Gerak (which means Movement) is a rare opportunity to see up and coming artists from all over Malaysia in a magnificent heritage building, the State Museum’s building on Macalister Road (a former maternity hospital). Hidden amongst the wide stretching lemon yellow buildings is a combination of historical museum rooms and this contemporary art exhibition. One cannot help but feel a little bit like Sherlock Holmes when hunting down the artworks, as there are four main blocks and each has at least one room and a staircase involved in the exhibit.
My favourite piece was the interactive sound installation by Leong Wai Khong as it was breaking the boundaries of traditional fine arts with a microphone and an interactive projection that moves in response to the sound given by the audience. I witnessed many happy people, of all ages, playing with the sound and laughing and joking with strangers, creating a bond.
Nearby was another favourite of mine called Forbidden Birth. This is a collection of painted eggs in a range of styles. To me it represented the joys and difficulties of the diversities of Malaysia, as each egg was drawn in a very different style.
Close by to that was one of the most professional artworks of the show. As I stated earlier these are up and coming artists and some of the work does need to be a little more refined, however Husin Bin Othman’s work “Kami” was positively sumptuous. His line work alluded to the theme movement through old people playing board games. One can sense the commotion and vitality of the subject matter through the lines that define the shape. The muted heritage colours are not controlled by the lines and as such give an organic sense of clarity and peace. The repetitive lines both demonstrate hustle and bustle, as well as the sense that these games have been played a million times before and will continue to be played for generations to come.
Other highlights for me including Izzardafli Bin Padzil’s “Teri Trio”. He discussed with me his organic approach to drawing, letting the pen do the work and finding the form as it evolves rather than pre-conceving it. Mohamad Firdaus Bin Ismail’s three ink and charcoal drawing “3 Cerita” was exquisite in its marking making and simultaneously its absence of mark making (you’ll understand what I mean if you see it).
And finally two young female artists who deserve mentioning because I think that their work will be popular amongst collectors; Nor Aziela Binti Ahmad and Stefanie Subczinski. It is great to see such strong female painters in Malaysia. Stefanie’s high contrast, high texture paintings adorn the stairs and as one moves up or down the stairs the movement of the figure can be appreciated. Nor’s painting of an imaginary Penang compacts a chaotic city into a colourful carousel.
There is plenty of parking at the Penang State Gallery and it is well worth visiting for the museum and the building alone. This exhibit is a really interesting and honest portrayal of young contemporary Malaysian arts, and there are a lot of stars in the making here.
Gerak, Penang Art Open Exhibition, is open 9am-5pm every day except public holidays until February 28th, at Penang State Museum, 57 Macalister Road.
By Lusy Koror