By Eva McGovern

This year’s 3 Young Contemporaries (3YC) at Valentine Willie Fine Art, KL showcases an exclusively Malaysian selection of emerging artists. By purposefully concentrating on a perceived sense of shared nationhood, the exhibition aims to create a focused presentation of three cultural interrogations currently taking place within the Kuala Lumpur art world. Diverse in scope, photography, installation, performance, video, painting, drawing, and sculpture by chi too, minstrel kuik and poodien contribute a chaotic stream of visual consciousness in the gallery space. Importantly, despite such differences, commonalities arise around the status of objects, identity, collectivity and universal emotional struggles that constantly surface within Malaysia. Deliberately problematic this immersive environment creates a challenging, entertaining and unresolved atmosphere for audiences to experience.

chi too, a multidisciplinary artist with a background in film rejects political statements to look at his own struggles and desires. In an eclectic arrangement of ideas and media his work is driven by the need to share personal stories. Fluctuating between ambiguous confession and farcical nihilism his never-ending games, word play and dry visual punch lines often seem futile and humorous. Yet underpinning these parodies and satires are a set of complex emotions. For the exhibition he presents his ongoing body of works that form part of his Longings series. Manipulating the semantics of conceptual practice and film as influenced by Malaysian and international culture he expresses his own needs for love, friendship and professional validation.

minstrel kuik’s photography installation The March on the surface may seem a straightforward inventory of images that look at the artist’s interest in her Chinese identity and multicultural Malaysia. The images have been extracted from an ongoing body of work entitled Mer.ily, Mer.ily, Mer.ily, Mer.ily with The March negotiating space and locality. By playing with the gallery as a system of display and discovery she looks at the notion of landscape, time, the urban and rural as well as Malay and Chinese viewpoints. Her curious textile installation, a new direction for the artist, echoes such feelings but through a more playful strategy that questions once again ideas of self-agency and collective control.

poodien presents two strands of his practice as a performance artist and maker of images and objects. During the exhibition opening viewers will be invited to participate in a surreal happening involving skinned and manipulated electric toys strewn over the gallery space. A combination of planned and spontaneous interaction between audience and artist create a theatrical gothic experience. Staging an elaborate construct of participatory paintings, glow in the dark flags, video, live filming, and internet streaming with international performance artists Poodien provokes and destabilises space and place. In an act of articulating difference he looks at the intensity of death in all its possible academic and intuitive interpretations.

Crucially, the artists were also able to interact with each other through curatorial conversations in the gallery space allowing for a greater understanding of individual approaches. Such dialogue aims to nurture a more collaborative and integrated exhibition that provides a platform for their highly different perspectives. Through such conversations, it also emerged, however unintentional, that each artist in their own specific methodology explored the status of their objects and medium. By utilising strategies of play, dilemma, sincerity and pessimism each attempts to expand responses to space, installation, value systems and how we perform artworks in galleries.

However, does such an approach represent what is contemporary? The term, highly contested and most simply defined as what is happening now often goes hand in hand with the notion of ‘youth’ as seen in the title of the exhibition and with the word ‘new’. Contemporary also seems to infer a sense of hope for future possibility as the next generation of artists add their own sense of shared and individual experiences to produce avant garde ideas. Such pressures when condensed into one exhibition, understandably, create many curatorial challenges. Defining such rhetoric can create limiting structures of interpretation. Poodien, chi too and minstrel kuik are not fresh graduates and are in their late twenties and thirties. Arguably, they could be considered young or not quite so young. Disregarding age, they instead represent an emerging group of artists, who have been cultivating many of their ideas outside of the mainstream art world. Curatorially they were selected for their curiosity, diversity and desires to question themselves, their chosen media and ability to take risks and create sophisticated problems that are direct and subtle in approach. What makes their strategies contemporary, are their translations of continuous social and personal concerns. Through shifting cultural and economic landscapes they create new vocabularies and methods of visual interpretation within the Malaysian context whose energies represent the very ethos of 3 Young Contemporaries at Valentine Willie Fine Art. 

For more information on each artist and specific artworks please click on the following links

About the Curator:

Eva McGovern is an independent curator and writer based in Kuala Lumpur. She has a BA in Art History from Nottingham University, UK and an MA in Contemporary British Art from the Courtauld Institute of Fine Art, London. Prior to living in South East Asia she worked at the Serpentine Gallery, a public contemporary art institution in London on public programmes, exhibitions and publications. Recently she curated the group show CUT: PARALLEL UNIVERSE, New Photography from Southeast Asia, Valentine Willie Fine Art, March –Sept 2010, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Yogyakarta and Manila; Happy Victims, Indieguerillas, May 2010, Valentine Wille Fine Art Singapore, and co-curated with Vincent Leong Ghost by Roslisham Ismail aka Ise, 15 Jalan Mesui, April 2010.  Kuala Lumpur. She wrote and edited the catalogue Bank Negara Malaysia Art Collection: Selected Works, February 2009. Eva has guest lectured at the Lasalle College of the Arts and Sotheby’s Institute, Singapore and has contributed to international journals such as Off the Edge, Malaysia, Broadsheet, Australia, Timeout KL and Arts Asia Pacific, New York. She is Managing Editor for and writes broadly on South East Asian contemporary art. In 2011 she will be joining Valentine Willie Fine Art as Head of Regional Programmes.