Adding a dif­fer­ence

New gallery space in Kuala Lumpur opens con­ver­sa­tions about re­gional con­tem­po­rary art.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Art - By DARYL GOH star2@thes­ Agus Suwage’s Cosima Von (gi­clee print, 2004-2009) is part of A+ Works Of Art’s pre­view ex­hi­bi­tion.

MALAYSIAN artist Tan Zi Hao’s The Skele­ton Of Makara (The Myth Of A Myth), a large-scale fi­bre­glass and metal in­stal­la­tion, is the sort of state­ment piece that makes heads turn. It isn’t a pre­his­toric creature nor is it a Bandai-man­u­fac­tured fic­tional giant Ja­panese mon­ster.

The work, which was com­mis­sioned by the Sin­ga­pore Bi­en­nale last year, is deeply rooted in South­East Asian myth and Hindu culture. It is his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the makara, a hy­brid of dif­fer­ent an­i­mals, typ­i­cally half-mam­mal and half-fish.

The in­stal­la­tion, which is Tan’s idea of con­ceiv­ing a myth out of a myth, is fi­nally mak­ing its de­but in Malaysia. It is cur­rently on show at the newly opened A+ Works Of Art gallery in Sen­tul, Kuala Lumpur. Apart from Tan’s show­piece, the gallery’s pre­view ex­hi­bi­tion, Kadang Kadang Dekat Dekat Akan Datang, also fea­tures a sam­pling of works from In­done­sian artists Agus Suwage and Fa­jar Abadi.

“This is our in­tro­duc­tion to the art scene here. We want to of­fer artists, col­lec­tors and the cu­ri­ous a dif­fer­ent and in­ter­est­ing space rather than just ex­pand­ing on what is avail­able in KL,” says Joshua Lim, the gallery’s direc­tor.

Lim, who has a back­ground in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, has also worked closely with Chang Fee Ming, one of Malaysia’s most suc­cess­ful and highly-re­garded con­tem­po­rary wa­ter­colourists. His new role as a gal­lerist is a chal­lenge that he rel­ishes.

“We want to cre­ate an artist-led en­vi­ron­ment when it comes to ex­hi­bi­tions. Artists work­ing with the gallery are not so much rep­re­sented by the gallery but en­gaged in an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion,” he says.

“Like­wise, cu­ra­tors, writ­ers, col­lec­tors and other gal­leries are wel­come to ini­ti­ate col­lab­o­ra­tions.”

For Lim, the con­tem­po­rary fo­cus at A+ Works Of Art is an im­por­tant el­e­ment. The gallery’s open pol­icy ap­proach will also in­clude pro­gram­ming for pho­tog­ra­phy, video, and in­stal­la­tion and per­for­mance art. Next month, Lim re­veals that the space will launch with a pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tion.

“We are look­ing for ways to progress with­out leav­ing out or over­look­ing some of the less main­stream

forms of art,” he says.

Ban­dung-based artist Fa­jar’s per­for­mance art piece ti­tled Par­adise Lies Un­der The Feet Of Our Moth­ers is an ex­am­ple of A+ Works Of Art’s area of in­ter­est. Fa­jar was in town on Thurs­day to per­form the work with KL-based artist In­tan Rafiza and her young daugh­ter Sarah.

“Fa­jar’s Par­adise per­for­mance here has been shot on video and it will be screened at the gallery,” says Lim.

Fa­jar, 32, nav­i­gates be­tween per­for­mance

and in­stal­la­tion to play­fully em­pha­sise and pen­e­trate ev­ery­day so­cial re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially the kin­ship be­tween mother and child. His on­go­ing Par­adise work is de­signed as a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort where Fa­jar will ask chil­dren to help him cast the feet of their moth­ers. The casts are then used to cre­ate new footwear for the moth­ers.

Vet­eran Yo­gyakarta-based artist Agus, 58, ex­hibits a set of 50 prints en­ti­tled Pause/Re­play, which are

dated be­tween 2004 and 2009.

“Agus is one of the huge names of In­done­sian con­tem­po­rary art and his works are in ev­ery im­por­tant col­lec­tion of South-East Asian con­tem­po­rary art,” says Lim, adding, “We have not seen him in KL for more than 10 years. So it’s a real priv­i­lege to have him visit.”

Agus’ Pause/Re­play por­trait se­ries was first made with wa­ter­colour on pa­per in 2004, and in 2009 it was part of his ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion, Still Crazy Af­ter All These Years, at Jogja Na­tional Mu­seum.

One of the con­cep­tual strate­gies Agus uses, as seen in Pause/Re­play, is ap­pro­pri­at­ing other artists’ works; he also re-makes and re-de­vel­ops his own works, and through rep­e­ti­tion he is able to add com­plex lay­ers that pro­vide clues to his crit­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into (art) his­tory and its so­cial con­texts.

“Kadang Kadang Dekat Dekat Akan Datang is a glimpse of what we will have in our fu­ture pro­grammes. We will also host Tan’s first solo show in KL this Novem­ber, while Agus and Fa­jar will be back again next year,” says Lim, point­ing to the gallery’s strong re­gional fo­cus.

Ti­tarubi, one of Indonesia’s pi­o­neer­ing fe­male con­tem­po­rary artists; F.X. Har­sono, an ac­tive critic of In­done­sian pol­i­tics and so­ci­ety; and Pe­nang-born Chan Kok Hooi, renowned for his dream­scape works, are some of the names lined up at A+ Works Of Art.

“I feel that there’s a ver­sion of an all-en­com­pass­ing gallery space that can be made a real­ity. Im­por­tantly, at A+ Works Of Art, we also re­ally want a place that is warm and friendly and not in­tim­i­dat­ing when it comes to art,” says Lim.

Kadang Kadang Dekat Dekat Akan Datang is on at A+ Works of Art (D6G8, D6 Trade Cen­tre, 801 Jalan Sen­tul) in Kuala Lumpur till July 29. Open­ing hours: noon to 7pm (Tues­days to Satur­days). For more in­for­ma­tion, call 019-915 3399.

— Photos: Hand­outs

Tan Zi Hao’s The Skele­ton Of Makara (The Myth Of A Myth) (fi­bre­glass and metal, 2016). Tan’s ver­sion of this myth­i­cal creature is an ele­phant-croc­o­dile hy­brid with the tusks of a wild boar and the tail of a fish.

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