Reframing art is often the goal of group exhibits, breathing in new context by banding together artists with parallel ideas.
But for B Artistic Gallery (BAG for short) “reframing” used to be more literal.
Formerly known as B Artistic Frames and Gallery when it opened in the sleepy business enclave of Damansara Perdana in Petaling Jaya over 10 years ago, the change of name isn’t just a rebranding but a restarting for the business.
Gallery owner Satish Kumar, 29, was inspired by Sembilan, the Seremban-based art residency programme, and how it took in artists.
“I’m in the (art) framing line, I have the space, and I figured, I should help, too. It’s a win-win situation, and it’s satisfying to see the newcomer Malaysian (art) scene grow,” he says, though referring to the more conventional model of networking with artists and exhibiting them.
The idea to reframe the space began in 2012 after Satish took over the business from its previous owner.
“I worked in this shop after SPM, then took a break to go to uni,” reveals the mechanical engineering major. After Satish graduated, he took up the then-owner’s offer to carry on the mantle, as the owner was going abroad to live.
The other catalyst was the snobbery of typical art galleries.
“In a gallery, you have a salesman in a suit, all serious, like ‘Sir, can I help you?’. Here we’re all just ‘bro’,” says Satish with a chuckle.
He feels “proper” galleries are intimidating for casual art enthusiasts, while curious onlookers often wander into frame shops and sometimes even pick up the commercial reproductions, which cost at most about RM500 a pop.
As if to punctuate the point, mid-interview, an elderly lady wanders into BAG to ask about the gallery’s wood flooring, and if she could get it for her home. Satish, struggling to keep a straight face, directs her to a nearby Home Depot.
Where B Artistic Frames and Gallery’s walls and floors were once crowded with frame samples, uncollected art pieces and commercial reproductions, BAG is now minimalist chic, completely bare, except for its debut exhibition Simula, and a wall of frame samples.
In curator Stephen Menon’s typical fashion, Simula’s meaning is triple-fold: a Filipino word for “beginnings”, Bahasa Malaysia for “person who starts” (si mula) and shortened from English’s simulation, “to derive works that imitate the operations of real world processes”.
Through the exhibition, Satish aims to simulate a gallery atmosphere and it marks a new beginning for BAG.
The Simula group exhibition features nine artists, with figurative, abstract and impressionist works. The artists are Dr Hushinaidi Abdul Hamid, Ajim Juxta, Rizhar Arahim, Aziz Talha, Marisa R Ng, Nicholas Choong, Liu Cheng Hua and Mahzurah Shaari, plus film photographs by Satish himself.
The exhibition is also a debut for Mahzurah, 34, with her Alas-Alas series, which uses thick acrylic strokes to represent the movement and textures of plants.
The former debt collection agent drew her inspiration from her love of hiking, spending three months sketching plants she encountered along the trails and then another three months to convert it into an impressionist’s vision.
Meanwhile, architectural graduate Ajim’s Tugu series marks a departure from his focus on buildings and landscapes. For his piece at Simula, he goes for the figurative impact by way of a triptych of skulls.
“In Genesis, on the sixth day when God created humans, they were given the freedom to do good or bad. In order to leave a legacy, a tugu, we need to have the wisdom to make the right choices,” says the 33-year-old.
The senior artist of the group, Hushinaidi, 44, bases his paintings on his family. Working off memory rather than reference, his two works are in a pale hue, with semi-corporeal forms, reminiscent of a half-remembered dream.
“The moments I chose are those that happen time and again, like my kids growing up, waking up my daughter every day – these stick in the mind. But I don’t recall too much detail; memories are soft, I can’t remember the exact colours and shapes,” he shares.
Only a portion of the works are framed, reflecting the gallery’s approach to artistic freedom, from being frame-optional to setting one’s own price tags.
The Simula group exhibition is on at B Artistic Gallery, Jalan PJU 8/5C, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya, Selangor till Feb 10. Opening times: 9am-6pm, Monday to Saturday. Sunday by appointment. For more information, call 013-977 7775. Visit: www.facebook.com/bartistic.