Singapore’s Gajah Gallery will be holding its first group exhibition in Kuala Lumpur at White Box in Publika, starting July 19 .

Power, Play, Perception is a three-day show that presents works from 14 contemporary artists from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. It trains the spotlight on the diverse forms of power experienced by these artists who live and work in South-East Asia, and their creative responses to it.

Power takes on many forms and guises, the most common often associated with control, dominance and coercion.

But this show sets out to explore beyond such boundaries; it locks its sights on how fluid and pervasive power can be, and encourages contemplation on how this fits within a regional context.

Curator Nicole Soriano shares that the direction of the show was born from the observation that the words “power”, “play”, and “perception” would frequently pop up in conversations concerning artists from South-East Asia.

“We wanted to dig up what these words really meant to the artists. We learned, through their works, that these words were polysemic; that there was a co-existence of meanings attached to each word. So one word, like ‘power’, in itself opened up a multiplicity of discussions on both shared and contrasting realities. When linked to another complex word like ‘play’, a whole new set of layers and textures emerge. This is what provides the depth of the show,” explains Nicole.

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Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s Clandestine (acrylic on jute, 2014). Photo: Ahmad Zakii Anwar

She notes that the direction is meant to be fluid and organic, with a focus on the distinct voices and dialogues from the artists.

“The exhibit is merely a springboard to drawing fresh connections. We ultimately hope for audiences to continue the conversation,” she adds.

French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that power is everywhere – it is rooted in all rela­tionships and applies to everyday interactions and daily life. Unsurprisingly, the exhibits in Power, Play, Perception are as diverse as they come.

Suzann Victor (Singapore) interrogates power in faith, spirituality and scientific knowledge in the form of divine wings and human hearts; Ahmad Zakii Anwar (Malaysia) delves into the psychology of man, pondering on present-day powers and the stripping of one’s identity; Jigger Cruz (the Philippines) lays thick red paint on his canvas, a symbol of aggression, violence, passion and power, in his response to the obscure powers-to-be of the day; and Mangu Putra (Indonesia) questions the invisible hierarchies between two individuals in a hyper realist depiction of a historic meeting between Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and Indonesia’s first president Sukarno.

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Yunizar’s Untitled (acrylic on canvas, 2017). Photo: Gajah Gallery

The notion of power is explored from multiple perspectives in this show, highlighting the necessity of different approaches when viewing complex realities and deriving meaning from them.

“Our first show in Malaysia is very much part of the gallery’s view of bringing South-East Asia closer together. Malaysia with their artists, collectors, institutions and galleries, have huge potential in contributing to the regional scene. That’s what this show is about: realising the potential of this region,” says Jasdeep Sandhu, founder of Gajah Gallery.

Power, Play, Perception could be seen as a preview to the upcoming Malaysia Art Expo in October for the gallery, he comments.

“We hope it widens the collector base for some of the regional artists we carry,” he says.

The Power, Play, Perception exhibition will open with Last Drop, a performance piece by Jason Lim (Singapore), which aims to set a meditative atmosphere to view the works in.


Power, Play, Perception is on at White Box@Publika in Kuala Lumpur from July 19-21 (11am to 6pm). For more information, visit www.gajahgallery.com. FB: Gajah Gallery.