Art struggles against the dying attention span. People take a photo, Instagram it, walk away.
Leading the charge to change things are Samsudin Wahab’s latest installation pieces featured at Sebiji Padi art collective’s Flush exhibition at G13 Gallery, Petaling Jaya in Selangor. His new art direction forces viewers to interact with his works even if they look away or close their eyes.
Samsudin’s Orang Ikan Kering, a life sized figure made entirely out of salted fish, can be novel and revolting in equal parts.
“I wanted to explore the dimension of smell. While you can ignore the image of the sculpture, like it or not, you will smell it,” says Samsudin with a laugh at the gallery.
The Orang Ikan Kering work also has a less pungent sibling called Orang Asam, which is made out of dried asam gelugur/keping (a kind of tamarind).
Samsudin, a farmer’s son, chose these materials to remind him of the kampung’s scent.
Unlike British artist Damien Hirst (who made his shark in a glass tank piece The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living in 1991), Samsudin has no interest in preserving his human-like works.
“You seal away the smell and they become pointless.”
Samsudin, who also wanted to make similar figures out of belacan (chilli paste), admits that the olfactory assault did not reach his expectations.
“I thought it would make people vomit. Smell is funny, the nose quickly gets immune, like how garbage men get over the smell of their workplace,” he says, referring to how he quickly got over the smell of the materials he was working with.
During this recent interview with Samsudin and fellow Sebiji Padi member Haslin Ismail, the duo revealed the Flush exhibition was a reunion for the collective.
Sebiji Padi was a collective of UiTM fine art graduates who decided to rent a studio together in Shah Alam after graduating in 2007.
Haslin says that the collective went their separate ways in 2011, with the space now taken over by a young group of artists. As Samsudin puts it, the members got married and got jobs. Despite that, the group still meets on-and-off. Samsudin and Haslin even have weekly badminton sessions
During one of their meets, the collective decided to throw together an exhibition. Of the 12 members, 10 participated in the Flush show at G13 Gallery.
For this “comeback” show, the collective even cobbled together a manifesto. The 12-point manifesto contained guidelines like “art is the vehicle, artist is the driver” and “art should be fun”.
When asked if people might find the manifesto the sign of an artist taking himself too seriously, Samsudin assures it’s all good fun.
“We might even run contrary to this at the next show,” he says, revealing plans to make the collective’s show an annual event.
Haslin says the exhibition title Flush referred to flushing away stereotypes.
“Of course there’s the link to toilets,” he says, gesturing at Syafiq Ali’am’s Thinking Portal, a wooden door painted with Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker in the lavatory.
The 26 pieces on display run the gamut of genres, from Azam Aris’s black and white photos compiled into a book, Zul Husni’s oil painting Langit & Bumi and Hery Zain’s Sang Tikus, a print of a rat overlayed on a lightbox to create the impression of an X-ray.
Playing with interactive themes, some pieces use unorthodox ways to be more immersive. Ruzzeki Harris vandalised his own painting (the aptly named Vandalove) by throwing pink paint over it and doodling on the finished work.
Syafiq invited viewers put themselves through his Portal series, in which he framed a wooden door over a step-stool that could be opened and walked through.
Elsewhere, Haslin created an oversized, psychedelic dreamscape to draw in viewers.
The pair of paintings, measuring 274cm x 214cm each, are titled The Fattory Chronicles. Haslin wanted to focus on an overlooked element of the human body – fat – and show it.
Samsudin says whether the pieces sell or not, being an artist is a lifestyle. He adds that art is a platform for expression.
“Postmen don’t have a place to express,” he blurts out. After a pause, Samsudin changes his mind.
“Well, maybe he expresses by the way he sends his mail. By sending it really fast.”
Flush by Sebiji Padi is showing until June 30 at G13 Gallery, GL13, Ground Floor, Block B, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/26, Kelana Jaya, Selangor. Open daily: 11am – 5pm (closed on Sunday and public holidays). Call 03-7880 0991 or visit www.g13gallery.com