Published April 2021
The artist lived with local people in Singapore to find imagery from populist Hong Kong cinema resulting in the exhibition Mien.
Mastura Abdul Rahman is a Malaysian Islamic woman artist and draws on the tradition of SE Asian woven textiles in the very precise ordering of her compositions which depict the arrangement of traditional Malay houses seen from above. Traditional head and breast cloths are ritual objects of great potency with the power to kill the weaver who makes a mistake in the design. To the initiated the paintings embody some of the same aura.
Published December 1993
The author recounts her education in a Thai boarding school under the male patriarchal system. As an artist she has tried to come to terms with her upbringing and her work has reflected the situation for her mother and grandmother as well as the death from cancer of her father. She describes her installation work 'Dinner with Cancer' as a commentary on consumption - "humans are not only consumers, they are also being consumed".
Theatre director Krishen Jit talks to artist Wong Hoy Cheong about contemporary Malaysian art and his adoption of a figurative style of painting after he returned from study in the USA. This is being used by young artists in Malaysia as an expression of rebellion, as is performance art. Malaysian society avoids dissenting voices and has been slow to accept the angst in modernism, which perhaps has only just been fully internalised though it was introduced in the fifties.
A concise history of the beginnings of modernism in Thailand from the 1890s. In the 1970s the current Princess established an alternative space for young Thai artists in which the tensions between art for art's sake and art for religious purposes were evident. Politically correct art about Thai-ness was sponsored by banks in the 80s. Later political instability and environmental problems gave rise to a new kind of work challenging cultural consumerism.
Curtin University developed ties with Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand since its foundation in the sixties, initially through Engineering and Business and then through the Design School spearheaded by artist-lecturers Nola Farman, Paum Gaunt and Head of Design John Teschendorff. Frequent visits and exchanges and enrolling Asian students have all helped the School of Art there to identify as a South East Asian art school.
Many ethnic groups have melded to form the present day Philippines. Colonial rule and the influence of the US, Spain and Japan have all left their mark while there is still much resistance to losing traditional values. Art expression is varied and unrestricted and since the 1990s regional areas have come to the fore. Support from the state has been erratic. Artists are struggling against the onslaught of capitalist developments and art for investment.
Women artists in Malaysia have a lot to deal with - pressures to give priority to family duties over art practice, and oppression of women while the Islamic prescription against representation makes it hard to make political statements. Hamidah Rahman, Shu-Li, Norma Abba, Eng Hwee Chu and Mastura Abdul Rahman are breaking taboos including that of including sexual content in their work. However the price they pay is marginalisation.
From early 80s artists began to search for local identity - the use of local indigenous materials was part of this. One 70s pioneer was Junyee who used living plant material in performance art. Roberto Villanueva and Santiago Bose work in mixed media to explore ideas of being Philipino in a modern world. Imelda Cajipe-Endaya's paintings deal with 3rd world citizens, women, migrant workers, poverty. Roberto Feleo uses mythic narrative in a playful idiom.
A brief history of 20th Century art movements in Singapore and the state of art and art debate in the 1990s. In terms of how non-Singaporeans view and understand current art, the politically motivated performance art of Tang Da Wu and Amanda Heng in 1991-2 appears very similar to performance art in other countries but due to different cultural background it can be misread and those elements which are different are often ignored.
Artist Joan Grounds describes the experience of her first residency in Thailand in 1989. Her lack of knowledge of Thai culture and language and having to operate in a climate where open critical debate about art or other topics was not possible were some of the challenges she faced. Since then she has returned four times to make art works in Thailand and witnessed the rapid changes which occurred over the period including a greater willingness to discuss issues.
There are perennial debates within art circles in Indonesia about applying terms like surrealism to local art. The history and geography of Indonesia mean that theirs is a 'different' kind of modern art which took the form of an art rejecting Dutch colonial rule. Later, in the 80s the influential theorist Dr Soedjoko advocated including traditional art and craft in the fine art canon. He predicted a shift in world focus from Europe and America to the South.
Traditional Philipino woven textiles are still made today, keeping alive an ancient regional art form which is poorly documented in museums and not well recognised. All the varied types of weaving are described and illustrated. The patterns, iconography and styles are now seen in modern interior design and in fashion and help to maintain something essentially Philipino in a society which has taken on the trappings of world culture.