In the main gallery at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces is “The Independence Project” a group exhibition of contemporary Malaysian artists. Artistic contact between Australia and neighbouring countries is not as strong as the influence of the US and Europe. Hopefully this exhibition and Shooshie Sulaiman’s residency at Gertrude will help change this situation.
The materials and techniques in this exhibition very contemporary; there are video projections and installations and videos with installations. Ahmed Fuad Osman has the only oil painting in the exhibition but there also a DVD in part of the series: Recollections of Long Lost Memories. Having visited KL (Kuala Lumpur) and trying to find exhibition spaces I sympathised with Yap Sau Bin’s ‘Mapping KLArtSpace’. This ongoing project uses Google Earth virtual globe software.
I particularly enjoyed Vincent Leong’s ‘Run, Malaysia, Run!’ It reminded me of Rene Clair’s surrealist film; the basic humour of people not dressed for running jogging endlessly works. Leong has added the search for the identity of multi-cultural Malaysia; it is a very relevant work for multi-cultural Australia too, as it searches for its identity.
Some of the art did not travel easily, like Roslisham Ismail’s NEP, collage installation, that required the information about the work to understand impact of the local New Economic Policy. Other works were about understanding another culture, like Wong Hoy Cheong’s ‘Aman Sulukule Canim Sulukule’, video and installation, based on his residency in Istanbul in 2007 where Hoy Cheong worked with Roma people.
Sharon Chin’s ‘How to Talk to Strangers’, DVD and installation, is a conceptual work with heart. Yee I-Lann’s ‘Kerbau’ billboard installation is huge and the Kerbau, water buffalo, on it are big too as they walk over traffic cones. Finally there is Shooshie Sulaiman’s installation using the Malaysian flag to create a bed as she moves between countries. Sulaiman’s last major exhibition was at Documenta 12, 2007 in Kassel, Germany; her experience there is reported by Kean Wong.
In the Front Room of Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces Richard Bell is exhibiting two wall paintings. Wall paintings and wall drawings are where the artist paints or draws directly on the gallery wall knowing that the art will be painted over at the end of the exhibition. Bell’s wall paintings are a colourful combination of patterns, Pollock-like splashes and words. It is hard not to like these paintings they are like American modernism combined in test patches. One painting says “I Am That Shallow” – the other “Australian Art Does Not Exist”.