PEACE PREVAILS

May peace prevails upon all beings on the earth and beyond. You may scroll down to browse the contents of this blog.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

CHARGER.


I used to go to Redza Piyadasa's house to 'charge' my inner battery. 

Throwback 2000. After congratulating him for his retrospective and thanking him for putting this picture in the accompanying book, I asked Piyadasa, 'why you put that picture?' 

His answer had recharged my inner battery for the next 12 years especially during my 'kebun' time at the Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah USM (2005-2012).

I think I really need a recharge, but couldn't find the right 'charger'. 

Miss all my great jedi masters. 

KAMBING QIQAH


Zaman budak ingusan dlm kelas Ismail Zain. Menyombong-berlagak mcm seniman memang pandai, berfikir tak sampai, merasa hanya utk makan je, menyoal lagi le, mmmbeeeeek.  Akhirnya digelar 'kambing qiqah'. ("Between Generations", 2007)

KRITIKAN DIRI


Macam mana kami sibudak ingusan boleh perah ni dari dia, saya pun dah lupa. Baca la kalau rajin, kot2 boleh mencerah. Ni 2 tahun sebelum dia pergi buat selama-lamanya. Edisi terhad.

YG TULUS YG PUPUS.


Yg atas tulisan Ismail Zain, yg bawah karya sorang pelukis ingusan berinspirasikan tulisan tersebut. Ulasan Pak Mail tentang kepupusan tradisi dan realiti globalisasi menerusi stereotaip wanita amat berlapik.
Tolong kekal tulus, tapi jgn lupus. Kekalkanlah yg tulus, jgn lupus. Harap semua berpeluang membaca keseluruhan esei. Feminismenya lembut, berlapik. Mengkritik pupusnya sisi Dynosian, sisi otak kanan, sisi feminin, sisi bonda, sisi kelembutan, sisi kasih-sayang abadi, sisi menyatu (kesejahteraan spiritual), dek kerana kerasukan Apolonian, sisi jantan, sisi perkasa, sisi berlumba-bersaing, sisi tamak (kemajuan material). Allahu. Alfatihah.

SEBELUM TU


Sebelum 2.6 bilion. 
Soalan dari arwah Ismail Zain.

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE


Ramai yg lihat objek, lagi ramai yg lihat bayang, tapi tak ramai yg tanya 'dari mana datangnya cahaya?'

Many see object, even more see shadows, but not many ask, 'where does the light come from?'

Respect other people's position first before ridiculing their opinions. They will do the same with yours.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

4EVER MY SIFUS

Elok tak elok, tetap selamanya adiguru aku. Alfatihah.
(Good or bad, still 4ever my sifus. In my prayer.)



“My conviction is that with the advent of scientific theories on relativity, infinity, dematerialization, implosion etc, the introduction to primeval experiences in the future is not history or anthropology, but physic.” (Ismail Zain: 1978)

“If in the past ‘intuition’ had seemed a suspicious word to the scientist, it is today becoming a necessary key to new discoveries. After all, how many significant scientific ‘breakthroughs’ have been made on the basis of notions that first manifested themselves as ‘intuitive’ deductions! Similarly, if previously science had refused to function on the basis of uncertainties, there is today a greater willingness to entertain factors which cannot be explained logically. A classic example in 20th century physics is Huisenberg’s ‘uncertainty principle’ which marks the limit of the scientist’s interest in the electron’s exact nature and location in space.” (Redza Piyadasa & Sulaiman Esa: 1974)

Written 37 years ago, and 41 years ago. Where am I now?

Still with 'identity crisis'?

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

ABSTRACT ART


A very dear x-student of mine recently passed to me a nice exhibition catalog for an exhibition that he curated. There is his essay in it on abstract art. TQ.

A student is a reflection of his/her teacher. Somehow I sensed a bit of me in his writing. This brings me to my sifu, Ismail Zain, who used to have some issue not with abstract art as rooted in Eastern tradition, but with abstract expressionism. He expressed that sentiment several times during his drawing class, where I was one of his students back in 1988. Of course, I could not understand most of his ramblings. Even later after reading his criticism of abstract expressionism in few of his writings, I couldn't understand. His writings are hard to decipher, a trait that has ironically infected some of my writings too (as told by frustrated readers).

Now, I think I'm a bit more clear about Pak Mail's points. I share here what I feel as the core of his criticism.  

From Ismail Zain (1989)

"And there has been no other artistic convention within Modernism of the West so politically motivated in its initial stages, or which congenially availed itself so conveniently to the imposition of cultural or political adjuncts for the purpose of legitimising the ethnic and the vernacular within Modernism, as Abstract Expressionism and the post-painterly abstraction of late Modernism, being products of Cold War in the post-Second World War era. Abstract Expressionism is truly one of the most successful American exports to the world, perhaps next to McDonald and Cola-Cola...

It is ironic that a form that deploys pictorial conventions in such a way that it refers exclusively to the narrowest area of experience on which painters have ever focused - that of painting itself - has to acquire a cosmic stature worldwide even among societies that are traditionally known for their deep spiritual values. In Asian countries, as in Islamic countries and in most parts of the Third World, abstract expressionism and post-painterly abstraction remain the most pervasive albeit dilatory forms of pictorial convention. Even in Islamic countries where the idea of Nietsche's superman, of Satre's existential man, are anathema to the concept of tazkiyah in Islam, the myth of Freudian ego and the heroics of the gestural mark continue to stand as a vital means of identifying with the present."

WHAT WILL EMERGE AFTER A POINT OF SATURATION

Apa yg bakal timbul selepas tahap tepu?
(What will emerge after a point of saturation?)
1. Takda siapa yang boleh tahan lagi dgn model makan gaji
(No one can stand the employment model any longer)
2. Model keusahawanan sedang bertukar
(The entrepreneurship model is also changing).
3. Kemunculan pesat kolaborasi
(The rise of collaboration).
4. Akhirnya, kita faham apa gunanya internet ni
(We are finally figuring out what the Internet is)
5. Runtuhnya konsumerisma melampau
(The fall of exaggerated consumerism)
6. Pemakanan yang organik dan sihat
(Healthy and organic eating)
7. Bangunnya kerohanian
(The awakening of spirituality)
8 . Tak lagi 'disekolah'kan
(Un-schooling trends).

Dipetik dari Gustavo Tanaka di

FOBIA & PERAGA KEBUDAYAAN KEBANGSAAN

SITUASI 1
Gambor bapak aku pakai baju melayu tahun 50an sebelum merdeka pun nak kaitkan dgn National Cultural Policy (NCP). Asal nampak baju Melayu je, UMNO dan NCP. Sama la juga dgn kurta dan jubah. Asal nampak kurta dan jubah je, NCP (dan PAS, kalau tak pun, pengganas ISIS). Kena sampok ke? Sakit ni.

Akhirnya tak nampak lagi halus tulus dan indahnya pelbagai manifestasi budaya dan kesenian alam Melayu sebagai salah satu warisan sejagat utk dunia dan anak cucu cicit generasi mendatang. 

Inilah yg boleh dinamakan sebagai betoi2 kes NCP - National Culture Phobic tahap over the top yg boleh backfire, bukannya bawa perubahan baik yg diingini. 

Jom kita mohon sama2 agar penyakit ini dpt dibasmi dari merebak jadi perkongsian benci secara massa dan pukal terhadap sesuatu bangsa, agama dan budayanya. Mohon dielak.

Chill la oiii. 

SITUASI 2
Asal nampak sekumpulan kawan-kawan pelbagai bangsa (terutama Melayu dan Cina) happy buat program bermanfaat sama2, dilabel ancaman liberal, konspirasi Yahudi, agenda Cina DAP, menolak National Cultural Policy (NCP). Apa hal lu, sakit ke? Lu posing baguih, tapi pergi shopping kedai Cina juga, buat rumah pakai kontraktor Cina, beli gadget kompeni Yahudi, gaji pun duit rakyat (termasuk yang Cina). 

Akhirnya tak nampak lagi halus tulus dan indahnya pelbagai manifestasi budaya dan kesenian merentas bangsa dan geografi sebagai salah satu warisan sepunya atau sejagat untuk dunia dan anak cucu cicit generasi mendatang.

Ini yg boleh dinamakan sebagai betoi2 kes NCP - National Culture Posers tahap hipokrit yang boleh backfire, bukannya bawa perubahan baik yg diingini.

Jom kita mohon sama2 agar penyakit ini dpt dibasmi dari merebak jadi perkongsian benci secara massa dan pukal terhadap sesuatu bangsa, agama dan budayanya. Mohon dielak.

Chill la ooi.

KESIMPULAN
2 situasi, 1 saka yang sama. Kedua-dua jadi nemesis utk masing-masing jadi hero. Kedua-dua feed each other. Macam nengok orang bergusti, dua-dua dapat duit, kita penonton yang bayor. 

Toksah jadi penonton berbayor lagi.


YODA SAYA (MY OWN YODA)


Keangkuhan segelintir budak ingusan sejak akhir2 ini membuat saya teringatkan Yoda saya. Dia dah meninggal. Nama dia Ismail Zain. Saya pernah belajar dlm kelas lukisan dia selama dua semester. Saya pergi ke rumah dia utk dikhutbahkan dgn pukulan mental dia. Malah, saya sanggup jadi balaci buat rekaan set dia utk teater "Cindai" arahan Nordin Hassan. Saya sedang baca-semula penulisan dia, sambil cuba kaitkan pemikiran dan sentimen dia dgn dua adiguru lain - Sulaiman Esa dan Allahyarham
Redza Piyadasa. Mereka berkongsi proposisi yg berpandangan jauh dlm hal melihat-semula tradisi menerusi bahasa kuantum. Saya rindu pukulan mrk. Saya rindukan Yoda2 saya termasuk ayahanda saya. Al-Fatihah buat adiguru yg telah tiada. 

(The arrogance of few young brats today has made me reminisced this Yoda of mine. He had passed away. His name is Ismail Zain. I was a student in his drawing class for 2 semesters. I went to his house several times to receive his mental jabs. I even slaved myself as his minion for his set design in Nordin Hassan's "Cindai". Im currently re-reading his writings, and trying to relate his thinking and sentiment with another 2 adiguru - Sulaiman Esa and the late Redza Piyadasa. They shared common far-sighted propositions on the deployment of quantum language in reproaching tradition. I miss their jabs. I miss my Yodas, including my father. Al-Fatihah for my jedi masters who had passed away.)

Saya cuma rindukan suasana berguru dgn 'yoda'2 saya dulu. Malah, ruang pameran pun dulu jadi tempat beguru dgn mereka , bukan semata2 utk wang dan likes je (yang diakui diperlukan). Kini seakan terlalu ramai mengejar segala bidaah KPI, hingga kelestarian 'inner-net' (yg ditekankan oleh adiguru saya dulu) semakin diabaikan. Saya makin terasa tapak permainan yang saya sukai suatu ketika dahulu, sudah makin pupus dan hilang, bersama dgn beberapa adiguru yg saya kasihi. Tapak2 yg ada kini bukan lagi utk permainan saya. Yg ada adalah segelintir spesis angkuh yang bila dikongsi peringatan (dari adiguru2 dulu), dia jadi emo tak tentu hal. Adakala rasa nak penampo je, tapi tu hanya jadikan angin saya makanan setan dan jin. Ntahla, mungkin ni simptom org semakin berusia. Malas dah nak marahkan budak2 ingusan ni. Lagipun mrk mengingatkan saya pada tanggungjawab saya terhadap anak-anak saya dan generasi mereka. Kalau sakit hati, buat tambah hormon toksik kortisol je, tu tak termasuk toksik candu rokok. Saya pun nak panjang umor. Tapi kenala terima juga, bahawa budak2 ingusan ni, walaupun segelintir, sikit-banyak memantulkan kekurangan saya juga dlm melaksanakan peranan saya. Kita sendiri pun bukan takda defisit zaman muda dulu. Ini memotivasikan saya utk perbaiki mana2 yg kurang. Saya berdoa agar spesis angkuh ni pupus. Moh la kita tanam keikhlasan dlm jiwa anak2, agar jiwanya bercahaya, mindanya mencerah. Sekian, curahan hati tanpa podium dan dewan persidangan

Thursday, 17 December 2015

REPORT FROM THE HEAD OF JUDGES, PENANG ART OPEN 2015


PART 1
Penang Art Open for 2015 with the theme ‘Hope’, received a total of 173 works from 137 artists, compared to 159 works from 133 artists last year, and 102 works from 83 artists in 2013. The numbers of entry and artist this year are the largest since 2010, perhaps indicating an encouraging ‘hope’ for this annual art event. 

As usual, paintings dominated the numbers of entry with 145 followed by 20 sculptures, 6 installations and 2 video-based works. This year exposition also received entries from 2 international artists, thus enriching the interpretation of the chosen theme through “the perspective of those who are not Malaysian citizens.”(Haryany Mohamad: 2013)

The criteria for judging as underlined in the previous report by Awang Damit Ahmad (2012), was adopted as the generic guide. The initial phase of selection was done based on votes given by the four judges. Entries that received one or no vote were eliminated. Few entries that initially received two votes were further deliberated for a ‘second look’ and consideration. Finally, 41 works that received three and four votes were selected for exhibition and consideration for awards. 

The second phase of the selection was also done based on further voting. 8 works that received three and four votes were selected and considered for awards. The 8 selected works emit heartfelt responses and thoughtful interpretations towards the given theme, delivered skilfully with a high degree of mastery in their chosen materials, techniques, styles and pictorial traditions.

3 of the 8 selected works were given consolation prizes, mostly due to minor flaws related to finishing, choice of presentation and degree of technical challenge. Despite the relatively high quality of the 3 works, the judges felt that the 3 artists could have avoided these flaws and performed better.

The remaining 5 works were then further deliberated for a major award. One particular work stood out, predominantly due to the display of highly imaginative visualization, exceptional skill, high mastery of the chosen medium, challenging techniques and appropriate choice of presentation. The remaining 4 works were given minor awards.


Major Award winner, ceramic sculptures by Mohamad Rizal Salleh


PART 2    
The word ‘hope’ may be interpreted in many different ways. It may trigger our mind to conjure various different visions. Equally, and perhaps more pertinent to pro-active individuals, ‘hope’ may trigger a range of emotions related to expectation, anticipation, confidence, optimism, courage and even faith. For some, hope is often associated with prospect, possibility, promise, potential, change and transformation.  Hope in short, is commonly associated with what we take as a positive attitude that we choose to bring into our life, regardless of what life can throw at us. Such attitude can be linked to empathy, compassion, love, sincerity, honesty, joy, and beautiful imagination – traits that hopefully can be traced in our visual artists.

Neuroscientists and mind experts would probably refer to the emotional experiences above as emanating from a state of higher consciousness. Higher consciousness, according to my reading as a non-scientist, refers to active neural activities that take place within the higher part of our brain called neo-cortex or the higher brain.  They give us the universal and inspiring feeling of empathy, universal love, oneness, connectedness, wholeness and selfless-ness or egoless. Higher consciousness is commonly referred to as levitation or creative life force in several spiritual traditions – chi, reiki, prana, semangat. This range of experiences is traditionally achieved through relaxed contemplation, mindfulness, meditation, fasting, chanting, prayer and for some, pilgrimage. Hope in this case, can be taken as a word that may spark neural pathways towards a higher state of consciousness full with positive take on today and future prospect, possibility, promise, potential, change and transformation, in short – of getting high.  

If art is argued as having the ability to influence our consciousness (see Jacob Devaney: 2015) through ‘mirror neurons’, then the decision to select ‘hope’ as the theme for Penang Art Open (PAO) 2015 can be taken as a subtle way to implore the higher state of consciousness amongst the participating artists, of getting high in the euphoria of hope. The audience then, would understandably be expecting to experience potentially inspiring and elevating interpretations of hope.

Well, that was perhaps the initial ‘hope’ of the PAO organiser, and the judges too.

Yet, that was partly not the case, at least not for the judges.  Hope, in most of the entries for PAO 2015, has been interpreted and responded through visions and experiences related more to the lower mind instead of the higher.

What is the lower mind? Neuroscientists would refer to this part of human brain as the reptilian mind. It senses danger and immediate physical threat. It gives a warning of an impending danger or catastrophe, to decide whether to fight or flight. It seeks immediate self-serving gratifications through materialist rewards to feed a selfish and separated sense of self or ego. It strikes back at competitions and perceived threats. It seeks to blame, defeat, control, dominate and manipulate whoever taken as the ‘threatening others’. It sees the world in a very narrow, separated and selfish way. The working of the reptilian mind is commonly referred to as the ‘beast within’ or earthly gravitational pull in several spiritual traditions. Despite its practical use in our day-to-day survival, it can be destructive if left unchecked on both personal and societal levels. Ironically, a competition can also be a fertile field for the lower mind to unveil its many faces.

Therefore, it is not surprising that most of the entries in PAO 2015 respond to the impacts of our competitive reptilian mind.  Instead of the anticipated euphoria of ‘hope’, most of the entries are ironically imbued with the air of fear, anger and despair, or in some, hopelessness.  Instead of getting high, the judges were at times forced to ‘get real’, to confront, deal and struggle with the depressing realities of the lower mind. If this competition is taken as a survey into our inner state of mind and emotion as a society, it is telling us that we are alarmingly overwhelmed by the lower state of consciousness, depress and perhaps stressful.     

A cursory view of the selected works reveals voices of concern towards the stressful impacts of living a life under the sway of lower animalistic reptilian mind. These voices of concern can be relatively discerned through eight common sub-themes, namely:

1.       The impact of rapid urbanisation




Exhibition crew Syafiq, trying out alternative way of presenting Norshahidan bin Mohamad's "Under-construction",
to get the interesting shadow on the wall.




2.       The impact of globalisation
3.       The fate of natural environment (flora and fauna)


















4.       Love and pride










5.       Popular culture and the state of education









6.       The condition of inner vibes













PART 3
Responding to the impacts of lower mind with likewise lower consciousness may yield a range of attitudes and actions that include pessimism, sarcasm, parody, satire and mockery – that for some imply traits of a broken hope and stunted idealism. These attitudes and actions can be taken as a form of coping mechanism, if not artistic strategy for a number of visual artists with personal inclination towards social and political issues. In fact, since the early 1990s, these strategies have been deployed by several young artists in Malaysia then.(Hasnul J Saidon: 2008)

After more than 20 years, perhaps it is about time for these strategies to be reproached. Visual artists should start to re-question their roles and positioning within the larger context of ‘hope’ for positive change and transformation in this beloved country.  Instead of merely blaming, labeling, pointing fingers, voicing concerns, sounding alarms, relaying warnings, lamenting on issues, focusing too much on problems, or even sometimes riding and capitalizing on them for personal fame and gain, visual artists should explore fresh new ways to pro-actively contribute to their immediate surrounding and society.  The harsh realities of the lower mind should be taken as challenges that can elevate us collectively towards higher consciousness.
   
Thankfully, such tendency has been explored by several young visual artists and collectives in Penang and Malaysia. They have explored new ways of engaging and contributing to the society through communal, educational and transformational takes on art. In doing so, they have reached beyond the gallery walls into accessible public spaces, including the streets. Several creative projects organised and presented during and in between the annual George Town Festival for the past few years for examples, have contributed significantly to the rejuvenation and transformation of the city into a vibrant art and cultural hub in the region. 

Positive transformation promotes higher consciousness driven by empathy, inclusiveness, universal love, oneness, connectedness and wholeness.  Therefore, the lower mind’s drive to compete, must always be balanced by the higher mind’s drive to connect and unite. Empathy, compassion, love, sincerity, honesty, joy and beautiful imagination should be regained as traits of visual artists. Notwithstanding the myth of suffering artists with pain-body baggage, positive take on hope, on today and future prospect, possibility, promise, potential, change and transformation must be reclaimed and maintained by our visual artists, especially the young and less jaded ones.   

Hasnul J Saidon









References
1.       Awang Damit Ahmad (2012), “Ulasan Ketua Juri” in Pertandingan Seni Lukis Terbuka Pulau Pinang 2012, Lembaga Muzium dan Balai Seni Lukis Pulau Pinang.
2.       Hasnul J Saidon (2008) “Under-deconstruction : Contemporary art in Malaysia after 1990” in Timeline, National Art Gallery of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
3.       Haryany Mohamad (2013), “Kata Aluan” in Pertandingan Seni Lukis Terbuka Pulau Pinang 2013, Lembaga Muzium dan Balai Seni Lukis Pulau Pinang.
4.       Jacob Devaney, “How Art Changes Consciousness”, October 14, 2015. Accessed on December 1, 2015 at http://upliftconnect.com/art-changes-consciousness/