Wall installation – with intricate shadow effect
Wall installation – with intricate shadow effect
A picture of Hishamuddin Hussein (the current Malaysian Education Minister) waving the keris as a symbol of Malay supremacy at the 2005 UMNO Annual General Meeting. This photograph was widely published.
A typical keris
Title: By Default
Medium: Mild steel & varnish
Dimension: 195x85 cm
Juror’s Award ‘The Young Contemporaries Awards Exhibition’ The National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 2002Participated in travelling European exhibition organized by the National Art Gallery of Kuala LumpurShown in ‘Festival Asia’ Casa Asia Tour of Barcelona & Madrid, Spain, 2003.Shown in ‘Of Shadows & Images’ exhibition, Malmo Konstmuseum, Malmo, Sweden, 2003.
As published in BAKAT MUDA SEZAMAN 2002 YOUNG CONTEMPORARIES AWARD exhibition catalog, The National Art Gallery, Malaysia, , ISBN 983-9572-57-1, pp 1.16-1.17.
BAKAT MUDA EXHIBITION CATALOG TEXT
The steel sculptural work is preoccupied with the utilization and association concerning the kris as a notion of ‘self-representation’ through its symbolic and iconic properties. This gesture is seen as an attempt towards achieving a design solution that is habitually instinctive, but almost reaching its limits of saturation and stagnation in terms of producing original and contemporary ideas. It is a cynical and yet serious observation regarding the manipulation of kris as a ‘design solution’ that seems to be suitable for almost any sculptural public work or design. Personally, it seems the use kris raises several profound issues beyond the mere notion of representation or symbolism (regardless of how abstract its form can be developed in artistic terms), such as those associated with contemporary belief system and religious concerns.
Obviously, the iconic significance is often ambiguously favored by ‘designers’ and/or ‘decision-makers’, and yet it seems deplorable among the general Malaysian society when some of these sculptures are finally built on site. For instance, the final public work raises the issue of human-scale relationship to objects as small as the kris itself, that needs to be considered further for the design solution to be feasible aesthetically as well as practically. As a result, a greater concern on the impact of providing a ‘one-for-all’ solution in design, is the fact that major public sculpture being in disharmony with the surrounding environment and hence failing to achieve the desired objectives that the sculpture was supposed to convey in the first place. Kris should not be seen as a panacea for all design problems and yet it has been the preferred design solution time and again, as demonstrated by this artist as an artwork that delivers…even if its by default.
1ST ROUND WRITE-UP FOR NEW PROPOSED WORK
The tentative title for the yet to be produced work is ‘bapak keris’, a steel sculptural work concerning keris, that seems to be the answer to all sculptural works on keris. It is a cynical comment on our preoccupation with utilizing the traditional keris as a ‘design solution’ that is suitable for almost any sculptural public works, especially among the majority malay Muslims. Keris has a long and embedded historical relic with the Malays, so much so that the keris is regarded as more than just a weapon. At a superficial level, if keris is as important for the safety of the contemporary Malaysian public, then surely guns are even more relevant for today’s pluralistic global society, and yet guns are not cherished in many parts of the world to an extent that huge sculptural guns are built prevalently in the public domain. But the keris seems to take an exception in this mode of understanding. Personally, it seems the keris raises several more profound issues than the usual mere notion of representation or symbol (regardless of how abstract a keris can be made into in artistic terms), such as those associated with belief system and religious responsibility (refer accompanying research paper).
The iconic significance is often unequivocally favored by the ‘designers’ or ‘decision-makers’, and yet it seems deplorable among the general Malaysian society when some of the sculptures are finally built on site. For instance, the scale of the final public work itself in relation to the spatial form of the keris, raises the issue of human-scale relationship to objects that needs to be considered further for the design solution to be feasible visually as well as practically. As a result, a much bigger concern on the impact of providing a ‘one-for-all’ solution in design, is the fact that major public sculptural work seems to be a simple cut-and-paste strategy where lack of research is apparent in the final production of the work. In addition, this is usually related to the sculpture being in disharmony with the surrounding environment and hence failing to achieve the desired objectives that the sculpture was supposed to convey during its inception stage.
As for the work itself, the dimension is proposed to be approximately 120x90x15cm. Materials are mild steel, rusted and unprotected. The work will comprise of hundreds of small keris in varying sizes, each between 5-10cm, welded against each other forming a collage of sort. A void that forms the silhouette of a keris, at a much bigger scale but in the same shape, will be the ‘keris of all keris’. It exists, but cannot be seen. When viewed, people can feel the keris in their heart and gut as they recognize the negative form at a glance, and yet it is oblivious to the sensation of the touch, rendering the physical presence of an actual ‘bapak keris’ as meaningless. A physical solution that seems to solve the composition itself by providing a focus and a focii, and yet, it does not exist physically. At this stage, the final work is designed to be hung on the wall as a conventional painting, but an attempt to also have it free standing is also being looked into. However, the outcome of whether it can be free standing is not an so much as an engineering concern, but rather an artistic justification. This is because the keris itself is a two-dimensional object that hardly justify for it to be three-dimensional.
Therefore, the work can be construed at many levels of understanding. In addition to the deep and profound comprehension that only the public and critics can decide once the work is actually complete, the work is also made to address some obvious and straight forward concerns. For instance, some of the smaller keris will be imprinted with the name of place/location where an actual public sculpture of the keris can be found. This will give a rough idea on the magnitude of utilizing keris as a public feature, bringing about the impact of our preoccupation with keris in numeral terms as well.