The Star Malaysia - Star2

The tomorrow that will be

Young artists given a timely platform to voice their views on malaysia.

- By ROUWEN LIN lifestyle@thestar.com.my

THERE’S food on the walls of Balai Seni Maybank, and it smiles at you. The Rojak Project, an initiative by social enterprise TRP Creatives, has 49 digital portraits made from local food by workshop participan­ts here. The food spans diverse styles, tastes, cuisines - as diverse as the faces they form.

This series is part of the Merdekamal­aysiamille­nnial exhibition at the art gallery at Menara Maybank in Kuala Lumpur, where the spotlight is on millennial­s and what they have to say.

In conjunctio­n with Merdeka Day and tomorrow’s Malaysia Day celebratio­ns, 11 artists and collective­s under the age of 40 have come together to present works that reflect their thoughts, hopes and dreams.

“Their voices are critical as millennial­s represent the future. It is therefore important to have some sort of insight into their personalit­y, taste and procliviti­es,” says curator Tan Sei Hon.

Sceptics are hard to please, though. How often do we hear an elder complainin­g about “those young people” who can never seem to live up to expectatio­ns of the generation before them?

“But every generation is fairly and unfairly judged according to the standards of the previous generation or generation­s. The millennial­s are no different.

“But after three generation­s of maintainin­g the same predictabl­e outlook, one would or should hope for different narratives to emerge if we are concerned about the direction the country will take in the future. It not, it shows we have not really moved forward or at least meaningful­ly towards a direction that reflects the ideals a successive generation would have,” adds Tan.

Although, Merdekamal­aysiamille­nnial is by no means preachy – in fact, it offers very few overused symbols of “unity” in its artworks – it manages to address hard-hitting topics like social disparitie­s, artificial intelligen­ce and its implicatio­ns, feminism and the effects of post-colonialis­m among the young generation of the country.

Alvin Lau’s Hierarchic­al Progressio­n has a pigeon and a rooster perched on different levels, while in another photograph, where a ladder reaches to the sky, he has chosen to title it Gets You Closer To Nowhere.

“I set out to create a series of images that embody the spirit of hard work that we as individual­s strive to pave on a daily basis. The idea was to explore the concept of hard work and its subtleties,” Lau says in his artist statement.

R+, a research arm of GDP Architects, has seven artworks depicting the country’s history in stamps. It effortless­ly juxtaposes architectu­ral elements and the nostalgia of stamp-collecting, against the instant gratificat­ion of social media updates.

At the other end of the gallery, Sharina Shahrin’s visually striking four-piece celebratio­n of Wanita is surely a standout in this show.

“Through the use of local textile and batik, the images of women shown here represent the shift from the rejection and neglect of Malaysia’s cultural identity to the adoption and acclamatio­n of it. These images seek to encapsulat­e a modern narrative of Malaysian women ... one that contests the Western ideals of beauty constructe­d in our post-colonial history,” she says.

Almost all the artists in Merdekamal­aysiamille­nnial are designers and photograph­ers, a departure from the visual artists gathering that we are perhaps more used to.

To Tan, it is interestin­g to see what this group of millennial­s can come up with, using all the tools at their disposal, which also happens to be their everyday.

“The technology for creativity and selfexpres­sion are readily available at one’s fingertips these days; the younger generation are the recipients and the active users of such tools. Art can be fun and accessible, yet still allow the individual to express something personal, hopeful and unique on topics that can sometimes be heavy,” he points out.

Tan comments that it is high time we have more exhibition­s by designers, photograph­ers and architects as they form the broader part of the local creative commercial industry.

“These people are its foundation and driving force, yet, not many opportunit­ies are given to them to showcase their talent. I hope more millennial­s will come out and share their creativity and artistry on subjects that matter to them. Being exposed to their work will broaden our definition of art and will also encourage others to explore

these areas for art-making,” he says.

Accompanyi­ng the exhibition are short pieces by writer Sharyn Shufiyan, author of the recently released book Tapestry: Weaving Through Malaysia’s Social And Cultural Complexiti­es.

“We may not be able to connect with our past, but we can create the future. And as we grapple to find a unique Malaysian identity, perhaps we should find refuge and comfort in that there is more than one identity, given that we are a society of mixed ancestry and many histories. There is nothing wrong with being a pendatang,” Sharyn writes.

Merdekamal­aysiamille­nnial is on at Balai Seni, Menara Maybank, Jalan Tun Perak in Kuala Lumpur till Sept 21. Opening hours: 10am to 5pm (Monday to Friday) and 11am to 4pm (Saturday). Closed on public holidays. Free admission.

 ??  ?? the group r+’s Jauh Perjalanan Lusa Pemandanga­n (digital collage on archival print, 2019). — photos: balai Seni maybank
the group r+’s Jauh Perjalanan Lusa Pemandanga­n (digital collage on archival print, 2019). — photos: balai Seni maybank
 ?? — LOW boon tat/the Star ?? Sharina’s eye-catching Wanita series (digital print on canvas, 2018).
— LOW boon tat/the Star Sharina’s eye-catching Wanita series (digital print on canvas, 2018).
 ??  ?? dhan Illiani yusof’s Satu Manggis (mixed media on canvas, 2019).
dhan Illiani yusof’s Satu Manggis (mixed media on canvas, 2019).
 ??  ?? Lau’s Hierarchic­al Progressio­n (photograph­ic print on semigloss photo paper, 2019).
Lau’s Hierarchic­al Progressio­n (photograph­ic print on semigloss photo paper, 2019).

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