Art forum to discuss Malaysian Art, alternative spaces and new art

KUCHING: Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) will be organising a one-day art forum this Saturday, June 21 at Sarawak Art Museum from 9.30am.


This art forum will be held interactively, where topics discussed are open-ended, engaging public participation with questions thrown and issues debated in a less formal environment referred to as the Sidang Seni.


Moderators will be members from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and panelists to include Shireen Naziee, Sylvester Jussem, Dr Qistina Lee, Dr Yakup, Edric Ong, Dr Wan Jamarul, Ratna Siti Akbari and Louise M Macul.


Three topics to be talk over are ‘Malaysian Art Now. Looking at Asia’, ‘Artists’ Needs and Spaces (Alternative Spaces)’ and ‘New Art – New Media an Experiment?’.


1. Malaysian Art Now. Looking at Asia


Is there an issue about Malaysian art having to look “Malaysian”? “Malaysia Truly Asia”, is it only a tourism tagline to popularise Malaysia?


Asia, in particular, is constantly changing and expending its presence within the dynamics of world power, and does not exist as one entity. Modern Asia is represented by a double face Asia, a cosmopolitan Asia beyond race and nationality, and a local Asia rooted in Asian spirit and traditional values. Could this be Malaysia?


For the artists of the new generation, the issue of identity, or Malaysian-ness, is something to be re-investigated and re-interpreted in the context of the discussive tension between globalism and localism.


2. Artists’ Needs and Spaces (Alternative Spaces)


The importance of artist-led initiatives and artist-run spacers has brought contemporary art practice to Malaysian public imagination.


This pattern of artist initiated spaces playing important roles in supporting and disseminating contemporary art in Malaysia similar to Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.


In Malaysia, amongst alternative spaces which have had high profile exhibitions and residencies are Rimbun Dahan, Air Panas, and the ATELIER Sarawak internationally acclaimed for projecting Malaysian works of art abroad, the MATAHATI artist Collective which was founded in 1989 by five artists, having attained both commercial and critical success, the collective had turned its attention towards supporting younger artists with the establishment of HOM – House of Matahati.


Like SAN ART in Vietnam and CEMETI in Indonesia, HOM provide secure physical space for the creation and presentation of art in the absence of public platforms. The programmes, especially residencies, of the venue encourages networking between local artists and those of the region.


For a long term sustainability of these independent initiatives, funding is always an issue and many depend on reliance on their founders and the personality driven nature of these operations can lead to a fragile state of affairs.
How then, can we find mix of solutions to advocate and support these non-profit art projects?


3. New Art – New Media an Experiment?


We now live in a borderless age, in which the lines demarcating fiction from reality have become increasingly blurred, and in response many young painters have reacted to painting narratives through simplification, where everything was reduced to on/off black and white.


The artists also turned to physicality and craftwork, prevalent in figurative sculpture carved in wood and also the use of stitching and knitting.


In addition to the gradual infiltration of video and photography into the art world generally, young artists are increasingly using photography within the process of their painting practice.


Is the new media art still is not really a part of the mainstream art, which is still quite dominated by conventional visual arts narratives?


Lunch and tea breaks are provided and the programme is expected to end at 4pm.

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