There might not be any loud “Make art great again” banners at Fergana Art’s upcoming group exhibition Bukan Makan Ditiup Angin, now showing at Galeri Chandan in Kuala Lumpur. Yet, for this show, there is enough on board to suggest that art can calmly reflect certain truths.
The exhibition, featuring artists Alex Lee, Hawari Berahim, Mansoor Ibrahim, Masnoor Ramli Mahmud and Tan Nan See, is undoubtedly loaded with satire and social engagement, but there is no room for “static noise and commotion” as indicated by Jaafar Ismail, Fergana’s founder.
“It’s a small show but it is a punchy one,” claims Jafaar, 60, in an interview in Petaling Jaya last week.
“The artists here aim to create an opportunity for conversation … about the future of truth, the age of misinformation and the tragedy of displacement. It can be weighty topics, it can also be illuminating. It’s about how today’s pressing issues are being handled by art, but it also depends on how you want to consume art these days … is the gallery experience still important, or is it just enough to view a show through a live Twitter stream?” he asks.
“At Fergana, the quest is to embrace thoughtful and considered artistic artwork. The gallery, more often than not, is an important place.”
The Bukan Makan Ditiup Angin exhibition, curated by Jafaar, which was originally shown as part of the George Town Festival’s fringe programme in August, will also be shown in KL with added programming, including a book discussion session called Mencari Hero: Apa Itu? on Nov 4.
Bukan Makan Ditiup Angin, even as a compact show, contains mixed media works, photo collages, prints and an interactive installation, and it can be seen as an extension of Fergana’s Boundaries Of [dis] Beliefs exhibition earlier this year, especially with Lee and Masnoor Ramli in the line-up.
“In this show, you will find subjects as diverse as food, morality, ethics and the state of the nation served up.”
Masnoor Ramli’s Saudagar Angin series, a set of digital prints, examines the struggles of the nation-building process, grand-scale legacies, windfalls and wastelands. The faded aluminium shine from these works, perhaps, makes this series a haunting episode.
Elsewhere, Mansoor, a veteran artist specialising in printmaking, contributes a set of painting studies to Bukan Makan Ditiup Angin. The concept of displacement rests heavy on his works, with Mansoor reconciling the frayed connections between art, culture and the refugee crisis.
Tan’s Artist’s Menu series (2012-2017) is a photography project that invites the viewer to think about food’s role in shaping society and how it indicates one’s social standing. She composes her works with tumeric rice, bread, Indian sweets and also animal parts, while navigating cultures and searching for a certain spirituality in the shared food experience.
“These days, people want to take ownership of food dishes. Can a certain community have specific claiming rights over food? Tan’s photographs – in a metaphoric sense – is a welcome addition to this debate. But what is important in her works is that food – in a Malaysian context – will always be something that unites us. Will food ever divide us? Let that day never come,” concludes Jaafar.
Bukan Makan Ditiup Angin is on at Galeri Chandan, Publika in KL till Nov 5. Open daily: 11am to 7pm. Visit: www.galerichandan.com. FB: Fergana Art. Call 03-6201 5360. A book discussion called Mencari Hero: Apa Itu? (featuring works by Shaharuddin Maaruf and Muhammed Abdul Khalid) will take place at the gallery on Nov 4 at 3pm. Free admission.