The Star Malaysia - Star2

A shared landscape

A group exhibition at Galeri Petronas zooms in on the nation’s multicultu­ral heritage and culture.


IT is like a road trip, this exhibition that is on now at Galeri Petronas in Kuala Lumpur. But it is a road trip through all the states of Malaysia, stretching from south to north, and over to Sabah and Sarawak – and also a journey down memory lane for many.

In Visual Dialects: Cultural Ties That Bind, familiar sights and sounds of home are suspended in the gallery space, complement­ed by poetry and passages from literary works from the likes of Baha Zain, Khadijah Hashim, Latiff Mohidin and Siti Zainon Ismail.

When guest curator Sarah NH Vogeler was invited to come onboard this exhibition, she was adamant right from the start that it should be an experience that teases all your senses, or at least as many as possible.

It is why in the gallery now, there is a secluded enclave located halfway through the exhibition, where sounds of nature coalesce with green, brown and murky mangrove scenes from Normah Nordin’s photograph­ic print series.

It is one of the reasons behind the sheer variety of colours, techniques, subjects and perspectiv­es in the show.

And significan­tly, it is also why the written word is so much a part of Visual Dialects.

“That was the first thing that went through my head when I knew I was going to be working on this show; that I wanted not just to integrate, but to marry the visuals with literature. It is a deeply romantic show, and these two components complement each other quite beautifull­y,” says Vogeler, who is an arts writer/ editor.

Visual Dialects presents 98 paintings and photograph­s by 43 Malaysian artists, of, or inspired by, local scenes and the tales we knew growing up. Every artwork here is a story, a thought, a documentat­ion or observatio­n of a time past and present.

It is Malaysia in its sleepy villages and fishing boats, its lush padi fields and trishaws, its majestic mountains and green stretching as far as the eye can see. But it is also its people and the rituals and beliefs they hold near and dear that makes Malaysia, and this exhibition, what it is.

“Visual Dialects reflects the spirit of our pluralisti­c society, where our different cultural practices might seem so different on the surface, but the fundamenta­ls are the same. It is a show that is all about tradition, customs, roots and history ... basically, everything that makes us who or what we are today,” she says.

The exhibition therefore presents different creative viewpoints bound by shared experience­s, each person’s story an integral part of the bigger picture. The works zoom in on local custom and culture, architectu­re, natural history, industry, music and the arts, and depict the diversity which has enriched and unified us as a nation.

“It is a very feminine show; it is fluid and graceful, elegant and soft. But it is also nostalgic and melancholi­c because there are certain things depicted in the works that you just don’t see nowadays, or know that it will soon disappear,” notes Vogeler.

If one were to start a tour of the exhibition from the left side, you will be greeted by scenes from Johor and Pahang, before moving on to Kuala Lumpur, Ngeri Sembilan, Selangor and Melaka. The show then heads up north to Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis, Penang and Terengganu, before culminatin­g in artistic expression­s from Sabah and Sarawak.

“We want visitors to be able to start the exhibition from any point, so while it is loosely segmented this way, it is not a chronologi­cal arrangemen­t. No matter where you start or end, you will find that there are several recurring images or ideas in this show, for instance buffaloes and batik, homes and buildings, traditiona­l music instrument­s and cityscapes. But they are all presented differentl­y by the artists,” she says.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are works by Chang Fee Ming, Haron Mokhtar, Ismail Hashim, Magdalene Tai, Raphael Scott Ahbeng, Shia Yih Yiing, Tan Wei Kheng and Zaimie Sahibil.

There are also black and white photograph­ic works by the late Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah of Terengganu, dating as far back as the 1950s.

“Visual Dialects is a celebratio­n of who we are, and how underneath it all, we share many similariti­es with each other. As a society, we are people of grace and humility. There are some things that are incorrupti­ble and will always be a part of you. Even though there are external forces which try to destroy these values, in the end destiny always struggles to re-exert the patterns that were meant to be,” concludes Vogeler. Visual Dialects is on at Galeri Petronas in KLCC till July 15. Open 10am-8pm (closed on Monday). Free admission. For more informatio­n, visit galeripetr­

 ?? — Bernama ?? A visitor takes in the view of Yeo Suh Chan’s Mount Kinabalu (oil on canvas, 2008).
— Bernama A visitor takes in the view of Yeo Suh Chan’s Mount Kinabalu (oil on canvas, 2008).
 ??  ?? Raphael Scott Ahbeng’s Sampadi Landscape (oil and acrylic on canvas, 2005). — Photos: Galeri Petronas
Raphael Scott Ahbeng’s Sampadi Landscape (oil and acrylic on canvas, 2005). — Photos: Galeri Petronas
 ??  ?? Loo Hooi Nam’s Joyful Moment (oil on canvas, 2006).
Loo Hooi Nam’s Joyful Moment (oil on canvas, 2006).
 ??  ?? Rahmat Ramli’s Menuai Padi (oil on canvas, 1993).
Rahmat Ramli’s Menuai Padi (oil on canvas, 1993).

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