If art truly washes away from the soul the dust of every day life, then perhaps it just might be a good idea to take some time out between school holidays and festive cheer to visit a few art exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur.

These exhibitions listed here are relatively larger scale ones, some with international representation, others travelling back in time to a newly-independent nation and looking at its relationship with art, and how it developed from there.

So whether it is to reflect on the influence of history on contemporary artistic expression, or simply to immerse yourself in the beauty of great works of art, there is something here for everyone.

Admission to these galleries is free.

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Anthony Lau’s sculpture Jin Api/Spirit Of Fire (wood on plastic base, 1960) at the Gerak Rupa Ubur Penyataan (Grup) 1957-1973 show at Ilham Gallery. Photo: The Star/M. Azhar Arif

1. Gerak Rupa Ubur Penyataan (Grup) 1957-1973 at Ilham Gallery (Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur). Ends Feb 25. Visit: www.ilhamgallery.com.

After returning from studying art abroad, Anthony Lau, Cheong Laitong, Ibrahim Hussein, Jolly Koh, Latiff Mohidin, Syed Ahmad Jamal and Yeoh Jin Leng brought home with them fresh ideas and perspectives. The original Grup show in 1967 created ripples in the art scene when these seven modern artists unveiled their new works to the public. Curated by Simon Soon and Ilham Gallery director Rahel Joseph, this show, held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Grup show, presents other works from these pioneers of modern art, offering the public a glimpse into the new wave of modern aesthetics of those times.

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Indonesian artist Nasirun’s Between Worlds (wayang kulit miniature puppets in glass bottles, 2013) at Galeri Petronas’s Alegori exhibition. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

2. Alegori: Contemporary Art Expressions From Malay Manuscripts at Galeri Petronas (KLCC, Kuala Lumpur). Ends Feb 4. Visit: galeripetronas.com.my.

History meets imagination at this show that has a manuscripts and artefacts section complementing the contemporary installation works by 10 local and regional artists. In its exploration of metaphorical thinking from the past, and how it links with our present, it raises the question: what can we learn from ancient knowledge and practices?

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More than 100 past and present artworks are featured in Chew Kiat Lim’s retrospective exhibition Unlimited at the Penang State Art Gallery. Photo: The Star/Lim Beng Tatt

3. Unlimited: Chew Kiat Lim at Penang State Art Gallery, Dewan Sri Pinang, George Town. Ends Feb 28. Visit: www.penangmuseum.gov.my.

Senior Malaysian artist Chew Kiat Lim, 74, who divides his time between Penang and Toronto, Canada, is celebrated with a retrospective show. This extensive exhibition in Penang features more than 100 of Paris-trained Chew’s works – past and present. Chew, the founder and president of the Friday Art Group in Kuala Terengganu in 1966, likens art to a living organism that is constantly growing and changing, whose values differ according to the specificities of time, place and culture.

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Nizar Kamal Ariffin’s Siri Dalang Lalang – Deconstructing To Reconstructing 1 (acrylic on canvas, 2017) at the The Unreal Deal show in Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: The Star/Faihan Ghani

4. The Unreal Deal: Six Decades Of Malaysian Abstract Art at Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery (Sasana Kijang, Jalan Datuk Onn, Kuala Lumpur). Ends Jan 21. Visit: museum.bnm.gov.my.

How did abstract art develop and flourish in the country? Talk a walk down memory lane with artists the likes of Ibrahim Hussein, Latiff Mohidin and Yeoh Jin Leng and ponder on how their work helped shape the local abstract art scene and paved the way for young, contemporary artists to venture into new media and conceptual experimentation.

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Jamil Zakaria’s work Lubok, a mesh of wires and imagination, at the KL Biennale. Photo: Bernama

5. Kuala Lumpur Biennale at the National Visual Arts Gallery (Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur). Ends in March. Visit: www.artgallery.gov.my/KLBiennale.

If you are looking to end the year with a colourful pick-me-up exhibition, check out the inaugural KL Biennale’s main exhibition at NVAG. With the theme of love in all forms and guises finding its way into the artwork displayed in all seven gallery spaces, this narrative on compassion, positivity and optimism really hits home, especially in these troubled times.