Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Entering Paiman's World.


b.1970, Melacca, MalaysiaLives

Paiman (Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman) plays with social mores and politics in his witty and well-informed art. Immersed in contemporary Malaysian life, his works make sly comments and witty asides, featuring well-known personalities in the guise of flying creatures swooping about the skies.

Educated in both Malaysia and the United Kingdom, Paiman was awarded an MA in Fine Art from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001. Previously he was a junior curator at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, and is currently a lecturer in the Faculty of Art and Design (Fine Art) at Universiti Teknologi Mara in Perak in northern Malaysia. He has exhibited widely since 1991 in both solo and group shows, including the '1st Fukuoka Asian Art Trienniale 1999', Japan, when he was also an artist-in-residence.

Over the years Paiman has made a name for himself with his unique imaginary, caricatures which are juxtaposed against statements by important Malaysian figures in a witty commentary on Malaysian life. He has often said that he considers himself a “backdated reporter” and that “everything changes in the world, and more often than not there are issues or incidents that we have forgotten or ignored”.

“Malaysia-365 days of 2008 is a fragmented arrangement of a particular moment in time as the country came face to face with many difficult situations. I played my part as a Malaysian to record everyday life in a creative way. Provocation has everything to do with perception. Perception is controlled by a world view and world view is controlled by a counter situation.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dropping in to say hi to Nur Hanim and Faizal

During the 'Najjar' days Hasnul J. Saidon, Najjar Mussawir did some travelling primarily visiting local Artists living in Perak, Kedah and later in KL. It was a privillage for me to be able to meet these individuals through Hasnul and also for the benifit of Najjar.

Ipoh-based artist and curator Nur Hanim Mohamed Khairuddin (b. 1969) is the editor-in-chief sentAp! (Seni Tanpa Prejudis), a print magazine for contemporary art. sentAp! includes articles, interviews and reviews on contemporary art and on the alternative art scenes in the neighbouring states of the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. The aim is not merely to report, but also to generate and influence theory.

We had a good chat with Hanim and her husband who we found was most excellent host who made one felt at ease.

In a short time Hanim whipped up a typical Malay dinner which had both Najjar and I grounded to the floor from overeating.

A Visit to Hamidi's Studio

Hamidi is of a generation that has moved beyond the histrionics of the past over the ideological and stylistic emphasis on form over content, expression over concept and vice versa. What is important for the contemporary abstract painter is to find a personal mode of reconciling the two as part of the process of art:
I’m not too concerned with the problem of the exact relationship between Form and Content in the process of making my work. And I also don’t deny that there is a thought process in generating the form of meaning. And I don’t know what happens after that, because for me form and meaning are two different problems. What we do is to try to reconcile them. Meaning is neutral or has a relative instability, flux; it depends on space and contact. Normally, for me, meaning can take place before and after the process of creating a work. I like to see the connection (the general idea and first impressions of a medium) between my intention and the original goal in a work. I’m happier if a development happens organically, but at the same time there is a kind of control. And what is important for me is the relationship with the material/medium; the first thing one has to do is to engage in a dialogue with the material that we hold in our hand. This develops the relationship between artist and his tools, between form and its meaning.
At base, Hamidi tries to explore what might be the common ground between the creative, the perceptive and the spiritual. Unlike much contemporary art today, Hamidi’s work is meant to inspire, not to shock.
Break Out Break Through... adapted from a Catalogue

Hamidi has explained that painting for him is a means of expressing, working through, and overcoming a kind of spiritual crisis, a basic human condition. Abstraction arguably lends itself quite well to the potential for artwork to manifest some form of mystical communication that supposedly transcends normal reality, since concepts of spirituality, whether in ‘crisis’ or not, are by nature abstract. As such, and if momentarily presuming that the art making process and its resultant ‘object’ can transcend the ‘baser elements of the human condition’, abstract painting is thought to be (more) universal in its scope and referential only of a universal condition of all human beings: namely, it serves as an attempt to tap into, to communicate with, to commune with a Higher Power, whatever the individual person believes this Higher Power to be.
In as much as the above assumes the possibility of overcoming certain barriers, it cannot be denied that the limitations of much modern abstract (objectification of inner states and spirit) painting (even with nature as its point of inspiration) are precisely its vastness, its lack of measure, its all inclusiveness. The more it distances itself from the outer world of objects, the more it tends to equate all possible realms of knowledge. In other words, its psychic distance and hence ‘freedom’ from the physical, objective world is simultaneously necessary and its primary limitation. Both freedom and limitation stem from precisely the same idea: a supposed universal; that ‘something’ that transcends the discordant images of the time. However, Hamidi’s paintings still cannot avoid, and I don’t think he attempts to do so, some embattled identification within a fraught situation, namely that between the particular or the individual and the universal which supposedly transcends it. In other words, it is a tension between the artist as acting subject who objectifies his or her emotions or inner spirit, and a loss of individuality or self disappearance in the process of abstracting the forms of nature into color and space as part of a human desire and will toward communion.
Amanda Katherine Rath (Penang, 2009)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Art and Politics

Throughout my adult life i have avoided any contact with politics or politicians but i have watched political situations from the periphery following its development from a safe distance. Growing up in Sungai Pinang I had watched the growth of UMNO in Penang as my Auntie's residence was their stronghold in the old days. My auntie then who was a midwife held strong influence over a majority of the people in the area including the Chinese and the Indians through serving them in the capacity of a midwife. Hence politicians vying for support used her influence in every which way they could. needless to say i held no respect for politicians henceforth.

Politicians are a necessary evil or par with prostitutes and Carpetbaggers. They all have the astute sense of a predator that can take advantage of any given situation to further their self interests and all in the guise of serving the people.

I don't think artists can avoid being political. Artists are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. When we stop singing, it's a sure sign of repressive times ahead. (Theresa Bayer)

If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake. (Mahatma Gandhi)
I was born in 1949 and the country gained its independance in 1957 hence i have grown up having a good look at the political movements of this country even before the Tunku flew to Great Brittain to sign the declaration of independance. When Tun Razak was in office as the PM Malaysia was at its height of politcal stability and very few nations in Asia then could claim to be so at the time. I was never impressed by Dr. Mahathir eventhough he may have brought the country into the twenty first century with style. I have ambivalent feelings about him because I saw him as the greatest oppotunist who knew what was there to be taken and took it. Most of those who idolize him saw how much he had done for the country but fewer saw that he could have done alot more with the resources that this country had and was at his power to use. Although used it he did but alot was in the interest of himself and his cronnies. However that was history and now we have to deal with what is today, the future of our nation in the hands of destiny itself as bothe sides of the political divide are equally unreliable and questionable in their transparency and integrity in running the country.
There is only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth. Thus, from the standpoint of the work and its worth it is irrelevant to which political ideas the artist as a citizen claims allegiance, which ideas he would like to serve with his work or whether he holds any such ideas at all. (Vaclav Havel)

Avoiding political influence in our thinking as artists is nearly impossible in this plugged-in media-stimulated world. The emotion of choice is fear. (Brian Lee Jones).

I voted only once in my entire adult life and that was when Pa' Lah was elected PM and i was lving in Kuala Trengganu and along with most of my fellow Trengganu people it was decided that PAS was not capable of running the state. In my oppinon PAS did not fight all out to get back what was owed the state in terms of the revenues that belonged to the state including the petrolium gratuity. Like their counterparts before them the PAS leaders too were serving their selfinterests better than serving the people's needs.
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. (Plato)

The next general election is looming in the not too distant future and it will be w tie breaker as it is the choise of the lesser of the two evils in every sense of the words. The question of "What if", is plaguing most Malaysians. Their future is being greatly put in the balance and their choice of the next ruling government is as critical as it has never been before; Malaysians are at their politcal cross roads.There will be alot of accusations from both sides and the people with have to look past all these to see the real issues to be tackled by the next government. There is just too much at stake not to care and too little time to waste if we are to ever move ahead as a nation free from political divides.
The differences between revolution in art and revolution in politics are enormous. Revolution in art lies not in the will to destroy but in the revelation of what has already been destroyed. Art kills only the dead. (Harold Rosenberg)

What is prudent for us to look into when the time to cast the ballot comes is to accertain that the country still maintains a strong check and balance with regard to its representative in the parliament. For democracy to work there has to be a strong counter balance that can stand up to any abuse of power or corruption within the system. To maintain the status quo the people will have to be wise is their choices such that it is they who decideds how many seats belongs to who and avoid an emotionaly filled cast of votes that would wipe out one side for the benifit of the other. Malaysia simply cannot afford a one sided government with the absolute authority regardless of who is in the ruling seat.

The world has witnessed the rise and fall of monarchy, the rise and fall of dictatorship, the rise and fall of feudalism, the rise and fall of communism, and the rise of democracy; and now we are witnessing the fall of democracy... the theme of the evolution of life continues, sweeping away with it all that does not blossom into perfection. (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)

When politicians deny anything fiercely, there is a good chance that it will happen. (Semir Zeki)

Monday, September 19, 2011

1MCAT- Malaysian Contemporary Art Tourism

For the past three days I was part of the MCAT event where I had a room provided to display my works and required to do a demonstration of how I work to produce aan art piece. The Malaysian Contemporary Art Tourism event organized by the Tourism Department of Malaysia ivolved many exisitng galleries all over the Penang Island and it was meant to promote the Arts in the area in line with the Tourism Industry. It is hope that Penang would again become the hub for the Arts in the region like it once was. two or three decades ago, penang boasted as the place where it all happened whether in the performing or the fine arts. Many renowned artists and musicians from the old masters such as P.Ramlee and Ahmad Nawab, Alfoso Soleano and Ahmad Marican, the Alley Cats later on laid the path for the entertainment industry. Painters such as Kooi Sui Hoe and Lee Ju For (sp?) Latif Mohideen and Ismail Hashim were among the path finders of Malaysian contemporary art scene.
Today Kuala Lumpur has hijacked the limelight leaving Penang with being known more for the manufacturing of computer chips and Nasi Kandar. The struggle to put Penang back on the Art scene has been undertaken with great effort by those who are involved with the field, those whose love of the Arts transcend their normal vocations. men like Joe Sidek and Leekhai, Ambiga and Khoo Salma have made extraordinary effforts to promote the Arts in Penang. It is with the efforts of these individuals that Penang is slowly growing back into an Artistic and Cultural hub at least for the Northern States of the Malay Peninsula.
The MCAT event is thge Federal Government's involvemnet through its tourism department to help make Penang achieve its vision as a Arts and Cultural hub along with the State Government , however for political reasons this effort is not fully realized as the State is under the opposition governemnt. Penang has become a victim of the political tug -o-war as each side fefuses to give in even if the event is for the benifit of the whole Penangites. Many hard core citizens avoid participating in the events depending on who is sponsoring- State or Federal. Penang is a ship with two captains and they have a hard time working together and so it trickles down to their supporters who for the most are blind followers and supporters not knowing where to draw the line when it comes to working for the benifit of the whole. Top this with racial discrimination and competive edge to be gained one over the other, the citizens of the Island becomes the loosersNeedless to say the MCAT event this year had a poor turn out as even the Minister who was supposed to be here was not able to turn up. The Chief Mininster off course would not find himself anywhere near the premise and rightfully so as in my opinion he should have been invited from the onset of such an event and not side stepped.
I hope in my lifetime to see such an event regardless of who the organizer or for whatever reason it may be that both the federal and State Governement could join hand in hand to make things happen otherwise it is all a waste of good effort, time and money. The politcal divide is costing us the Penangites alot of grief and unnecessary loss of good opportunites. By right there should have been a whole lot of school students at the event and teachers shuld be made to make all the effor they could to get these students to such events so that they can benifit from it. Even artists and performers are split with some suporting while others shunning just is indeed very sad for us all. There no winners when the well being of citizens are being compromized and political expedients takes precedent.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


My son Karim introduced to me a movie he thought would go well with what has been inhabiting my thoughts lately and its called aptly "Idiocracy".

"Idiocracy is a 2006 American film, a satirical science fiction comedy, directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Terry Crews.
The film tells the story of two ordinary people who are taken into a top-secret military hibernation experiment which goes awry, and awaken 500 years in the future. They discover that the world has degenerated into a dystopia where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly stupid human society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility and coherent notions of justice and human rights. Rather, this future society emphasizes anti-intellectualism, popularity, sexual attraction, and hedonism." Wilkipedia
500 years? If we do survive that long the chances are we might just end up being a whole lot worse than just becoming socio-morons and pschyophants we might just degenerate into zombies walking the planet looking for food for thoughts. Slowly but surely we are already paving the way towards such an event with the way our lives are more and more becoming obsessed with staying ahead of the next guy by hook or by crook. We are so driven by competitiveness loosing our humanity as a result.
The ambitious man seems to be the respected entity - the ambitious man, the aggressive man who wants to succeed, to intrigue, to pull strings and so get to the top of the heap. There is everlasting competition not only in the class room of a school but also in daily life, in the attitude of the clerk who feels he must become the manager and the manager the director and the director the board president and so on. This is the established pattern of existence in modern civilization. You see everywhere that man is after success and it is he who is respected, politically at least, and the same attitude exists in the school. We tell the student he is not as good, not as intelligent as another student. We coax the child, goad him, encourage him to compete, to succeed, to arrive at a certain intellectual level. We are worshippers of labels.
To produce the balanced individual, the 'Perfect Man", 'Al Insan Kamil', it is inevitable that we go deeply into the process of revamping education where students are prepared for the global age of communication and integration. We invest in our young as we believe in the fact they are our future and it is in this investment that we have to ensure that they are being honed towards not only their self preservation but the preservation of the whole of mankind. To instill within them the spirit of the "Collective Mind' a wholesome creative and productive mind , selfless and genuine in the spirit of humanity. This is the Universal Mind that will inherit the future, that will safegaurd the integrity of the 'Collective Conciousness'.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Making of Sound Education

The wholesome man, the complete individual is one who is well balanced in his development of both the spiritual and the scientific nature of his mind for these are the two aspects of the mind that are of any value while the rest of it is negative and destructive. A conciousness that encorporate both the truly spiritual as well as the scientific aspect of mind will result in a new mindset with the inherent creative intelligence and sensitivity sorely needed in our modernday society. The mergence of these two aspects of the human mind within each individual student is paramount for the development of future generations through education. Splitting or compartmentalizing the two into seperate studies or different schools creates lopsided thinkers and unwholesome minds, minds that are narrow and insensitive, envious and competitive, minds that cannot see the wholesomeness of life itself.
Education today still promote the old set of values which caters towards the making of money, and acquiring great positions, prestige and power through the supriority of knowledge or having the degrees. The human mind has been watered down to function at the level of a payed slave fitting into socital needs and demands and the education system as practiced today helps to churn out these slaves by the very nature of their methods of conforming and conditioning. The student is led to believe in the system that their forefathers has been victims of in the past, that has to a great extent been the factor that led to this decadent modern day society full of stress and strife. The gridlock of this mental bondage can be broken only by the individual student who is awakened through one way or another by his or her own intelligence by looking beyond the knowledge received through modern day education into that which is free from any form of belief or conditioning; an intelligence acquire through self realization.
Now, how does one bring about, through education, a mind that is entirely different, a mind that is not greedy, not envious? How does one create a mind that is not ambitious, that is extraordinarily active, efficient; that has a real perception of what is true in daily life which is after all religion. How do we create 'The perfect man' through our system of education? A human being is a true human being when the scientific spirit and the true religious spirit go together. A person who does not belong to any religious creed, has no class, no authority; no position in society. He is the true, the new human being, who combines both the scientific and the religious mind, and therefore is harmonious without any contradiction within himself. And I think the purpose of education is to create this new mind, which is explosive, and does not conform to a pattern which society has set.
It is extraordinarily difficult to be religious and to have a clear and precise, scientific mind, to have a mind that is not afraid, that is unconcerned with its own security, its own fears. You cannot have a religious mind without knowing yourself, without knowing all about yourself - your body, your mind, your emotions, how the mind works, how thought functions. And to go beyond all that, to uncover all that, you must approach it with a scientific mind which is precise, clear, un-prejudiced, which does not condemn, which observes, which sees. When you have such a mind you are really a cultured human being, a human being who knows compassion. Such a human being knows what it is to be alive.
Not to be ordinary like the rest of men; with their worries, with their corruption, violence, brutality, indifference, callousness. To want a job, to want to hold on to a job, whether you are efficient or not, to die in the job. That is what is called ordinary - to have nothing new, nothing fresh, no joy in life, never to be curious, intense, passionate, never to find out, but merely to conform. That is what I mean by ordinary. It is called being bourgeois. It is a mechanical way of living, a routine, a boredom.
Based on J.Krishnamurti's thoughts on education.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Education for the future of an ailing society.

Today I was at the cemetery where one of my nieces was laid to rest being operated upon to remove two boils according to my cousin. She suffered from internal bleeding and I wonder what the doctors diagnosis would say of the cause of death. Would they take the trouble to look into this matter or would it just pass as another unexplainable complication or worse yet just one neighbor suggested; she is a victim of the 'dark arts', the black magic She was barely thirty years of age and physical flaw was being overweight. Her father is naturally overwrought with grieve over the loss of his only girl but...such is. It wold be hard for me to imagine loosing my daughter in this manner not without an explanation from the medical board of enquiry. My cousin being the good Muslim that he is accepts the loss as God's will and its fated, case close, end of story.
What is this so call quality of life that we strive for? How do we as common citizen ensure that our right to this good standard of living be protected from abuse or taken for granted by those who holds the power over us like doctors and lawyers, government agencies and the lot that is suppose to serve us to the best of their capabilities? Again it cost a fortune for the hospitalization and the operation being done but yet there is no sense of urgency when a life is lost in the process, not the least decency to provide a cause of what went wrong. All hands are washed, steralized clean and business as usual at the operation theater; blame it on the demon.
Our lives are in the hands of robots with human bodies, minds that are incapable to imagine the grief of those who suffer through their inept and carelessness,their lack of humane sensitivity, their worship of the AlMighty dollar. Nope, this not generalizing but suffice to say, if you are aware and listen hard enough to the day to day moan and groans of the common folks you will hear these feelings being expressed every so often sometimes leaving us wondering if we are living in the New Millenium or back in the dark ages.
There are two instruments available to the human being - the instrument of knowledge which enables him to gain mastery over technical skills, and intelligence which is born of observation and self-knowing. In our modern day education system the later is under-develop or less emphasized and the transmission of this instrument to students by teachers and instructors is often overlooked. To discover the areas where knowledge and technical skills are necessary and where they are irrelevant and even harmful, is one of the fundamental tasks of education, because it is only when the mind learns the significance of the existence of areas where knowledge is irrelevant that a totally new dimension is realized, new energies generated and the unused potentialities of the human mind activated.
For this to happen most thinkers and philosophers would point out that there has to be freedom and inner order of being. The freedom to doubt and question, the freedom to see beyond what is and be assured that such freedom is beyond any judgement or criticism that aims at undermining rather than help to cultivate and improve. Students has to feel safe to explore and experiment beyond the scope of classroom or intellectual domains. They should be guided rather than barred from reaching out into uncharted frontiers of the mind within and without, to grasp what is and has always been forbidden,; to challenge the authority of the present structure, system. society etc. They should be encouraged to explore their own inner being, their psyche and emotions, their ghosts and skeletons, their dreams and nightmares such that they become free of these hidden blocks and enlightened from their dark influences manifesting often in the forms of greed, hate and ignorance; the three illnesses that haunts the human race since the beginning of time.
Thus begins the journey towards self discovery for the student as the basis of his education towards becoming more than just another piece of cog and screw for the existing society to function with, replacing the older worn out ones. He becomes the pioneer for a new far superior generation of movers and shakers that would lead the existing decadent society out of the blight of exploitation, bondage and corruption. He would create a new environment where man would be more sensitive towards each other as well all that is around him. His expertise, in whatever field of vocation, would then be wholesome and more humane in approach when serving society with the realization that; he is society. With this realization he will be able to acknowledge that it is not all about money or getting ahead of the next guy, his wealth is the wealth of the nation, he is the next guy.