Belang is an exciting show that has brought together 75 of the country’s top artists as part of the Government agenda to fight against wildlife poachers and those who seek to endanger the Malayan tiger. In Dutch, Belang means “interest” but in Malay it means “striped”, and this exhibition meets these two definitions well, as it is an eloquent combination of craft, naive and fine art, as well as showcasing work by every strata of Malaysia’s complex multi-racial and multi-faith situation.
Some of these artists have instantly recognisable styles, such as Zunar, Rebecca Duckett-Wilkinson, Aboud Fares, Nasir Nadzir, Low Chee Peng, Delwin Cheah, and Ryan Ng. Rebecca Duckett-Wilkinson’s work is so beautiful that it actually sold before the exhibition opened, but there are limited edition giclee prints available as well. It is bright and full of jungle patterns so that it really embodies the belang theme. I always want to wrap myself up in her artwork and I wish that she made more textiles so that I could fill my house with them. I also absolutely love Delwin Cheah’s work as I adore bright colours and bold lines in simplistic stylised forms.
Looking at less stylised work, there is a wide range of realistic tigers to enjoy, and each artist has their put their own spin on things. Ryan Ng’s “Carbon Dust” shows the playfulness and innocence of nature and we see that a tiger is no different to a domestic cat as it chases a bird through the jungle.
An artist taking a departure from her usual delicate botanical work is artist Esther Geh, who collaborated with Tina Lee DeGreef to create a stunning, and yet haunting, almost scientific deconstruction of an illustrated tiger skin being made into jewellery. It demonstrates magnificently the excessive decadence of our species. Another favourite piece of mine was a simple table with tea cups, and a container of tea, with a list of contents that will anger any tiger lover. Don’t worry though, there is also a disclaimer stating that the tea does not really contain tiger testicles! This was a beautifully thought provoking piece by Mohammad Shukri bin Hassan.
The curator Ivan Gabriel has provided a strong visual narration throughout, walking you through the life cycle of a tiger. As you walk in, turn to the left to start the journey and you will find there are playful tiger cubs demonstrating their innocence and vulnerability as a species. Moving on towards the right, following the flow of images, you can see the movement into teenage years adulthood, and ultimately the species being hunted into extinction. Looping back again to the near the entrance, you are confronted with a section that mourns and begs for hope. My own piece is here and interactive, asking you to imagine yourself as a storyteller for future generations. You the audience are asked to build up a shrine full of descriptions of tigers, so that they may not be forgotten. Next to this lies the work of Firdauz Ridzuan bin Baharudin . That shows a dystopian world of blind fools, so engrossed in their technology that they do not see that they are rotting, and they can only ever see the tiger through virtual reality. Let us hope that these two artworks never have to come true and that we can preserve the Malayan Tiger for future generations to enjoy, and help it to survive healthily in its own environment.
The “Belang” exhibition is on the third floor of the Penang State Art Gallery, in Dewan Sri Pinang on Lebuh Light. There is no lift and there is only a ramp up one floor, but it was well worth hiking the baby and her stroller up that far to see the show. The grand opening will happen 8th March at 2.30pm and the show itself is open daily 9am-5pm except for Fridays, until 31st March.
By Lusy Koror
There will also be a series of workshops and talks happening throughout the month. Please see below:
7th March 2020 (Saturday) 2.30pm -4.30pm : Conservation Talk : “BELANG” & Petualang by Jabatan PERHILITAN
8th March 2020 (Sunday) 11am-1pm : Kids Coloring Competition ,11.30am – 12.30pm : Art Talk : A ‘Conversation with Conservation Artists’ – Christine Das, Nasir Nadzir, Peter Yeoh and Peter Ong, along with guest curator Ivan Gabriel, moderated by Haryany Mohamad, 1pm-3pm : Face Painting Activity, 1.30pm-3.30pm: Drawing Demonstration by Delwin Cheah, 2.30pm – Official Opening
21st March 2020 (Saturday) 10am : A Curatorial Walk Through + Tour with guest curator, Ivan Gabriel,
* How BELANG came to be ? How was the name of the exhibition decided?
* How were the artists selected and Why ?
* Artist Sharing sessions
* Q and A