Bringing art to the masses – that’s always been the mission of Ilham gallery in Kuala Lumpur that seeks to bring people into closer contact with Malaysian modern and contemporary art, the artists and their ideas.
To appeal to a diverse audience, the public gallery strives hard to offer something interesting to everyone – be it art enthusiasts, the curious crowd or young children who visit the gallery for the first time.
Ilham gallery opened last August with the Picturing The Nation exhibition, which centred on national portrait painter Datuk Hoessein Enas’ legacy.
Picturing The Nation was given an added dimension with panel discussions involving writer/publisher/filmmaker Amir Muhammad, cartoonist Datuk Lat and author/composer Saidah Rastam right to traditional performances at the gallery organised by the Pusaka organisation.
To cultivate art appreciation, the gallery organises free tours.
For its current exhibition Love Me In My Batik: Modern Batik Art From Malaysia And Beyond, there are interactive guided tours designed for children (ages three to five) and school visits.
Family tours are also organised to give parents and children a chance to engage with art.
“Art discovery tours for kids are held to give our young visitors the chance to engage with the art, interpret ideas and even create their own artwork,” says Rahel Joseph, Ilham gallery director.
Other programmes happening at Ilham’s new exhibition
The Love Me In My Batik: Modern Batik Art From Malaysia And Beyond exhibition, which runs till June 15, looks at how batik has been embraced and reinvented through the years.
Spanning works from 1952 to 2016, the show gives an overview of different national imageries across successive periods in our post-war history. It also examines how the emergence of batik painting in the early 1950s was, in many ways, supported by a system of colonial patronage.
Rahel added that public programmes are a way to provide a vital link between Ilham and the wider community, to make the gallery more inclusive.
“We also try to have a wide range of programmes that appeal to a large audience. We will be organising a curatorial workshop series next month aimed at art professionals to support curatorial practice in the country. It will be led by Singapore’s Substation Arts Centre’s former artistic co-director Lee Weng Choy,” she adds.
Lee, who has over 20 years of experience in the arts, has worked across a wide range of projects, from being a co-curator with the Asia Pacific Triennial to project managing a travelling exhibition of the Guggenheim museum. He will be appearing at Ilham from April 9-12.
For the Love Me In My Batik: Modern Batik Art From Malaysia And Beyond exhibition, Ilham gallery has put together a public programme with personalities from film, theatre and fashion design.
Be it panel discussions or workshops, these sessions look to blur the lines between the broader cultural industry and the art scene.
The invited speakers are playwright Ann Lee, designer Datuk Tom Abang Saufi, Jagat movie director Shanjhey Kumar and Saidah Rastam.
“All of these speakers have a great deal to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about culture and arts in the country and region,” says Rahel.
Ever wondered why it took Shanjhey close to 10 years to make the film Jagat? Don’t miss In The Creative Process: The Making Of Jagat (April 9), where Shanjhey and film producer Sivanantham Perianan share their experiences and struggles in making the movie.
Jagat, which was released last December and became a word-of-mouth hit, portrays the plight of the Malaysian Indian underclass, where urban poverty and crime are rampant.
Need a fashion tip? How about a quick lesson on the many features of the sarong? Join Datuk Tom and her sister Habsah Abang Saufi as they present a talk on their sarong designs, which fuse contemporary and tradition elements. Don’t miss Sarongs: You Can’t Go Wrong (April 16).
On May 28, Saidah’s talk Radio Malaya And Seladang Sounds will highlight the influence of Radio Malaya in the 1950s in creating the music of Malaya to represent the country’s identity.
Last October, Saidah spoke at Ilham about the legacy of Surya Buana, a key figure in composing patriotic songs during the troubled Konfrontasi years in the 1960s.
Other highlights at Ilham, include Poking Fire: Contemporary Political Satire In South-East Asia (April 2), which sees Ann Lee discussing satire – and its consequen-ces – in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Trade, Ties And Transformations (May 14), a textile symposium, is another far-reaching public event. Here leading industry experts have been tapped to discuss the historical, cultural and spiritual significance of textiles from the region and beyond.
Elsewhere, the dance performance Dressing The Body (May 14) by choreographer Joseph Gonzales is set to light up the gallery space. It inspired by Ilham gallery’s public sculpture Breast Stupa Topiary by award-winning Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak.
Not to be missed is the Patterns And Symbols workshop (June 7-8) where teenagers have the opportunity to work with contemporary artist Liew Kung Yu to design and create their own personalised motifs and prints.
For the Picturing The Nation exhibition, Ilham organised 15 public programmes, and the reception for each of them was good.
Rahel is anticipating a similar response to the Love Me In My Batik programmes.
“Last season’s programmes went down well with the masses. Our talk with cartoonist Lat last November attracted a standing room-only crowd! Our school holiday programmes are also very well attended. We’re looking forward to the public coming in for the various Love Me In My Batik programmes as well as to visit and enjoy the exhibition itself,” says Rahel.
Love Me In My Batik: Modern Batik Art From Malaysia And Beyond is on at Ilham Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free; the show runs till June 15. For details go to: www.ilhamgallery.com. Interested schools and colleges can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a personalised tour.