The printmaking medium has rarely had such a consistent run in the spotlight here.
The revival isn’t slowing down.
This year, there has been several shows dedicated to the printmaking medium, including The KL International Miniprint Exhibition 2018 at the National Art Gallery in May, the Seni Cetakan: Seni Sepanjang Zaman exhibition at Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery and Pangrok Sulap’s recent Lopung Is Dead! exhibition.
The group exhibition Go Block: Potilombus Wayahinik Pinogumu , now showing at the G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya, is yet another exhibition showcasing the bright lights in homegrown printmaking.
The exhibition, focusing on alternative printmaking, derives its title from the Banjar and Kadazan languages, and roughly translates to “expanded contemporary printmaking”.
It is a homage to tribal arts, which has been using printmaking techniques for ages.
“There is a long history in Malaysia when we talk about making art with prints. We want to establish that there are many cultural and community practices that are done by our local people, our ancestors, using prints, but they are not very established in the contemporary scene,” explains Juhari Said, 57, one of Malaysia’s leading printmaking artists.
Juhari is featured in the Go Block exhibition alongside fellow printmakers Shahrul Jamili, Samsudin Wahab and Faizal Suhif.
This is the third in the Go Block series, which first started at Galeri Petronas in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. That inaugural edition featured Izan Tahir, Zulkifli Yusoff, Kim Ng, Shahrul Jamili and Juhari. A second show was held the next year during the Penang International Printmaking Exhibition. The show series then took a break, allowing for those involved to pursue other projects.
The Go Block exhibition at G13 Gallery features 12 works from the four artists, and are varied in techniques. Some works may not even appear to be prints a first glance.
The best way to start is by viewing a series of conventional prints from Samsudin (aka Buden). They serve as a starting point .. a “printmaking 101”. These prints, however, are later converted into two films, Sumpah and Sumpah II, which are playing in the gallery.
Samsudin’s other works – Wayang Lipas and Wayang Ulat – are not for the squeamish. They are a series of his prints, projected on the wall. Inside his home-made projectors, however, are live mealworms and cockroaches, whose movements affect the images we see.
“I’m always looking for another dimension to add to my work. One month, there were suddenly a lot of cockroaches in my studio. I’m not sure why. Maybe they wanted to be part of my work,” says Samsudin, 34, with a devilish grin.
“It’s like a theatre set. And these (insects) are my actors. They are very unpredictable actors!”
In Shahrul’s Meta Language, crafted from aluminium, you find geometric principles in play, while the work examines the relationship between 2D and 3D dimensions. He uses images of MRI scans in Do Not Forget, a work relating to the idiom “have a memory/mind like a sieve.”
“When I first saw the images of the MRI scans, I found it very interesting to explore the different layers of the brain. I wanted to do something about this, and then I discovered the idiom. I made this work through a silkscreen technique,” says Sharul, 40.
In this Go Block show, Juhari contributes an eye-catching triptych: Seorang Pahlawan, Rupawan Dan Seorang Lelaki. These works are created by a variation of the slip technique, and involves Juhari immersing palm fronds into liquid clay, before heating them with a kiln.
His other works, such as Haiku play with the balance between yin and yang, and feature strong masculine and feminine imagery.
Elsewhere, Faizal’s the Usia series, monoprint works, feature the human tooth, considered to be the human body’s natural way of printmaking.
In terms of skill and technique, Faizal has grown from strength to strength as a printmaker.
His has been a career informed greatly by nature and visual poetry, especially with quite a few eye-catching and sizeable works to filling up the walls of galleries in town.
In a philosophical twist, Faizal’s Renungan Ke Dalam Diri, resembles a row of graves, and the work is a reminder to the viewer of his or her mortality.
Along with Samsudin and Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Faizal is one of the founders of the Chetak 12 studio in KL and the Cetak Kolektif series, which trains and exhibits works from young printmakers.