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    Malaysia Contemporary Art Issues: Art As Idea-A View From Jalaini Abu Hassan Essay

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    In this discussion, we will discuss on how the art act as an idea in Malaysia contemporary art scoop and Jalaini Abu Hassan is one of the Malaysia leading contemporary artist will be the panel for this session. Jai has been known for his aggressive and rough, energetic painting and Malay identical can always be found in his paintings.

    We also look at Jai’s Beijing case study which lead him to produce Halal (2007) to get an idea of how the environment and new surrounding also can be idea to produce artwork. However, the discussion also bring us towards his earlier painting and how the painting process done to get such a mark or why did he leave his painting look unfinished to show that actually it is complete.

    There will be area of interest and analysis of artwork which some of his work been view by different perspective and interesting critics which shown that reading a painting could be very subjective. It depends on the background of audience and how they accept the idea of artist also important on how the view would be made.

    Issue Discussed

    Issue that we discussed here is how idea can be form through experience, new surrounding, and social current issues. Through experience which is for Jai he has been into two discipline of art practise which is in Slade School of Art has known for strict, orthodox and conservative style of producing artwork whereas when hes in Pratt, New York Jai has been more towards new fresh and very abstract in forming an artwork. Towards both different experiences, comes a unique presentation of artwork from Jai which is structured, very fond of block lettering yet very abstract in idea, movement and flow of drawing, leaving marks as a process of intelectual. Jai also believe that an artist inspiration or subject matter is always all about yourself or personal.

    New surrounding is about Beijing case study which Jai been isolated and feel very alienated because of failure to mix around wth surrounding and the Chinese character make him uneasy with not knowing what the character mean/say. Then he realizes of how strong of the wording halal in our community then comes the idea to produce the Halal painting. How strong the word is been highlighted by using capital block letters that printed on left of the painting.

    This also include some of the social issues in the drawing which is how closeness of Malay and halal word but only for food source and how the handling of product. Hence comes to social, we still blinded fold, unaware of that our society need treatment badly.

    Focus of Discussion

    In this forum we discussed of the source and how idea is form. From Jais view, idea comes from experience, environment, current issues and social background of the artist. In this case, trip to Beijing is the ideal example of how new experience and surrounding effect the artist impression and uplifting a new idea from the current experience. Jai encounter of new knowledge when in Beijing encourage him to produce Halal artwork which contain the feeling of alienated and uneasyness feeling of the Chinese character lead him to use the character itself in the drawing.

    One of the main ideas is halal word or term has been a very strong influence in our daily life even we unaware about it. In Beijing case study, it shown that the unfamiliar to the Chinese character has been a very strong reason not to believe of the source of food either it is halal or not. Although the Chinese characther only show the name of meat part, still he doubt about it because of the alienated feeling of that character. This show that how strong the wording halal for Muslim society in Malaysia and how the misunderstood can caused just because there isnt Arabic or Romanic alphabet to stated halal.

    Jai also feel that wording is very important to act as open channel for communication purpose and from the letter itself it would be a very different perspective because it can lead to importance of understanding.

    Area of Interest

    One of the interest in this topic is when comes to the process of development of Jais artwork previously and the subject that he always bring up in his drawing. He always plays around with a lot of medium such as charcoal, watercolour and oil paint. He like challenge in making drawings and always turn to other medium when he realize that he already feel the easyness with current medium.

    As we can see that Jai also expose to two ways of education which is orthodox and abstract. This also brings influence to Jais drawing before he went to Pratt and after. Using himself as reference, still Jai include Malay identity within his notice. Example of Pisang Rebus artwork, he still very fond of including any other subject matters such as ikan masin and Malay house interior.

    Banana or pisang actually is main Malay cultural food that always been used in kenduri or after Jumaat prayer as token or sedekah. Ikan masin and pisang rebus is one of dish for village folks which are very rare and unknown in big city. Its much related to the Malay interior which he includes as a background in this drawing.

    Any other interest is the composition of drawing which he always leave a mark or white background to make sure that it is balance in composition and to show the intelectual process. Using caption or block lettering is also one of Jais signatures in his style. He stated that lettering also can be used as a caption or as one of the drawing element. It also carries certain set of consistent, political, revolution, war and strong statement.

    Analysis of Artwork

    Jai is very much talented artist and he also profound not using only one medium, but versatile. He like playing around with charcoal, watercolour and acrylic not forget bitumen also in the list. Example he use charcoal way back in 1993 in Sesiput and he using it again in Mantera series (2004).

    As we can see the using of solid colours such as black not making the drawing boring

    but make it more interesting as we can see the movement, line and strengh of drawing being emerge. Leaving marks and look dirty, yet the painting still attract audience in many way like composition which is very well structed, and leaving white canvas as second colour and wording insert in the painting.

    Experimental drawing such as Tribute to Latiff Mohidin (2005) sees that Jai using pattern and imperfection, overlapping image and background to set that there is no primary or secondary subject in this painting, is a very succesfull attempt to create new findings and idea in Malaysia art scene.

    As we can see that ambigous are set clearly creating images that equal which mean Latiff Mohidin is same like Malay kerawang – aesthetic, important for social Malay culture, yet very humble and down to earth person. The significant of Malay identity shown very loud and clear in this drawing with the use of kerawang, and not to forget that rooster image shown on the left side is always act as second subject matter. In this drawing Jai run a little bit from using dark colour and charcoal but he use very yellowish, strong vibrant colours but still he leave a white background.

    Then comes the Halal inspired after the Beijing trip. Using Chinese character in his drawing to show the part of meat (which he wrong interperated at the first encounter) bring up the issues of the word halal which has been used widely in Malaysia but not in China. The uneasyness, alianated and suffercation when being there has been transfer to canvas and Halal being produce to remind how big the impact and effect of halal terms towards Malay society.

    In this drawing Jai still play around with ambigous image which is the background is blending with the main image of Malay village man and a buffalo. Jai still maintain his style which is leaving stains or marks, and a blank space in this drawing act as separator. The halal stencil printed on top as a statement or title of drawing and colours yet again he use mixture of dark brown and black as dominon colour.


    In this forum, we can resume that art can act not only as medium for artist to speak, but also a very straight forward presentation which contain all about the artist view and experience. Once again, its all about the artist personal and individual thoughts that been interpreted onto canvas to share with public. In matters of contemporary art in Malaysia, Jai always caught the audience with his own style and fusion of narrative kampung elements with modern global culture make his drawing a very successful. Noor Mahnun : 2004 said that Acts like alchemist, Jai turning bitumen and charcoal into world of wonder that beyond expectation.

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