What is the colour of abuse? With artist/designer Bono Stellar’s interactive installation Safe Space at the newly-opened Zhan Gallery at Jaya One in Petaling Jaya, it starts with black. Every visitor who has been abused in the past is invited to stick a red sticker anywhere on the black grid.
Take a stand, make your mark and stand in solidarity with those who are living, or have lived, a living nightmare. Since the exhibition’s opening, this black grid is fast filling up with red squares, with voices that will not be subdued because they stand as one.
This is one of the works at the Eudaimonia exhibit, Bono Stellar’s first solo show.
In this colourful medley of plexiglass offerings, both mounted on the wall and hung from the ceiling, Safe Space stands out.
“The strength of every assailant has been our society’s reluctance to confront or speak about abuse. Safe Space weighs up a world in which abuse is simultaneously singular yet commonplace, traumatic yet pervasive. You are not alone. You are worthy. You are going to be okay,” says the accompanying text for this installation.
This piece offers a peek into the dark place from which this exhibition was born. Yes, life can be hard and unfair, but Bono Stellar does not want to harp on it; instead, she trains her sights on moving forward, taking charge of her life and embracing optimism and hope.
As a result, Eudaimonia, visually speaking, could hardly be more colourful and cheery.
The Kuala Terengganu-born, Kuala Lumpur-based Bono Stellar (real name Nawwar Shukriah Ali), 34, is the founder of creative platforms Stellar Design and Stellar Studio.
She is an architect by training, with an academic background in industrial design as well.
Her inspirations are many, including French filmmaker Michel Gondry, and her late mother, who was an art teacher.
Since 2010, Bono Stellar has been building a solid portfolio in the art and design scene, exhibiting her works at group shows, collaborating with arts-centred hubs (from Penang to KL), building set designs and taking on commissioned work projects, like her Arus installation at last year’s Urbanscapes festival in KL.
In this long-awaited first solo show, featuring 26 mostly new works, the bespectacled artist plays with geometric shapes and reflective materials. Think iridescent film, mirrors and lights, and lines that travel in a straight line, only to bend and diverge in the most unexpected ways. There are several large-scale structural assemblage hanging from the ceiling, reminiscent of wind chimes and happy moments.
Eudaimonia, the title for this exhibition, is a Greek word translated as well-being, human flourishing or, simply, and perhaps most commonly, happiness.
“It makes me think about fulfillment in life, and believing that you are worthy of happiness. And I hope the stories I tell through this exhibition will inspire optimism, faith and the strength to overcome limitations, move on, and achieve your dreams.
“I truly believe that if you open yourself to the world, amazing things will come your way,” says Bono Stellar, who is drawn to the pursuit of fulfillment, the endeavour to do justice to our existence and achieve our full potential in our time here on earth.
The exhibition, besides being an homage to personal struggles and happiness, is also a study in angular lines and neon coloured surfaces, balance and composition, form and technique.
“Creating art is a big part of my healing process. It is not easy to open up, to share my thoughts in such a public way. It is about how I am searching for contentment in life, even as I struggle with trauma from my past.
“It is the most personal body of work I have exhibited, so it is a little scary but liberating at the same time. But I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone, and perhaps my art will let some people know that they are not alone,” she says.
The snippets of text that complement Eudaimonia are personal in nature. It’s the artist’s observations on life and ruminations on emerging from a dark past.
“I pretend I have an armour, a disguise. I hide my scars … I have reclaimed my stolen childhood. I deserve the best I can give myself. I shut out the voices. I spin darkness into colour,” she states on one card.
In the middle of the gallery, Safe Space fills up with bright red squares as the hours tick by, and night turns into day.
As its grid transforms slowly but surely from black to a sea of red, Bono Sellar is going to keep on spinning. Eudaimonia is supported by Kotex #SheCan fund. There will be a sharing session by the artist on April 13 at 2pm at the gallery.