Malaysian artist Tan Zi Hao’s The Skeleton Of Makara (The Myth Of A Myth), a large-scale fibreglass and metal installation, is the sort of statement piece that makes heads turn. It isn’t a prehistoric creature nor is it a Bandai-manufactured fictional giant Japanese monster.
The work, which was commissioned by the Singapore Biennale last year, is deeply rooted in South-East Asian myth and Hindu culture. It is his interpretation of the makara, a hybrid of different animals, typically half-mammal and half-fish.
The installation, which is Tan’s idea of conceiving a myth out of a myth, is finally making its debut in Malaysia. It is currently on show at the newly opened A+ Works Of Art gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from Tan’s showpiece, the gallery’s preview exhibition, Kadang Kadang Dekat Dekat Akan Datang, also features a sampling of works from Indonesian artists Agus Suwage and Fajar Abadi.
“This is our introduction to the art scene here. We want to offer artists, collectors and the curious a different and interesting space rather than just expanding on what is available in KL,” says Joshua Lim, the gallery’s director.
Lim, who has a background in the hospitality industry, has also worked closely with Chang Fee Ming, one of Malaysia’s most successful and highly-regarded contemporary watercolourists. His new role as a gallerist is a challenge that he relishes.
“We want to create an artist-led environment when it comes to exhibitions. Artists working with the gallery are not so much represented by the gallery but engaged in an ongoing conversation and collaboration,” he says.
“Likewise, curators, writers, collectors and other galleries are welcome to initiate collaborations.”
For Lim, the contemporary focus at A+ Works Of Art is an important element. The gallery’s open policy approach will also include programming for photography, video, and installation and performance art. Next month, Lim reveals that the space will launch with a photography exhibition.
“We are looking for ways to progress without leaving out or overlooking some of the less mainstream forms of art,” he says.
Bandung-based artist Fajar’s performance art piece titled Paradise Lies Under The Feet Of Our Mothers is an example of A+ Works Of Art’s area of interest. Fajar was in KL recently to perform the work with KL-based artist Intan Rafiza and her young daughter Sarah.
“Fajar’s Paradise performance here has been shot on video and it will be screened at the gallery,” says Lim.
Fajar, 32, navigates between performance and installation to playfully emphasise and penetrate everyday social relationships, especially the kinship between mother and child. His ongoing Paradise work is designed as a collaborative effort where Fajar will ask children to help him cast the feet of their mothers. The casts are then used to create new footwear for the mothers.
Veteran Yogyakarta-based artist Agus, 58, exhibits a set of 50 prints entitled Pause/Replay, which are dated between 2004 and 2009.
“Agus is one of the huge names of Indonesian contemporary art and his works are in every important collection of South-East Asian contemporary art,” says Lim, adding, “We have not seen him in KL for more than 10 years. So it’s a real privilege to have him visit.”
Agus’ Pause/Replay portrait series was first made with watercolour on paper in 2004, and in 2009 it was part of his retrospective exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years, at Jogja National Museum.
One of the conceptual strategies Agus uses, as seen in Pause/Replay, is appropriating other artists’ works; he also re-makes and re-develops his own works, and through repetition he is able to add complex layers that provide clues to his critical investigations into (art) history and its social contexts.
“Kadang Kadang Dekat Dekat Akan Datang is a glimpse of what we will have in our future programmes. We will also host Tan’s first solo show in KL this November, while Agus and Fajar will be back again next year,” says Lim, pointing to the gallery’s strong regional focus.
Titarubi, one of Indonesia’s pioneering female contemporary artists; F.X. Harsono, an active critic of Indonesian politics and society; and Penang-born Chan Kok Hooi, renowned for his dreamscape works, are some of the names lined up at A+ Works Of Art.
“I feel that there’s a version of an all-encompassing gallery space that can be made a reality. Importantly, at A+ Works Of Art, we also really want a place that is warm and friendly and not intimidating when it comes to art,” says Lim.
A+ Works Of Art is located at Jalan Sentul in Kuala Lumpur. The preview exhibition and art installation will be on until July 29. For more information, call 019-915 3399.