Monday November 20, 2006

Spectacular body of work

Photos by TK LIM 

LEONARDO da Vinci revelled in it, Pablo Picasso was a genius at it, and Francis Bacon was best remembered for it. 

The human body has been a subject of artistic admiration for centuries, and while many deem it an effortless task, figurative art is not at all simple, even for an artist. 

Words at the Acropolis, Athens by Bayu Utomo also features his self-portrait. The piece was executed during his trip to Europe.

“There are angles, proportions and even calculations involved. Contrary to popular assumption, drawing a human body, in any artistic interpretation - even abstract - is a challenge,'' said celebrated artist Bayu Utomo Radjikin, who firmly believes that figurative art deserves more mileage in the local art scene. 

“Historically, Malaysia experienced a dearth in figurative artworks in the early 1970s due to a number of reasons, including the lack of focus on the subject in local art schools, as well as the influence of Islamisation which saw more concentration on arabesques, Islamic values and themes.” 

The 1980s saw a mild resurgence in the human body as the main subject in art, with Bayu himself beginning to focus on human figures in a big way.  

Anurendra's Divine Vessel 1 executed in mixed media on canvas.

Continuing in the theme of resurrecting and encouraging artistic appreciation of the human body is why Bayu, who has just returned from a two-year hiatus in Britain, is co-curating a group exhibition themed Mind, Body & Soul 2 at the Wei-Ling Gallery with owner Lim Wei-Ling.  

The second part of the same series that debuted at the gallery last year (also curated by Bayu and Lim), Mind, Body & Soul 2 is perhaps one of the gallery's best exhibitions this year.  

The show sees the latest creations of 13 veteran and upcoming artists converge in a spectacular adulation of the human form in 25 works executed in various media, including oil, charcoal, collage, bitumen, acrylic and photography.  

Participating artists include veterans such as Yusof Ghani, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Anurendra Jegadeva and Bayu himself, while the younger ones include Phuan Thai Meng, Cheong Tuck Wai and Chan Kok Hooi.  

For Lim and those familiar with the art fraternity, the show has been a pleasant surprise, with many an artist particularly the veterans pushing boundaries and exceeding expectations. 

For instance, in his latest Wajah series, Yusof Ghani continues to reinvent himself by exploring charcoal and bitumen instead of his usual oil to produce an evocative montage of human faces, depicted in his usual frenzied style.  

Awan Merah Dalam Kenangan by Ahmad Fuad Osman.

Figurative painter Anurendra Jegadeva speaks volumes through his signature vibrant colours and bold strokes with Divine Vessel 1, while Bayu eloquently articulates in acrylic, his furlough in Europe. 

Chan Kok Hooi's Old Photo Series is an impressive and creative depiction inspired by old photographs, while Phuan Thai Meng experiments with newspaper collage and charcoal on rice paper to create a surreal illusion of depth that is best appreciated from a distance.  

“Ultimately, you can tell an artist's foundation from the way they paint the body because figurative art is an integral part of fine art,” said Lim.   An artist herself, Lim is delighted with the results of the show and is planning for a third instalment next year.  

“What surprised me was how some of the artists have deviated from their usual style and experimented with various media for this show - this is a journey for them, and they are discovering their direction as they go along.   I am excited about the growing interest in figurative art among artists, and it is reason enough to give them the exposure they need.” 

Mind Body & Soul 2 is exhibited at Wei-Ling Gallery, 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur until Nov 23.