4 Malaysian Contemporary Artists To Watch Now In Our First Ever Pavilion At Venice Biennale 2019
Eternally dedicated to art, Lim Wei-Ling hits a major milestone in her career when she secured Malaysia’s first pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
The acclaimed art champion has been working tirelessly to get government endorsement and financial support to ensure an invitation to participate in the world’s most prolific arts event was in the offing.
Finally, all her hard work paid off. Voila! The local contingent is now in Venice to represent Malaysia in our first ever Venice Biennale participation.
Also read: Lim Wei-Ling speaks of how life imitates art
“May 9 is an important date. It witnessed the democratic change of our government last year and spurred me to reach out to our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia to get their endorsement with the help of the director general of the national art gallery. It also marks the inauguration of the Malaysia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale,” shared Wei-Ling when met at her gallery after the big announcement made headlines, a month before the big biennale.
Four artists have been selected to showcase their best works at the pavilion, in the Holding Up A Mirror exhibition curated by Wei-Ling herself. “The entire exhibition is a visual discussion on cultural consciousness and a reflection of our society’s ever-evolving pluralism through the eyes of the artists,” she observed.
Meet the artists who are making Malaysia proud right now.
“Every exhibition I have done to this point has marked a step forward in my career towards this significant event. My career has been shaped by honest hard work, practice, curiosity, much luck, being in the right place at the right time, strong support and always – perseverance,” reckons the 54-four-year-old artist with a strong credentials boasting subversive, abstract portrait on life, art and politics.
The selection of Anurendra's artwork, Yesterday, In A Padded Room, is based on the theme, the scale and complexity of the work. “It was also important to weigh in its contemporary relevance, how it best represented my own practice, whether it conveyed our Malaysian experience and of course, its visual impact,” he adds on the satirical study of history, migration and globalisation.
Rome- and occasionally Penang-based HH Lim, on the other hand, looks at the overarching purpose of this mother of all Biennales and has his eyes set on the bigger picture. “The Venice Biennale is not solely an opportunity for artists to express themselves on an international platform, but is also fundamental for a nation to share its own idea on culture and to participate in a dialogue with other nations, in a pursuit for art and society in its complex transformation through the history of humanity.”
It is normal for an artist to be very excited when invited to participate, he said, but at the same time the experience is vastly demanding because the expectations are very high. “In my view one should not think of it as a point of arrival, but simply as a point of departure!”
For a Malaysian artist, Ivan Lam has chalked up some notable firsts in his career – commission from Louis Vuitton, participating in Art Basel Hong Kong and now this. “I feel very proud to be a part of this historical journey. I’m over the moon but also very anxious and I look forward to be a part of a global perspective on how art could be more than just a platform but a united front of humanity.”
How did he go about creating the One Inch multimedia installation for the biennale? “I always wanted to make this artwork. I was just waiting for the perfect stage to show it. I wanted to put my best foot forward. And nothing is bigger than the Venice Biennale,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Kedah-born Zulkifli Yusoff’s works are a rich stew of archival material, heritage and superstitions, all from a deep-seated interest stirred by his educationist father. He explores this realm by employing intricately crafted installations, paintings and mixed media works to present compelling contemporary works that are nostalgic yet thought-provoking.
For this Biennale, Zulkifli’s submission Kebun Pak Awang is a study of the The Green Book initiative mooted by Malaysia’s second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak to brave the global 1973-1975 economic crisis by means of agriculture to improve the economy and also overcome possible food shortage. This policy was communicated through a popular radio series “Kebun Pak Awang” and it was very well accepted by the rural folks.
If you're in Italy until November 24, do pencil in this monumental exhibition. For more information, visit the La Biennale di Venezia website.
Related: And if you're in Shanghai, check out Chanel's Mademoiselle Prive exhibition!