'being human'

"Are we human or are we dancer?"
by Indra Kayangan 

Typing in the title of this essay, I am again reminded of the ungrammatical sentence found in the song ‘Human’. Released as the first single of the third album by The Killers, the sentence sparked debates and arguments amongst fans and music critics, about what was possibly going through lead singer Brandon Flowers’ mind and his band members who co-wrote the song. I am sure readers will be wondering why this writer is relating a song by an American indie rock band hailing from Las Vegas, to an exhibition by a group of artists from Malaysia. Part of the reason is of course the title of the song. Known for their catchy guitar riffs that catered to a generation of indie rock lovers, Brandon’s confessional lyrics – sometimes bordering on the indulgent – pandered to my appetite for lyrics beyond the usual narratives of romantic love, spiteful love and broken love.

However, before I bore readers with my musical indulgence let us steer back to the significance of the song in this exhibition titled ‘Being Human’. Due to the ambiguity of the above-mentioned sentence, naturally there was much speculation on the real meaning behind the ungrammatical structure. It garnered so much ‘heat’ within the music world that Brandon was forced to an explanation in an interview with the Rolling Stone magazine,
"I really care what people think but people don't seem to understand 'Human.' They think it's nonsense. But I was aching over those lyrics for a very long time to get them right." Part of that time aching was evidently spent reading books by Hunter S. Thompson, as Flowers himself has admitted the "dancer" line was inspired by the former Rolling Stone contributor. "It's taken from a quote by [author Hunter S.] Thompson," Flowers admitted last month when the confusion began. "We're raising a generation of dancers,' and I took it and ran. I guess it bothers people that it's not grammatically correct, but I think I'm allowed to do whatever I want.”

As duly noted by readers of the controversial American counter-culture writer and journalist, ‘dancers’ in The Killers’ song “…presumably meant a generation of mindless followers of choreographed routines and fashions created by the social and economic boom in America in the mid-twentieth century.” Thus read in this context, Brandon was imploring to his listeners in ‘Human’ – are we choosing to be ourselves or are we choosing to be one of them? Are we thinking out of the box or have we been dancing along like the rest before us?

Writing about figuration within the Malaysian modern art context used to be a straightforward affair. The narrative goes that the landscape genre tended to dominate the art scene in Malaya during the pre-World War II period, partly due to the British tradition which regarded artists like William Turner and John Constable highly. Works by artists from the earlier art societies like the Penang Impressionists, Society of Chinese Artists and others from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts mostly depicted local landscapes, capturing the breadth and hues of Malaya.

Peter Harris, founder of WAG
While art activities, for the most part, stopped during the war years, it went through a rejuvenation during the post-World War II period. Societies like the Wednesday Art Group (WAG) and Angkatan Pelukis Semenanjung (APS), established in 1952 and 1956 respectively, galvanised many artists, both who went through local art training and those who returned from their studies in Europe and America. By this period, art in Malaya had progress beyond the initial inclinations for the landscape genre. Artists from APS, led by the charismatic Indonesia-born Hoessein Enas, produced many works introducing the ‘figure’ in the hitherto, landscapes-dominated art scene. As observed in his essay commemorating the 40th anniversary of APS, art historian Zainol Abidin Ahmad Shariff otherwise known as Zabas, commented that it was ‘the figure in their landscapes’ that suggested a different trajectory from previous tendencies of other artists from that period. Mentioning works by artists like Hoessein Enas, Mazeli Mat Som and Mohd Salehuddin amongst others, Zabas concluded that their ‘insertion’ of the Malayan figure into their landscapes almost defined a school of sorts – the APS School of figuration if I may re-phrase Zabas’ acute observations.

While APS, WAG and other artists continued their artistic explorations and negotiations during the 1950s-60s, we must not under-estimate the political tensions that were also brewing at the same time. The nationalist movements were gaining momentum in their agitation for Independence from British colonial rule. On the other hand, the Communists were perceived as a constant thorn by the British and local right-wing parties while in 1965, the separation of Singapore from Malaysia became finalized. To add to these political tensions, ethnic tensions were also simmering in the newly-independent nations of Malaysia and Singapore. Hence the tragic May 13th 1969 racial riots in Malaysia confirmed what noted art historian, the late Redza Piyadasa called, the realization that the “…the young Malaysian nation had indeed been built on very fragile foundations!

At this critical juncture of Malaysia’s art history, I shall recall the question I asked earlier in the essay: Are we thinking out of the box or have we been dancing along like the rest before us? What followed the traumatic episode of the racial riots was the National Cultural Congress, convened at the University of Malaya in 1971. As explained by Piyadasa,
“The Congress had in fact, called for a Malay-dominated role in the cultural affairs of the country and there had emerged, in the 1970s amongst Malay intellectuals including artists, a mood of serious introspection and a need to re-discover their Malay roots. This was epitomised by self-conscious interests in Malay history, cultural mores, myths and legends, literary and folk art forms, aesthetic principles, artistic techniques and sensibilities. Particularly affected were the visual artists linked to the Mara Institute of Technology’s School of Art and Design (presently UITM).”

Just as Hunter’s ‘generation of dancers’, most writers on Malaysian art history - both within and outside Malaysia - have been dancing along to this narrative offered by Piyadasa. This narrative has been dubbed the ‘Malay revivalist proclivities’ episode by noted artist and curator Hasnul J. Saidon. In his passionate essay written in conjunction with the retrospective exhibition of Amron Omar, he questioned Piyadasa’s convenient selection of the respected figurative artist as part of the ‘Malay revivalist proclivities’ wave. He argued,
“I myself am uncertain whether or not ‘the hegemony of the Malay nationalistic forces’ really exists or is truly practised in Malaysian modern art. That hegemony is probably present in the political sphere. Even if it does exist in the arena of Malaysian modern art, I am doubtful it can survive the challenges of globalization. There are also other ethnic powers existing alongside these so-called ‘Malay Nationalistic Forces’, for instance in Penang. It is difficult to detect the presence of ‘the hegemony of the Malay nationalistic forces’ within the modern art scene in Penang since the 1950s until today. However the endeavour to rediscover local (not necessarily only Malay-Islamic) dimensions is essentially not a bad thing to do.”

Amron Omar, artist
Hasnul’s concerns about Piyadasa’s narrative on figurative art might be understandable if viewed in the context of proposing an alternative way of situating Amron’s practice who after all, was one of his lecturers during his student days at UiTM. However, Piyadasa’s subsequent commentary in the same essay sealed the lasting legacy of the ‘Malay revivalist proclivities’ narrative. He commented, “At the UiTM art school, figurative art was now discouraged and a new prescriptive, abstract approach to art making, founded on Islamic religious and design principles, began to be encouraged, in earnest.’ A well-respected art historian and critic who had been involved with countless Malaysian art exhibitions within and out of the country, Piyadasa’s writings inadvertently occupy a major role in the discourse surrounding Malaysian art history as can be seen in the various examples quoted in Hasnul’s essay for the Amron Omar exhibition.

Against the abovementioned backdrop, the development of figurative art in Malaysia’s modern art history has always been seen as having suffered a temporary lapse in the 1970s, almost a dramatic pause as attention shifted to abstract artists or those who produce non-figurative art. It follows that the ‘re-emergence’ of figurative art in the 1980s have often been attributed to artists like Jailani Abu Hassan, Kok Yew Puah and the Matahati collective amongst others, but the real question should be why the term ‘re-emergence’? Was it because the leading art education institution in the country, UiTM, discouraged or stopped teaching this fundamental aspect of modern art practice to their students? Hasnul who was not only a student there, but also thought for a brief period towards the end of the 1980s clarified, “At that time nobody really prohibited or discouraged figural art and figurative-based studio practices. Moreover, I in fact never came across any circular memorandum instructing UiTM staff to discourage or prohibit the figurative genre.

Returning back to the question posed by Brandon Flowers of The Killers which I have appropriated for the title of this essay, a relatively new art collective seems to have answered the question. Established in 2009, F Klub is a group of artists who have banded together to continue the tradition of their modernist predecessors. Sharing in common their affinity for figure drawing and employing the figure as their main subject matter, the collective consists of both senior and upcoming artists from Malaysia. Their current line-up includes Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Kow Leong Kiang, Shia Yi Ying, Chin Kong Yee, Marvin Chan, Gan Chin Lee and Chong Ai Lei. Though open to new membership, members need to show a long-term commitment towards figuration in their practice before being accepted, underlining their seriousness in the genre, beyond just an excuse for a gathering of artists interested in figuration.

As shared by members of the club, Bayu and Kow, the level of commitment of their members include pooling money from their group exhibition sales to organise trips within the region, where they hold live drawing sessions and interact with their regional counterparts. Though it reminds us of the often-quoted Bali trip made by the group of Nanyang artists in 1952, the club’s annual trips suggest a more sustained effort rather than a one-off search for inspiration. And one will be able to see the results of these trips in the exhibitions that follow, for example the ‘Scent of Bali’ exhibition organised at the G13 Gallery in the first half of 2013.

With more than 50 drawings showcased, visitors were able to see the strengths and weaknesses of the various artists through their numerous renditions of the nude form. Moving beyond the exotic idealizations of the 1952 Bali trip, the spirit of experimentation and sharing of knowledge comes through as the artists, each with their differing styles not only produced numerous sketches but also critiqued each other’s techniques. The spirit of sharing knowledge can also be seen in this current exhibition aptly titled ‘Being Human’ where F Klub members will show together with a selection of senior and emerging artists outside the club, whose practices have placed them in the forefront of figuration in Malaysian art including Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Jailani Abu Hassan and Fadilah Karim amongst others.

Hence the existence of F Klub in Malaysia’s art scene can be read in two ways: one, as part of the ‘re-emergence’ of figuration in Malaysia’s modern art history and two, as the continuation of a long-standing history of figuration. The former suggesting a respite in its history and the latter, a development with its usual narrative of ups and downs. For too long, we have been ‘dancers’ in reading Malaysia’s art history especially with regards to the role of figuration. Let us be ‘human’ again and reflect on how history has been written. More importantly, only by being ‘human’, are we able to obtain a more nuanced understanding of the role of figuration in Malaysia’s modern art history.

About author
Indra Kayangan is currently an Assistant Curator with the National Gallery Singapore. His research interests lies in the arts and cultural practices within the Nusantara, a region which includes Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. He has curated various exhibitions including The Next Chapter (2009), an exhibition historicizing LASALLE’s art collection and S.Sudjojono: Lives of Pictures (2013), an exhibition on Indonesia’s ‘Father of Modern Art’. He has also written for various local exhibitions and art publications. Hafiz obtained his BA (Hons) from LASALLE College of the Arts afterwhich he was awarded the Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise Award in 2010. Subsequently he obtained his MA in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2011.


I am not I am
Acrylic on jute / 147 x 294m / 2014

Ahmad Zakii Anwar (b. 1955, Johor, Malaysia) studied at the School of Art and Design, MARA Institute of Technology (UiTM), Shah Alam, Selangor (1973-1977). He is an eminent figurative realism painter and one of the few artists honoured with a mid-career survey exhibition entitled ‘Disclosure’ (2008) at Petronas Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. From a one-man show at Valentine Willie Fine Art (1997) until the sixteenth solo recently, spans a career that is consistent and prolific in its output –still life, portraiture, figure in landscape– Ahmad Zakii impresses with the materiality and surface treatment of his paintings. His large charcoal on paper renderings reveals a highly skilled draughtsmanship, fanning a surge of interest in the medium. ‘Pleasure & Pain’ at Gallerie Huit, Hong Kong (2014) revisited amorous fruits and vegetables in ‘Stills’ at Taksu Kuala Lumpur (2000). At the heart of his practice are notion of spiritual or philosophical contemplations embodying universal principles and primal forces.

The Industrial Players
Bitumen and acrylic on canvas / 183 x 213cm / 2014

Jalaini Abu Hassan (b. 1963, Selangor, Malaysia) first obtained his BA in Fine Art at what was then the Mara Institute of Technology, Shah Alam (1985), went on to further his studies in London at the Slade and continued to pursue his Master in Fine Art at the Pratt Institute in New York before returning home (1994). An established and renowned artist, he is an important and influential personality in the Malaysian visual art circle and academe. Currently undergoing his PhD in Studio Practice Research in Painting from the Universiti Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam, he is also the Associate Professor in the Faculty of Art and Design’s graduate programme. His next solo will be his twenty-fifth. A quintessential Jai would be tableaux of text and image. With an expansive body of works referencing elements of traditional world, modern global culture, natural and man-made environment, and a melting pot that is the Malaysian experience. The work process is a labour intensive mark making exercises, apparent through his use of acrylic, watercolour, bitumen and charcoal. He expresses an intuitive if not raw and infectious energy, embracing life and all that it encompasses fuelled by his tenacity and enthusiasm.

Acrylic on canvas / 200 x 350 cm / 2015

Bayu Utomo Radjikin (b. 1969, Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia) graduated from University Teknologi MARA, Selangor (1991) majoring in sculpture. Over the past twenty-two years, he has held nine solo exhibitions and participated in many group exhibitions. He has won several awards such as the Young Contemporaries, One World No War, Salon Malaysia and the Philip Morris Art awards. A mover and shaker, he is one of the founders of MATAHATI, an art collective formed in 1989. The collaboration started HOM (House of MATAHATI) that flourished into an active art space that host exhibitions, initiating awards, residencies and art programmes, cultivating a network regionally and abroad. The F Klub was conceptualised after his sojourn in England. As an artist, his list of achievements in sculpture and painting bares experimentations with different media and manifests his involvement in theatre production. Earlier artworks with expressionistic tendencies later evolved into enigmatic self-portraits delved into the myth of male/hero archetype. In his large charcoal drawings, the physical power that the body exudes also reveal an inner spiritual strength/energy underneath the surface. 

Lonely Assassin
Oil on linen / 220 x 220cm / 2014

Kow Leong Kiang (b. 1970, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia) is a graduate of Kuala Lumpur College of Art (1991). Since winning the Grand Prize at the Phillip Morris ASEAN Art Award (1998), he has attracted much attention and success. To date, Kow has held multiple solo exhibitions; ‘Floating World’, 'Silent Conversation’, ‘Other People’, and ‘Intimate Collisions’ at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur; ‘Soft’ at Jogja Contemporary, Sangkring Art Space, Yogyakarta, ‘To The Sea’ at Ernst & Young, Singapore, and most recent ‘Blue Sarong’, the Whiteaways in George Town, Penang last year. The exhibition titles hint a visual repertoire that includes ideas about memory, poetic realism and nostalgia as mediated by a connection to the land, human emotion, portraiture as well as subtle political/social consciousness in Malaysian context. The figures set against pastoral scenes and coastal landscapes, suggest a gentler way of living. The draw and attraction to these sentiments are perhaps because of his urban upbringing. The idyll complemented by his painterly technique of utilizing thinned out watercolour-like oil washes evoke a gestural stance that is of timelessness.

A Green Mountain Idyll
Oil on canvas / 200 x 300cm / 2014

Chong Siew Ying (b. 1969, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) left after her studies at PJ College of Art & Design, Selangor (1988-90) and lived in France for more than ten years. She enrolled at L’Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Versailles (1991-94) and later worked at international printmaking center Atelier 63 in Paris, while being an artist. Holding her first solo show in Kuala Lumpur upon her return to Malaysia (1998), she did several art residencies such as Rimbun Dahan, Selangor (1999) and Vermont Studio Centre in the United States (2001). The artist’s career has spanned twelve solo exhibitions besides numerous group exhibitions across Asia, Australia, Europe and the USA. Diaspora and identity are recurring themes in her works, being born in a post-colonial multi-ethnic country and submersed in a multitude of languages and cultures at home and beyond. From human figure to landscape as subjects in oil on canvas, to monumental charcoal drawings on paper, they reveal intuitive impressions and expressions. Reveries, struggles, intimations within and without the artist, these renderings and gestural brush strokes share western and eastern ideals and encompassing universal human feelings and values. 

Ex(change) Project 
Mind Map by Participants – Blue (1993); De Ming Wei (1994); 
Hoh Chial Miean (1994); Tiffany Huan Jia Jin (1994); Yau Sir Meng (1992) 
Acrylic on linen / Dimension variable / 2014

Phuan Thai Meng (b. 1974, Batu Pahat, Johor, Malaysia) went to Malaysian Institute of Art, Kuala Lumpur and finished with a Diploma in Fine Art (1996). A string of successful solo exhibitions such as ‘The We Project’, Richard Koh Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur (2010) and ‘Mapping the Homeland: We are Proud of You (?_?)’ at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Singapore (2011) was followed by invitation to participate in the 7th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia (2012). In the same year, his artwork in the Singapore Art Museum collection were part of the travelling ‘Welcome to the Jungle: Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia’ exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art (2012) and Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, Japan (2013). A respond to conceptual and contextual interest, the artist is as an observer of the socio-political state of the nation. His photorealist paintings and installations depict spaces in the city as results of rapid construction or urban decay. Bringing attention to these overlooked environments and constructions, he presents a type of geography in his constant exploration of the possibilities with various strategies as a process of learning, thinking and communicating. 

Oil on canvas / 270 x 200cm(2pc) / 2014

Shia Yih Yiing (b. 1967, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia) studied at the Malaysian Institute of Art, Kuala Lumpur (1990-92) and holds a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Western Sydney, Australia (2005). Her career as a visual artist has seen her works travel as far as Bangladesh, Japan, Czech Republic, and Taiwan alongside her many exhibitions in Malaysia. A recipient of numerous awards and grants such as the Commonwealth Foundation Fellowship in Arts & Crafts (1998) and the Alternate Artist for the Vermont Studio Center’s Freeman Fellowship (2007), she has held seven solo exhibitions with paintings and drawings that delved into themes of femininity and motherhood, a juggle between perceptions and realities. Using herself or one of her family members as the central figure, she combines visual cues from fairy tales and children’s storybooks. Her most recent solo outing ‘Shia Yih Yiing: The Weaver’ at the White Box, MAP, Kuala Lumpur (2013) also references local arts, heritage and culture history to address issues of identity. 

Oil on linen / 200 x 200cm / 2014

Chin Kong Yee (b. 1973, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) studied at the Central Academy of Art, Kuala Lumpur, graduating in 1990. Until now, he has held six solo exhibitions: ‘Undulating Spaces’ (2003) and ‘Cerulean Skies’ (2005) at Townhouse Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; ‘SOS Château de Trémazan’ at Maison des Canons, France (2007); ‘Reality in Wonderland’ (2009) and ‘New Landscape’ (2010) at Wei-Ling Gallery; the latest, ‘Infinite Canvas’ (2013) at Wei-Ling Contemporary, Kuala Lumpur. Chin has participated in several residencies in Malaysia and Cluj-Napoca Art Museum in Romania (2004). His works can be found in collections such as the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, United Overseas Bank, HSBC Bank Malaysia, Cluj-Napoca Art Museum in Romania, and the Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection. To this artist, nothing is ever stagnant as what you see is constantly changing when you look at them. Time and space can never be measured or fixed. The present, past and future collide and are depicted as perspectives in his paintings, in flux, a kaleidoscope. 

 from left to right :
(I) So Close Yet So Far : The Origin of the World  (II) So Close Yet So Far : The Wonder of the World  
(III) So Close Yet So Far : The Mystery of the World  (IV) So Close Yet So Far : The Top of the World 
Acrylic and thread on denim / 122 x 91.5cm each / 2014

Chan Kok Hooi (b. 1974, Penang, Malaysia) graduated from the Malaysian Institute of Art, Kuala Lumpur in 1996. He was a recipient of the Freeman Foundation Asian Artists Fellowship at the Vermont Student Center, USA (2006); the Mayor of Beppu Asia Biennale of Contemporary Art in Japan; the 2003 jurors’ award of Philip Morris Malaysia-ASEAN Art Awards, as well as the 2004 and 2007 Young Contemporaries Award, Malaysia. His paintings are included in the collections of Beppu Art Museum, Japan, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. Frequently seeking new possibilities, Chan Kok Hooi has always been interested in a visual discourse through the lens of imagination by adapting the familiar into composites of fantastical realms. His hybrid creations and creatures engage in activities from banal to bizarre with a surrealistic bent that reflects another worldly realities. Distinctively witty and yet discomforting, these staging are open to interpretations.

Desecration of the Temple
Oil on canvas  / 304.8 x 213.36cm  / 2014

Marvin Chan (b. 1972, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) is a self-taught artist. After fifteen years of working in advertising, he started to paint landscape and figures, took part in art shows and activities in the Klang Valley. His solo exhibition ‘First Harvest’ (2007) at a2 Gallery in Penang followed by ‘Inconsequential Consequences of Hope’ (2010) at Wei Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, firmly established him in the Malaysian visual arts scene. He was resident artist at the Vermont Studio Center, USA (2010) and in the same year was nominated for the Hong Kong-based Sovereign Asian Art Prize. As one of the 75 artists featured in the Malaysian Eye art book series, Marvin Chan participated in START Art Fair at Saatchi Gallery in London (2014). Through an amalgamation of elements culled from his trove of captured images and figure drawing studies using live models, this reconstitution in a pictorial composition addresses contemporary life, its longings and expectations. 

Self and Other
Oil on linen
183 x 244cm (Diptych)

Gan Chin Lee (b. 1977, Penang, Malaysia) completed a Diploma of Illustration at The One Academy in Malaysia (1998), before enrolling in the Advanced Studies in Mural Painting (2005) at the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts where he completed a Masters degree in Fine Art (2008). Upon graduation, he returned home, won the Malaysian Emerging Art award (2009) and with consecutive solo exhibitions ‘Fragment·Defragmentation’ (2010) at Galeri Chandan, Kuala Lumpur; ‘Soliloquy’ (2011) at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur steadily built a portfolio that recognised him as one of the leading figurative painters with leaning towards social realism. Currently helming the newly established Fine Art department at the aforementioned One Academy, his highly skilled painterly style of desaturated colours and disciplined technique capture ethos and pathos. His personal take and observations within local settings are sublimations, “at best I feel that they carry in them a kind of beauty of the melancholic”. 

In Reality. In Memories III
Oil, acrylic and paste on canvas
200 x 220cm

Cheong Tuck Wai (b. 1979, Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia) completed his Diploma in Illustration at Dasein Academy of Art, Kuala Lumpur (2001) and subsequently took up fine art studies from 2002 to 2004. He began teaching fine art concurrently while doing the course. He is now a senior part-time lecturer in Dasein Fine Art department. His work revolves around figure painting using mixed media. In finding equilibrium between the mind and the soul, he explores memory where humans, scenes, matters and objects are described and defined, creating images and effects of the deserted or abandoned. This wear and tear materiality of the surface presents a patina that is an aesthetic fascination creating an ambience that presents a compelling statement for the viewers to contemplate on the shifting of time and its passage. He lives and works in Kuala Lumpur. 

Somewhere in Time
Oil on canvas
220 x 180cm

Chong Ai Lei (b. 1985, Segamat, Johor, Malaysia) gained her Diploma in Fine Art at Dasein Academy of Art, Kuala Lumpur (2005). As one of the winners of Malaysia Emerging Artist Award (2012) after being one of the finalists in 2009 and 2011, she caught the attention of serious art collectors regionally and generated a following. Her first solo exhibition, ‘P!NK’ was held at Sangkring Art Space, Yogyakarta, Indonesia last year. Her consistent participations in group exhibitions throughout the region were represented by art galleries in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Her fine and fastidious painting of female muses, engrossed in the privacy of their thoughts and preoccupations, be it in an indoor or outdoor setting, give glimpses into a world from a feminine view. These voyeuristic portrayals capture a specific world and through body languages that are meant to be read as actions and coded behaviours of social, political and cultural conditions. Making public acts that are usually unnoticed for their banality or triviality, it creates a rupture to our normal understanding or preconceived ideas regarding their demeanour, exhibiting an intriguing spectacle. 

Let Go Off Your Ego
Acrylic on linen
293 x 233cm

Arif Fauzan (b. 1979, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia) has a B.F.A. in Arts and Design from University Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Selangor where he studied painting (1997-2001). He was awarded an Honorable Mention, Philip Morris Art Awards (2003) and also at the Arts + Earth Young Artist Competition (2006). This year sees his participation in two group exhibitions, READrawing at Petronas Gallery and ‘99 Asma-ul-Husna’ at Galeri Chandan, Kuala Lumpur. Most recently his solo outing titled ‘World Eclipse’ at Arti Gallery in Desa Melawati, Kuala Lumpur garnered a wider attention. A figurative painter professing narrative based depictions, imagined or choreographed pairings of characters and subjects, akin to stills from a movie. Cinematic in its format and approach, the artist is interested in directing the viewers’ response, to how they feel rather than subvert or manipulate them. 

The Lonesome Painter
Oil on linen
221 x 290cm

Fadilah Karim (b. 1987, Batu Pahat, Johor, Malaysia) did her first degree at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam (2010) after earning a Diploma at UiTM Lendu, Melaka (2008). A two-month mentorship under Malaysia’s figurative painter Amron Omar, while pursuing the BA, veered her towards a certain oil painting style and technique. With a MA of Fine Arts and Technology, completed at UiTM on Jalan Othman (2013) and in the same year a first solo ‘Vague’ at Pace Gallery, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Heralded as the next emerging young artist, she participated in ‘Young Guns’, a travelling show at White Box, Kuala Lumpur (2013), The Whiteaways Arcade, Penang (2013) and Chan Hampe Galleries, Singapore (2014). A two-woman show at HOM Art Trans ‘Mystory’ (2014) sealed her arrival. With a subdued palette and her ability to manipulate the paint with subtle shifts in the hue and tonal values showing facets of the sitters depicted up-close and personal, variations of human feelings and emotional states.

Drama King
Charcoal and acrylic on canvas
213 x 304cm

Hisyamuddin Abdullah (b. 1989, Marang, Terengganu, Malaysia) is an emerging artist having just concluded his BA of Fine Arts (Hons), Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, Selangor (2012). He has a line up of group exhibitions behind him and wrapped up a sold-out first solo exhibition ‘SArKAs’ at Taksu Galeri, Kuala Lumpur in December (2014), the future looks bright. Hailing from Terengganu, a state on the east coast of the peninsular, finding one’s way in the frantic throes of a large city could be daunting. This life journey feeds his art making and creative production. His series of self-portraits could be read as narcissistic but the clowning around poses and gestures are visual tropes seen in a bigger context are statements of defiance, come what may, of coping with life discoveries, battles, be it emotional or physical. By depicting himself in varying modes of caper, articulating the body language and facial expression that are concealing and revealing, relishing the challenges in his quest for a sense of belonging.

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