Blank Canvas Gallery is a brand new non-commercial gallery with a bold new vision. It has just opened at 2 Lorong Argus, at the nicer end of Love Lane. The property has been lovingly renovated to create a dynamic and exciting space for sharing contemporary conceptual art. It stands in quite a stark contrast to the other heritage buildings in that neighbourhood, because it has been so well renovated and is so clean. By renovating this way, the owners wanted to challenge the status quo of crumbling walls, and diversify the way that art is experienced on the island. They love the beauty of the heritage buildings but they can see a need for something different, and I absolutely adore how they have created this space.

Their current exhibition is their first, and is small but very interesting. The theme is BACKWARDS \ FORWARDS and features seven international artists, hailing from places such as Argentina, Cuba, Vietnam and the UK. Malaysian artist Shooshie Sulaiman is represented too. The idea is that as we look to the future of Penang, we should also be aware of its past, and the role that it has in the grand scheme of the world, not just in its own self reflective bubble.

There is a real wealth of cheekiness in this show, with Sulaiman’s playful approach to the differences between Singapore and Malaysia, and also particularly with British artist Ryan Gander’s work, which fits in so well to the heritage concept of Penang. His work here was easy to miss at first but then so easy to fall in love with. Created from his instructions, this work is a shadow demonstrating the pre existence of a work by Mark Tansey, called “Myth of Depth” that was removed from the space. Something difficult to photograph or verbally describe, but easy to feel and discuss when you are there, and something that any of us who have lived in an old house and seen shadows of its former occupants, can understand.

Then towards the front there is a beautiful piece called “Adamas” by Tomas Saraceno. This piece is a concept artwork for the idea that one day we will have flying cities. What will that look like? Tomas Saraceno opens that discussion for you with a playful approach to materials, light and air.

Be warned, this is something quite different to what we are normally used to in Penang. It is akin to something you might see in London, Paris or New York. It is not just pretty pictures on walls. Each piece as a profound story to discuss and reflect. Personally I love it, but I know that this will not be everyone’s cup of tea. I really recommend seeing it though, as it is such a great opportunity to see something different, in a space that is so different. Their next show will be in September and they are aiming to have about 4 exhibitions a year. As a not-for-profit gallery space, they are not driven by market friendly art, but they aim to share and educate, and encourage discourse.

Entry is free, but by appointment only, from Fri-Sun 12noon-7pm. I really recommend asking for a guided tour if you have the time too, as there is limited labelling and the gallery manager will happily explain and discuss the artworks with you. I certainly found that our discourse allowed me to have a deeper and more profound understanding of the artworks presented. They may seem a little confusing without explanation, and you may miss some important elements.

BACKWARDS \ FORWARDS runs from 4th June to the 28th August at 2 Lorong Argus, and is open by appointment only between Friday to Sunday, 12noon to 7pm. Appointments can be made either by direct messaging their Instagram account @blankcanvas.penang or emailing

By Lusy Koror