‟s, particularly, have helped to create interest in art from Asia. Armed with strong PR departments, extensive collector bases, and sturdy reputations – the auction houses provide artists with a short cut to financial success if their works are auctioned well. The houses give collectors peace of mind on provenance and, to a some extent, quality. Sotheby‟s opened a representative office in KL in 1994 and Christie‟s, in 1997. Christie‟s first auctioned Malaysian Artists in 1994 and Sotheby‟s, in 1996.
Mok Kim Chuan, Sotheby‟s Head of Southeast Asian Paintings, comments:
“Origins of collectors of Sotheby’s Southeast Asian Art on a whole have become more international in recent years. Apart from the collectors from Southeast Asian region itself or Southeast Asian expatriates residing in other countries, we are also attracting more collecting from other parts of Asia, as well as from the West. We are seeing more collectors “crossing over” from other categories.”
Ms Ruoh-Ling Keong, Vice President & Head of Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art at Christie‟s, expresses a slightly different view:
“Malaysian modern and contemporary art is characterized by a relatively strong domestic market with a handful of major collectors who enjoy close relationship with artists. At this moment, the majority of Malaysian art and artists are not generally known outside of Malaysia and Singapore, let alone the region of Asia. ….Recently emerging from the increasing cross-exposure of Asian art through art fairs and auction sales, we have seen the works of contemporary artists … gaining attention in the auction market from collectors outside of Malaysia.”
With regard to the identity of buyers of Malaysian art at auction, Keong observes:
“ Major collectors of Malaysian modern and contemporary art at auction are Malaysians. It's a reflection of the character of the art market and a support to their nation artists. The works of Malaysian artists that were auctioned at Christie's mostly have a comparatively matured primary market.”
Auction houses constantly re-evaluate markets and marketing, looking for the next „big area‟. The areas selected need to be sustainable and well managed to maintain credibility. As noted, part of that responsibility falls on local participation. Artists and clients who enter works into auction should be aware that there is the risk of the work not selling after such wide exposure – a consequence that does not help the artist or work.
And when art markets tumble, as they did this year, even the auction houses are severely punished, showing the unfavourable consequences of speculation. Collectors who purchased high (and sometimes questionable quality), now cannot sell. Some have been badly affected – including once prosperous international galleries and dealers who have closed their doors. Hence the comparison of the art markets to stock markets, with the increasing comodification, manipulation, speculation and fraud, common to both.
But not everyone plays auction, nor is inclined to do so. A vital component of any growing art scene is local and individual participation. The websites and blogs, coverage by magazines, television, radio and other media (local and international), along with the growing sophistication of artists and commercial galleries, provides ample information and product. Additionally, newer mediums are being explored and mediums traditionally not considered fine art, e.g. photography, are now more mainstream than every.
New galleries and art advisors are surfacing regularly with exhibitions and projects featuring old and developing talents. There are a growing number of underground movements, not to mention graffiti art. All these activities now have to stand up to the scrutiny of a more informed public.
With this onslaught of information and activity – there is a greater need, (certainly more than there was 20 years ago), to be wary. Audiences should be thorough and discerning when processing this abundance of information. Intuition and time will tell which are the most credible sources, presenting worthy content and advice.
Established artists who have observed and participated in the development of the last two decades provide constructive commentary. Award winning artist Yeoh Kean Thai observes:
“Audiences nowadays are more aware about art but most still lack the critical appreciation of art. Most are still looking for pictures to decorate walls. Collectors still buy what is supposed to be a good investment, but sadly most of them are getting bad advice from some galleries concerned only with selling their goods.”
A similar sentiment is voiced by established artist and theorist, Nasir Baharuddin:
“Collectors are more impressed with commodity rather than inculcating the culture of an art world and its understanding. I need art collectors who bother to understand rather than who just buy work.”
In a New York Times Article on Handling Art (9/6/09), a storage company CEO quipped: “Some Malaysian collectors rent entire apartments just to store their artworks.” What an indication of growth! Be warned though, overconsumption is an indication of over-speculation. There will be many a white elephant left in these storage quarters. So, let us not ask: “ Is yours bigger than mine?” - when the real question should be: “Is yours better?”
We know some collectors are collecting A LOT more, but are there really more collectors? Some artists are doubtful, commenting “ Yes, we do see more individuals parting with 4 to 5 figure amounts to purchase artworks but are there more collectors? ”
This writer asserts there are. Different galleries have varying collector bases, though there is some overlap. By and large, audiences are now disparate and not predictable. The number of artists have increased as well, fueled by growing economic viability of the vocation and a host of art schools providing affordable and costly fine art and design degrees.
The first local art colleges were UiTM and MPIK, both funded by government and established in the early 70's, with western influenced and traditional art. The first private art college was MIA which focused on western art development and Chinese painting. Now, there are numerous private colleges and public universities with art programs. There are also a growing number of art fellowships/residencies hosted by private and public entities, locally and internationally. Malaysian artists are winning international awards. Zac Lee, Yeoh Kean Thai, Nirmala Karrupiah have each won the Freeman Fellowship to Vermont Studios (USA) which tends to jump start artistic careers. Yeoh Kean Thai went on to win a prestigious Commonwealth Art Residency Award 2009 in a highly competitive run up.
In so far as collectors‟ motivations for buying - these continue to be disparate the world over -though there is an increasing emphasis on „investment‟ value. Some buy for decoration, some for social statement, others for investment – some for all of the above. Most reasons may be legitimate – but each come with varying levels of risk.
Regardless of motivations, we must applaud the developments of the last two decades, in the Malaysian art scene. This writer‟s wish for the next 20 years, is to see an increase in museum quality works by artists and in private and public collections, with the corresponding growth in awareness that what we create, collect and endorse should be WORLD CLASS. Nothing less.
©All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Maka terkunag-kunanglah makhluk seni tampak apabila melihat sajak itu dilukiskan. Mungkin terpingga atas dasar ‘bosan’, ada yang pelik atau ada yang bertanya mengapa samad said melukis ‘kata’ abstraknya, dari sajak yang agak abstrak juga. Ada orang bertanya sejak bila samad said melukis. Anugerah senimannya datang dari melukis atau dari sasterawan. Mungkin dia nak jadi seniman melukis , macam syed ahmad jamal. (apa komen si Ahmad Jamal – seniman Negara – tidak kah tergugat atau sama standard?). dalam hal ini nur hanim perlu diterima kasihkan kerana beliau adalah pembawa samad said kedunia lukisan. Tapi bagaimana samad said sendiri dalam memperkatakan akan hal dirinya sebagai pelukis seni. Tidak kah ia berasa segan pada ahmad jamal atau dengan pelukis lain yang masih berhempas pulas menjadi pelukis dengan pengajian seni yang bertahun dalam menghadapi perkara ini . adakah mereka rela? Tidakkah mereka jealous apabila samad said ditempatkan dengan mudah diruang balai senilukis Negara padahal ramai pelukis lain meleleh air liur sehingga kini masih tak merasa sebagaimana samad said kecapi. Adakah sebab kerana ia seorang sasterawan Negara. Kerana sebelum ini seniman Negara, Syed Ahmad Jamal baru saja melangsungkan pamerannya ditempat yg sama. Maka dia pun kepunan berpameran juga, seperti Syed Ahmad jamal. Kalau begitu, maka lain kali disuruhkan lah jua akan seniman –seniman Negara yang lain isi borang untuk berpameran dibalai senilukis Negara juga.

Setahu saya samad said terkenal dengan ‘salinanya dan tPinkenya’, apa sudah jadi dengan karya sebegitu. Tidak kah beliau ingin menulis novelnya lagi dari melukis. Adakah melukis itu suatu hiburan perasaan bagi nya dari menulis novel yang mana mungkin bagi nya sudah bosan. Atau mungkin bayarannya tidak setimpal dengan harga sebuah lukisan. Atau dia dah ‘fedup’ dengan dunia sasteranya yang amat politikal? Tetapi walaubagaimanapun, pada hakikatnya anugerah seniman Negara itu perlu difikirkan kembali...kerana yang memberinya adalah dari Negara juga. Oleh itu beliau tak boleh persiakan anugerah tersebut dan perlu dilihat akan fungsinya sebagai seniman Negara? Beliau harus berjuang dengan dunia sasteranya dan seharusnya menghasilkan karya sasteranya dengan mantap setaraf anugerah yang diterimanya...beliau seharusnya meletak dirinya setaraf dengan pramoedya anatartur dalam dunia Malaysia. Beliau tak perlu melukis...
Yang pelik mengapa beliau melukis? adakah melukis ini sesiapa saja boleh buat...conteng-conteng maka jadilah ‘art’...boleh jual pula...syok betul! Ditambah pula dengan baca sajak, maka itulah tahap seniman yang tertinggi, serta sempurnalah sifat senimannya yang berbakat itu. Tapi sebaliknya mungkin ada orang lain bertanya...salahkah samad said melukis? Jawapannya tak salah, sebab itu adalah hak dia sebagai seniman? Tapi bagaimana pula pandangan pelukis? Adakah apa yang dibuatnya itu betul?
Sekarang mari kita lihat apa yang dilukis oleh samad said? Oh...dia melukis sajaknya ala-ala abstrak. Macam abstrak expressionist? Dalam hal ini mungkin kita boleh tanya yusuf gani, pakar abstrak expressionist malaysia, macam mana pandangan yusuf gani agaknya? Mungkin beliau amat menyetujui dan terharu akan apa yang dihasilkan oleh samad said. Soalnya mengapa samad said melukis ala-ala abstrak expressionist? Kalau nak melukis tak ada cara lain yang lebih ‘interesting’ lagi ke? Perlu ke samad said melukis ala-ala abstrak expressionist tu? Tanya seorang teman pelukis lain. Kalau joseph kosuth melihat akan kata-kata maka dia pun membuatlah akan kata-kata tersebut, sebegitu juga dengan jenny holzer atau barbera kruger, maka mereka bermain-main kata tersebut secara semiotiknya? Mengapa samad said tak bermain-main dengan kata-kata juga secara visual ala-ala joseph kosuth? atau mungkin ala-ala alahyarham ahmad khalid yusuf, pelukis jawi negara atau ala-ala mark tobey atau cy thombly?

Di petik dari pandangan seseorang : Kalau samad said di dalam pameran solo pertama (Daerah Samad, 2007) yang kelihatan lebih halus, gestural dan meditatif, karya-karya terbaru ini menonjolkan sapuan yang lebih ‘perkasa’, ‘ganas’ dan penuh yakin seiring dengan nuansa yang menyelubungi detik-detik pengkaryaan lukisan-lukisan tersebut. Namun KATA LUHUR (pameran terkini) adalah rakaman visual serta ‘catatan batin bangsa’ sebuah era yang sarat dengan kisah resah gelisah serta gelora seorang sasterawan dalam menongkah sebuah kehidupan, berbaur dengan pelbagai episod yang mengitari daerah bahasa dan bangsanya. Soalnya bagaimana gelora seorang seniman menongkah kehidupan dengan pelbagai episode dalam pernyataan visual yang lebih menyakinkan sebagaimana dilakukan oleh joseph kosuth?
Mungkin beliau boleh berkolaberasi dengan nur hanim, rahmat harun, atau seangkatan dengan nya? Apakata nurhanim and geng? Ini peluang besar ni...bukan senang nak buat show dengan seniman Negara. Mungkin boleh juga...begitu keluhan nurhanim agaknya....mungkin lepas ni samad said buat installation pula.

Tiba-tiba...suatu nada dari seseorang bertanya. Dia ni penyajak juga, pelukis terkenal Negara tapi belum dinobatkan lagi sebagai seniman Negara?
Aku buat sajak dan melukis juga, tapi aku melukis dalam seni lukis dan aku bersajak dalam penerbitan sajak saja. Tak pandai pula aku campur aduk – begitu keluhan latiff mohidin. Setahu ku latiff ni dah lama bersajak dan melukis.
Mungkin dengan cara latiff itu maka tergetar lah inspirasi samad said untuk membuat benda yang sama. Kerana aku penyajak, maka aku pun boleh juga rasanya melukis juga...apa salahnya, latif penyajak dia pun melukis juga, jual ribu-ribu pula!!!...aku pun nak buat serupa dia le...
tapi kalau diperhatikan secara mendalam akan keduanya mungkin agak berbeza atau mungkin sama...apa kata mu... latif dengan pago-pagonya...betul ke samad said tu...syornya eloklah samad said tu menulis novelnya lagi bagus dari melukis...sebab bahasa abstrak visualnya agak kekok....
*gambar dari web balaisenilukis negara.