Malaysian art : The under-side of the art market

Victor Chin, Pulau Perhentian No 38, 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 81x67cm

Victor Chin, Pulau Perhentian, No8, 2003, Acrylic on canvas, 81x67cm

Letter to the Editor, StarMag.

In Andrew Sia’s splendid review, ‘Whither Malaysian art?’, StarMag, Sunday 23 November, 2008, presented us with a wide selection of opinions about the state of art and the art market. However there is the under side of the story which might add to your readers understanding on this issue.

What we would like to know as in the case of artist Jailani’s painting ‘Tribute to Latiff Mohiddin’, (which sold for about RM200,000) is, who put up his painting for sale at the Christie’s auction? What if this sale was an inside job by a profiteering cartel, where one party puts it up for auction and members of that group buy it up, just to push up the price and hence the profit margin, if they happen to have a monopoly of the artist’s works?

It is also vital to know which gallery and the people involved in dealing with the works of Jailani, Yee I-Lann, Nadiah Bamadhaj, Zakii Anwar and Cheng Fee Ming? Why it is that it is always the same few artists’ works from the same few merchants that are popping up at these sales? Why is the other artists’ works, just as good as any, not in the picture when it comes to promoting Malaysian art here and elsewhere?

The auction houses will not reveal the details of the sellers and buyers, but they will profit from both the sellers and the buyers, and this is the standard business practice everywhere. The secrecy and nontransparent methods such as it is, is in part, what that has lead to the present world wide financial crush, we are experiencing now.

What sort of artists will emerge from this present system dominated by finance, unfettered by any government or professional regulations?

How will the creative minds operate in an increasingly close market in the hands of a few self appointed profit minded ‘gate keepers’ of Malaysian art?

What if there are moves to improve the art production and the market place, with less self interest but more transparency, and with fair incentives to all parties involved with the aim of serving not just Malaysian art but all Malaysians?

Nature Abstracted

Our exhibition was reviewed in The New Sunday Times.

Lucien de Guise wrote about, our current exhibition, at the KLPac, in the New Sunday Times, November 16, 2008. In that review he put our works along side another on going exhibition of Australian contemporary aboriginal paintings, in town. This insightful positioning of different artists’ works, in a comparative manner, enriches the readers’ and viewers’ perspective of art. This hopefully may lead to a better understanding of the what some artists may be trying to do in their artworks.

It didn’t occur to me before that my recent abstract paintings has an uncunning similarity to some of the Australian artists’ abstract visual constructions. The indigenous artists are naturally gifted in many ways and they have been making paintings with dots and lines in Australia for millions of years. The Australian motifs and designs is also different from those, from in other earlier cave artists’ works, found in other parts of the ancient world. They are truly our artistic fore fathers.

There are many theories as to what these different marks and shapes may mean, but the real meaning, in my view, is hard to get at, unless it is from the artists. What we are left with, in front of one of these artworks, is just our own terms of reference based on our memory and comprehension of things around us. In the end it may be just about intuiting the quality, intensity and inventiveness of lines, shapes and colours of the artist.

In the past few days, while manning the exhibition, we have come across, from the visitors, so many different ways of seeing our artworks and some of their views are a surprise to us. Intrepreting what we see is such fun and abstracting our physical and metaphysical world remains the preoccuping task of many of us and it will be so for many years to come. Enjoy the abstractions.

Chua Cheng Chye (1922-2008)

Chua, in the nursing home, making his point, in his usual expressiveness

Chua went back to his Lord on the 7 November 2008

Chua’s funeral service at Wesley Methodist Church, Malacca, 9 November 2008

The last bugle salute at the crematorium at Melaka Memorial Park, 9 Nov 2008

In Memoriam

Our teacher, Headmaster, choir master, singer, song writer, youth leader, youth counsellor, church lay leader, scouts master, Captain of the Boys’ Brigade, friend and co-conspirator.

Chua died, age 86, peacefully, on 7 Nov. at the hospital due to old age. He died a ‘Bujang Lapuk’, (a song title which he loved by the late P Ramlee) a pennyless bachelor. Though he may have been poor in the normal material sense, living just off his pension, he was rich in spirit. His body is dead but his soul lives on through the memories in countless minds.

His generosity with his time and money (when he had some) was hard to match. Anyone, young and old, of what ever religion, colour and social status, can approach him and if can help, he will always do his best to help. Of course his was not a magician or an angle. He too had his limitations like everyone.

Everyone who came to his funeral has their own stories about their encounters with Chua and we hope those who did not make it to ‘his last journey’ may be able to do so through joining in memory of Chua through with comments in the many internet links which some of us have started. Here is the first one,

Hopefully there will be many others contributors and we can then put the story of Chua’s life on the net.

Abstract Painting: Two Ways of Seeing

Starmag, Sunday Star, Sunday 2 November 2008, feature written by Andrew Sia

KLPac, one view of the exhibition displaying  Numpueng’s paintings

KLPac another view of the exhibition displaying Victor’s paintings

Numpueng’s and my exhibition was put up yesterday. It will now be on display till 30 November, at the KLPac. It was not an easy task hanging 50 pictures on to the panels and the walls and also to make the hanging work together as two separate collections in the same space. We are happy that the paintings are finally out of our home and studio and will take on a new life of its own, at KLPac, for the next few weeks.

Andrew Sia, from the Sunday Star, last Sunday, gave us an in depth feature write up and it was such an impressive opening statement of our exhibition in the media and we hope his readers will be moved to come to visit and look at the paintings and find all sorts of visual surprises of their own.

The difficult part of producing the art works, over the months or years, in the solitude of one’s own studio or in company of fellow artist, is part of the artist’s work. The next stage is to decide when to show the artworks outside the confines of one’s own studio. But the hardest job of the artist (to me at least) is to find the group of art audience, dealers or collectors who are interested in one’s style of paintings (if one keeps changing styles and subjects as is in my case). Why?

As an artist, I tell myself that I ought not to copy my own successes of my previous works but need to constantly find new ways of seeing and to take on fresh subjects out side of the mainstream of art. This show will be a test to measure how well I have conceived and executed the Pulau Perhentian project.

Numpueng, on the other hand, has latent artistic talent. She does not loose sleeps over questions like what, when and how to paint. Her paintings show a great deal of self confidence and creativity and humour. Our son, Seenum, has a point when he says that he likes his mother’s painting better then Daddy’s. ‘Daddy’s painting are just … drips’.