The sensuous and the whimsical rub limbs in Jerome Kugan’s new works now showing in the Red And Gold exhibition at the Raw Art Space in Kuala Lumpur.
With the human body as the centrepiece, the Kota Kinabalu, Sabah-born writer, musician and visual artist explores contemporary anxieties while challenging the notion of figurative art in the context of nude painting in the history of art.
Red And Gold, which is Kugan’s first solo show, is presented in collaboration with curator Sharmin Parameswaran. The 27 works span various mediums, including pencil on paper, watercolour on paper, cigarette packaging paper and used pill bottles.
“When life tastes like blood and p**s, that’s when you know it deserves to be memorialised,” Kugan notes.
He borrows from and alludes to a wide array of references, ranging from religious iconography, colour symbolism, anatomical drawings, mandalas, social taboos and censorship, androgyny and black humour.
Yet, the abstractness Kugan imbues in his pieces – mainly painting and drawings – decontextualises them, leaving the works open to various interpretations.
“I hope people are able to view the works without shame and in the spirit of gentle humour, that my somewhat romantic and pallid rendering of genderless figures may act as an entry point into a more humanistic discourse of what it means to be human in today’s increasingly dehumanised world,” he says.
Genderless as they are, though, most of Kugan’s works are not for the prudish. Yet, although heady and raw, there is decidedly something graceful about Kugan’s art.
This has been apparent in his earlier works, in both traditional and non-traditional media, shown at Art For Grabs (Epic Understatements, 2017, Talismans, 2016, Catalogical, 2016 and With Closed Eyes, 2013), The Annexe Gallery (2009, 2010) and Reka Art Space (2003, 2005).