Pelan - Pelan & Bilik Gerakan, The Annexe Gallery 2008

In the Klang Valley, as in most valleys around the world, there is a pervasive sense of stagnation, of a certain rot. Air does not circulate well in valleys and air quality depends largely on heavy rains or strong winds to blow it air away. Stale air is oppressive, and with a now acquired haze and overwhelming pollution, the sense of stagnation is even more complete. This kind of landscape lends to a certain kind of complacence, metaphoric or real, born out of this stagnation. It rests and festers and does not move. However, within this structure of inactivity are impulses that propel movement, a slow but steady kinetic force, which chooses to move in whichever way or form. As there is no sense of order to this kind of movement, this could be seen potentially as a sense of chaos. It is this that the artist has chosen to explore in his new series of works, Pelan-Pelan dan Bilik Gerakan (Plans and Mobilisation Centre).

A sense of subculture now pervades Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Established and emerging artists especially, are spearheading new movements in music, film, art and literature. This has given license for many younger artists to create. They are bolder, braver, more intuitive and observant than before, embracing a spirit of do-it-yourself-ness and largesse. There is vibrancy, a dare-devilishness in exploration, urgency and an anger that is symbiotic of our time. Artists are now presenting their work in ways that are untried, untested, thus giving rise to a new kind of independence and revolt.

Saiful Razman’s experience of working for one year at The Annexe, Central Market, gave the artist a glimpse into the curious world of KL culture and its sub(culture) and of its workings in a commercial context as well as the most basic of artistic sensibilities. It inspired him and this exhibition is in part, a result of that focussed observation.

In choosing to work with the most fundamental elements of design - line, shape, texture; and principles of repetition- to convey his meaning and understanding of the work, he has chosen to work within a paradox of totality and reduction, a minimalist approach to stagnation and the ‘chaotic’. Neither static nor resistant, the work is born out of bold, sweeping strokes that are a mixture of play and revolt, of flight and fancy. Using only a paint roller as his tool, the artist constructs layer upon layer, exposing the chaotic, unlike a house painter whose sole purpose is to cover-up flaws, cracks and imperfections.

Chaos comes with it, disorder and anarchy, but within itself is an agonising sense of contemplation. This becomes the spiritual threshold of discovery. Some revolt, some don't. Some persevere and endure whereas others seek simplicity and calm. In the process of trying to understand upheaval, and risk not being affected by it, some turn to repetition, which is seen as safe. Be it in political and social structures, which provides value systems that are tried and tested, individual clarity may not be achieved. Therefore, the lack of consciousness, man’s state of cognition, is compromised. In order to achieve clarity, one has to strive for it, in the most straightforward ways of expression. This is the premise of the artist’s creation.

Born in 1980, the artist is a product of the pre and post-Mahathir era and now, an observer and participant of the 2008 political upheaval. Malaysians are now confronted with a state of chaos and uncertainty, combined with a rot that has set in deep into the consciousness of the Klang Valley. Social and political institutions provide plans, so do political parties and economic structures. There is always a ‘plan’ when chaos ensues. Some are long-term plans, others are short-term plans. They are still plans nonetheless, which give human beings a sense of purpose when they seem to be done.

Therefore, in looking at Kuala Lumpur (or Malaysia) as a metaphor, are ‘plans’ the answer? Do ‘plans’ bring about order to our chaos? Or do ‘plans’ add to the sense of chaos? Do we relinquish responsibility, and let it all go according to ‘plan’? Whose plan is this? Are we part of it? And what if we don't want to be a part of his plan?

This series of paintings illustrate what constitutes an in-articulated view of the present political and social clime. Blocks stacked up, symbolic of monoliths, institutions, people, ice, concrete bricks, concepts, but still, with a definite inertia - something or someone is trying to get out or get in. boundaries are real or imagined, they are either stagnant or they are moving away.

In looking at this kind of art, we are made to look, and look again. Perhaps in the singularity of one moment, we might even catch a glimpse of ourselves in there.

©Bernice Chauly

Terancang, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 122 x 183 cm

Tertindas, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 122 x 215 cm

Tersusun, 2008
Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 183 cm

Berhala Berkembar, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 244 x 122 cm

Jalur Tembelang, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 458 x 213 cm

Berhala, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 122 x 183 cm

Anarki Lumpur, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 183 x 183 cm

Terbilang, 2008
Acrylic, bitumen on canvas, 122 x 183 cm

Pelan Cap Kami Untuk Anda, 2008, Silkscreen on canvas, 30 x 30 cm (30 pieces), Edition of 5, 2 artist proof