This is a lively and colourful show by Kangblabla that references back to 1980s computer game imagery, childhood, and the emotional confusion that we all encounter when we are young.
Kangblabla is the pseudonym for young local artist named Julius. He features in all his artwork as it is autobiographical in essence, but not in an obvious way. He has created 5 imaginary characters to represent his inner self. These characters all appear in a comic book that is for sale by pre-order from the artist for RM50, and you can peruse the sample by the coffee bar.
This particular exhibition marks the beginning of a ten year project for Julius, to research his interior mindset, and to investigate his creative roots. This is why there is a strong retro nature to the work, with concepts often harking from imaginary 80s video games (with a strong 8bit influence), and others reminding the viewer of toys once played with and now forgotten.
Lunabarcoffee is an interesting choice for an art exhibition as, on approach, it feels like climbing into the jungle. I asked Julius why he chose this location and he said it made sense to start in a coffee shop because he is reflecting on how his career started, in coffee shops, and that this particular coffee shop owner had always been so supportive of his work.
The white walls complement the bright colours of the paintings well, and there are lots of little things hidden around to look for, throughout the whole café, which I like. For me though, the highlight of the show is the large 5ft square canvas with a mélange of characters, colour, texture and abstracted words. Julius says that the words represent instructions “just in case you get lost in the painting.” These instructions include phrases such as “Life is never what you saw” and “fail fail fail”. I confess I did get lost in the painting and could have easily sat there and looked at his work for hours.
This is not just a physical visual art exhibition though. The internet also plays a vital role in this exhibition as https://www.instagram.com/kangblabla is curated to be looked at alongside it, and there is also a curated musical playlist to enhance the viewing experience, which can be found at https://open.spotify.com/user/kangblabla/playlist/7kzKDqewY6ZBdNQkcs5Zne?si=ylV0OXrUSamh_9h42d1EPQ
The journey to this little café outside of town is well worth it just for that large painting alone. However the other works are so joyful as well, and that combined with excellent coffee and cake, I would definitely recommend visiting this show.
Before The Beginning: The Celestials is at Lunabarcoffee, 10D, Jalan Clove Hall, George Town, until February 12th 2019. Opening hours are 1pm-7pm (closed Wednesdays).
By Lusy Koror