Take a quick look at Ruzzeki Harris’s latest painting, and you might first believe it to have political themes. The eye-catching work, after all, features a group of judges in discussion.
But take a closer look at the work, titled Everybody Judge, and you will find a few fascinating details: Why are the judges sporting sunglasses, and wearing decidedly un-judicial jackets? And why is there the image of a bull, its rear end aimed at us, painted over them?
“Most people, when they first see this, they will probably think, oh it’s in reference to this scandal, that scandal. But it’s not really political. It’s about us, how we all judge others,” says Ruzzeki, 31.
“And the sunglasses, and the stylish jackets? Everybody in society, our generation now, thinks it’s very fashionable to judge others. We all judge people, it’s inevitable. But when we judge people, we should reflect on ourselves too.”
From that explanation, it’s probably not difficult to guess what the bull and its rear end are supposed to symbolise!
Ruzzeki’s work is among those displayed in 18@8 Heirlooms, a group exhibition currently showing in Kuala Lumpur.
The show is the 10th edition of Wei Ling gallery’s annual 18@8 exhibitions. The 18@8 series brings together some of the country’s most interesting artists, asking them to work within the parameters of a theme, but still offering them the chance to experiment.
In 2008, for example, 18@8 Vice And Virtue saw nine selected artists creating two works, each corresponding to one vice and one virtue. Last year, in 18@8 Mirror, Mirror On The wall, artists designed 12 Furla Candy bags, which were auctioned off (at a total of RM70,600) for the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
This year, participating artists are Chen Wei Meng, Chin Kong Yee, Choy Chun Wei, Hamidi Hadi, Juhari Said, Minstrel Kuik, Rajinder Singh, Ruzzeki Harris, Sun Kang Jye, Wong Chee Meng and Yau Bee Ling.
They were asked to create a message mirroring the current state of the world. Each artist’s piece was to project a message of his or her hopes, fears, or advice; an artistic “heirloom” of sorts to be passed down from their generation to the next. Artist Chin Kong Yee, for example, says he hoped his works would be able to pass on a message of positivity.
His artwork is pretty unique, as it is basically three pieces in one: A painting made up of two parts, which can be rotated and arranged differently to offer different views of a French landscape. Each view has a different name (Morning Street Scene At Lyon, I Saw A Starry Night, and In Front of Door No. 5), which can be put together to form a sentence.
According to the artist, he was inspired to create the painting after seeing the reflection of the sky in a puddle of water while walking on the streets in the early morning.
“Nowadays, we’re always surrounded by negative thoughts, and they can make you feel down. But all around us, there are miracles,” says Chin, 42, who is a frequent participant in the 18@8 series.
The work of Juhari Said, 1 Dalmatian, on the other hand, is a crafted piece of timber featuring the image of a Dalmatian.
“Dalmatians have very interesting features. The spots on their bodies are very distinguished, and I always like to play with them in my work,” says Juhari, 54, who is participating in the series for the third time.
“The Dalmatian’s spots are black and white, and I use them to explore the positive and negative in human culture.”
The artist says he liked using animals as the subject matter of his work, especially as allegories for human nature.
“Observing the character of animals, I noticed there were a lot of similarities between them and human beings,” explains Juhari with a laugh.
“When there is a group of animals, there are no human beings. But when there is a group of human beings, there will be animals!”
18@8 Heirlooms is showing at the Wei-Ling Contemporary Gallery in The Gardens Mall Kuala Lumpur until Jan 2. Visit: weiling-gallery.com or call 03-2282-8323/03-2260-1106, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.