What’s in a language? Most people, when first confronted with the word, tend to imagine something spoken; a dialect or popular vernacular.

However, there’s so much more to language than that. Take for example, the KL exhibition Primer For A Language, which posits the theory that a work of art, whether it is a poem, painting, or musical sonata – is a form of language in itself.

And therefore in this way, art itself becomes self-aware and analytical.

The Primer For A Language show is currently on at Artemis Art, Publika in KL till Sept 16.

According to curator Minn Alaidin, the inspiration for this exhibition came due to a work conversation he had with his friends about the relationship between making art and reading art, and its impact on art collective Titikmerah’s practice of printing and drawing.

Primer for A Language

Caryn Koh’s Findings (charcoal on paper, 2017).

“Interwoven in those ongoing conversations were recommendations of exhibitions to look at, and art books to read. Slowly, it became apparent that something was going on that was more broad and nuanced,” says Minn. “This exhibition is an attempt to create a work-conversation exhibition. In a way, the intention is to bring the conversation that happens between the artist and curator, and the artist and themselves, into the white cube and present it. We simply ask ourselves the century old, elementary, and fundamental question; What is a work of art?” he asks.

A symbiotic connection

Tajrin Faruqis Silent Conversation II (oil pastel, charcoal and oil on canvas, 2017).

Primer For A Language is based on the premise that making art and talking about art are related enterprises. It furthermore states that the work of an artist is itself a form of a language, that corresponds to the relation between the materiality and sociality of artistic practices and the historical development of artistic thought.

The show features 12 works by 10 artists from the Titikmerah collective. These are Adeputra Masri, Ajim Juxta, Aleff Ahmad, Blank Malaysia, Caryn Koh, Elena Kravchenko, Syahbandi Samat and Tajrin Faruqi.

“All the artists involved are primarily painters with different art education backgrounds, which I think contributed to the multitude of directions and depth of the conversation we had,” elaborates Minn.

“This exhibition is quite intimate in its nature as one must at least speak to the artists involved, if not familiar with their existing body of work as a entry point to really capture the essence of this exhibition. It’s a form of recording process. Presenting a conversation in a form of art exhibition is like a process against forgetting.”

The exhibition, says Minn in conclusion, does not claim to offer a definitive view or exposition of art-making. Rather, it provides a different platform from which to view the relationship between artist and a work of art, open the mind to possibilities, and spark the imagination.

“To be honest, I’m not too sure what is the takeaway of this exhibition. Maybe it’s one of those art exhibitions that is an ephemeral moment, or experience for the audience. Like walking in on an on-going conversation and leaving while the conversation is still happening. No conclusion.” The works in Primer For A Language are an eclectic mix – many are comprised of smaller parts combining together to create a cohesive whole.

A mix of artists

Adeputra Masri’s Tari Sufi (acrylic on canvas, 2017).

Adeputra Masri contributes three acrylic pieces: Bahasa Sufi, Ibu Sufi and Tari Sufi.

“In our conversation for this exhibition, he spoke about his exploration to find the ‘truth’ in his art, by disregarding the aesthetic aspect of art. It was a conversation that lead to questions such as, what drives us artists to visualise things a certain way? How can one be truly selfless in the process of making art?” says Minn.

“The byproduct of this conversation gave life to a work that looks completely different from his current body of work. A work that in his words ‘brings me no benefit in any form. In pursuit of my purest thought’.”

Kravchenko’s work, What Does The Empty Space Define, for example, consists of 25 pieces depicting various coloured lines, shapes and whorls. Put together, they form a study of the process of the formation of experience.

“I try to follow the movement of thought –its changes and oscillations, fix the evolution of the idea, or shift its focus to another ­matter,” says the Russian-born illustrator and artist, who is based in Kuala Lumpur.

“What is the emptiness? How is it determined? What does it define? Will the form remain a form in the absence of the emptiness around it? And how deeply can I clear the mind of the ideas about the emptiness in the modern world? How can I clear the mind of being ‘me’?”

Ajim’s Asas Petak, on the other hand, was not created specifically for the exhibition, or even as an artwork to begin with. This is because the work is made up of the palettes he used in his abstract painting!

“I knew I had this set of palettes that were well suited for the exhbition. Because it is an abstraction before the abstracts, the composition and the strokes tested on the palettes, without any intentions to be an artwork, without narrative. It is the base of my art, my language,” says Ajim.

Primer For A Language is on at Artemis Art, Lot 21 & 22, Level G4, Publika, No. 1 Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur till Sept 16. Gallery is open from 11am to 7pm daily. For more information, call 03-6211 1891. Facebook: Artemis Art.