Tuesday, February 28, 2006

studio LDA - What's art? studio LDA explores:

Wei Meng’s Painting 2005 – Hidden path, 73x60 cm, acrylic on canvas.


It is probably the most common question for a first year art student and a full time artist alike.
Simple it may seem, the answer to this question, the search of the answer, and even the question itself, implicate actually a main force that makes the frame work of civilization and existence of humanity. Should this force dissipate, so would the quality and the well being of a society. As the subject itself bears such an important social function, it really should have been a concern of more. Not just of me, and you that stumble upon this article. For this simple reason, this article is written with no reference to any theory or philosophy of art. It’s for all, just like art.


Having found the studio LDA in late year 2005, and started the web page http://www.studiolda.com/ early 2006, I have always wanted to explore this topic. Thinking this exploration could be an appropriate life long project of the studio. And I believed the topic is very much apt for the Malaysia context too, as Malaysians are generally materialists whom either consciously or subconsciously, knows little or none about art. Sorry, really no malicious intent, its only a fact. On the contrary, I would love to see disagreement, and someone prove me wrong, because I love this country. I might have no material statistics proving the case, it is however not difficult for one to feel, see, and then judge for oneself, whether there is a significant presence of art in this society. After all, feeling, seeing and judging are the fundamentals of art, not the statistics and words. Art is not an intellectual matter; this is a matter of living a life. I hope through the study of this subject, I can empirically deduce a better understanding of the meaning of art.

Asking a question

Maybe you could start by asking yourself on how would you value art:
By the cost of the material that produced the art work?
Maybe with a little more on the cost of time spent by the artist?
Putting affordability aside, what is your level of willingness to invest in a four thousand ringgit painting that you like versus a hi-fi set of the same market value, assuming you haven’t got a hi-fi set already in your house?
Would you object to an art college education of your children’s choice knowing that the course is likely not “money making”?

Looking away from yourself,
Do your friends think art is important to their life?
How would your friends evaluate art works?
How would the society in general assess status of artists and their works?

You could go on and ask many more questions to help yourself in assessing the Malaysian art scene. And you might be lucky enough to stumble upon an exception, but in general I am sure your conclusion of the general art scene in Malaysia is really pretty…. gloomy. The existence of art in the country is pretty decorative to a living room as well as in the society.

Embarking myself upon this exploration, I and my wife first started on conversation with friends, colleagues and family members, which sadly prove our speculation right. While we were in the midst of this exploration, we came to realize our main concern is probably not to get an answer. We have through conversations; identify a bigger problem with all these people. Contentment, yes, I probably could not find a better word to describe this scenario. Any how, most of the people we talked to are pretty contented with the current status. And now they have lost the capacity to be curious, suspicious, and the ability to question.

What seem to have been left in these people’s life is the “pursuance” which is nothing more than a process of compliance to a predefined framework that allows these people to gain acceptance to the “high society”, titles, privileges and promotion. This has become the biggest scale for valuation for all. To the extent that it dominates the very fundamental of works was originally meant to serve life! To this group of people, art is seen as a refinement of material enjoyment that they will spend on, provided all the material needs have already been fulfilled. Ownership to art works becomes an endorsement of wealth and confirmation of tastefulness of high society. That is life. That is art. This is the current definition. And this is a fact.

Well, this is the truth, at least to those who believe in it. However, lingering within my mind still one or two problems that I cannot come to term with. Otherwise I would have been comfortably fitting in the scene.

1. I find the overall process of art is of compliance rather than a creation.
2. I could not identify the idea of elevation in culture and humanity other than material improvement.

At this stage of exploration, I conclude in part, art must besides being honest, for these people in the mad race are honest and hard working people ; art must also be creative and inquisitive. (I don’t mean just being different, as an individual’s creative exploration may land on some body’s old path of exploration. Who care if my work looked like somebody’s work? This is a different question to be discussed in other session). This capacity of productivity must arise from a conscious sense of feeling. The conscious ability to see, smell, touch, tastes, and to hear, which when combine with an individual’s thinking, becomes the capacity to be inquisitive and creative.

Giving an answer

So that’s only answer in part. What’s more of art?
Here are some of the answers attempted by my colleagues from an architectural consultancy:

Art is a profession. I like this answer very much and I find it interesting. A professional maintains his integrity, and he's integrity is at all time under jurisdiction of a law and professional board. So what is governing the integrity of an artist and his work? It must be self conscience.
Art is something for people to appreciate.
Art is something you feel and it’s refined.
Art is my name. It’s cool.
Art is an expression of opinion.
Art is something to do with your left brain.
Art is life and soul.
Art is contradictory and slow.
Art is about value.
Art is …..

I can perhaps go on and on quoting, but you should have an answer for your self. Think carefully before answering the question, and answer it honestly. There is no grading for it. It’s simply a matter of making an honest decision or forming an opinion. Art making is also a decision and opinion making arises from the senses and feeling of an artist.

So I noticed. The answers sometimes refer to a product, sometimes refers to a process. And it sometimes refers to characteristics. Is art a product? It is really difficult for me to conclude in this case. Rene Descartes said “I think therefore I am.” While we look at an object, thinking is imposed upon it by us, the viewers. While the artist is creating a work, thinking is imposed upon the work through process. But one thing for sure, without a product, an artist is not able to express his opinion. If the product cannot be captured in physical form, it might have to be recorded in photos, scripts, and video. Maybe whether art is a product or not, is a non question. It is whether it has the pulse of life and thinking behind to be qualified as art? That is more appropriate as a question.

Senses (with different level of sensitivity) -> Adding individual thinking -> Feeling -> Analysis (conscious or subconscious) -> Respond (art work as poem, painting, sculpture, installation….)

The search over the rainbow is within the hidden path

Maybe we all are dreamers. It is just we all dream different in one way or another from each other. What ever dream we dream, there is always motive, pushing us and sustain us to somewhere over the rainbow. The motif of art is not quite defined by an individual. It is a natural character of art. This character has kept on pushing the development of human civilization. Using knife as a metaphor, it has been changing from a simple stone knife to a metal knife, to a more functional knife, and a more beautiful knife…and on and on. This spirit of change has brought up many civilizations, leaving behind many beautiful art works when the civilization collapsed. And this spirit works again and again to evolve us to what we are today. It is not the development of technology and science that change the world. Science and technology are but tools, it is this soul of kindness, which always seeks to elevate things to higher plane, search for truth and beauty that built this civilization. The name of the soul is called art. Strictly speaking, any thing without this soul is not qualified to the noble name.


I am not a spontaneous writer. Writing comes hard through thinking of facts. I often think first when I come into contact with any art work. Usually, I would refrain myself from judging on what pleases my senses, and try to understand what the artist want to say. When I looked first at this painting by Wei Meng during my second meeting with him, and it was my first time of seeing his work, I thought I saw possible sign of life in a sand dune. He told me that painting was named “The hidden path”. If this is all about art? What’s really behind the sand dune? What does the abstract sky and sea indicate to the artist……? Is this his view of life and the Malaysian art scene? This is what art means to him. So what is art to you?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

studio LDA - For politics, religion or for life?

For politics, religion or for life?

A tv news on19th Feb 06 reported somewhere in a middle east country, there was a call to enlist human bombs.
I was shocked to see on the video clips, so many men and women responded so fervently. My sister said these applicants have probably in the war thorn country lost all their family members. So there is little for them to worry about in such engagement.
I think this might be the biggest reason that fans the heat of the enlistment. It is not for the belief in religion, not for politics. It’s when you live on without your love ones, life is meaningless. Hatred left in the hearts becomes weapons of politicians.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

studioLDA - Views on middle class art development in Malaysia

Friedrich ( a blogger from 2blowhards) ventures some broad generalizations of middle class art scene, his part writing quoted below in italic:

(1) Looking at Romanticisim, Symbolism, Art-Nouveau, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism—and how such art-movements differed from the art of earlier centuries dominated by aristocracies—one would have to conclude that middle class people are particularly fascinated by their own inner mental world. Possibly as a result of their highly disciplined economic lives, they seem endlessly intrigued by irrationality, or what Victor Hugo termed “the grotesque.”
(2) Looking at the many varieties of “social realism” that have been hardy perennials of middle-class art, middle-class people are avid students of, and apparently rather insecure about their position in, the social order.
(3) Middle-class art seems far less interested in grace and finesse (i.e., in “workmanship”) than art produced by working-class artisans. It also put much less emphasis on being ingratiating or charming. Indeed, middle-class artists seem to be actively suspicious of charm .

Views from look of studio LDA in Malaysian's context :
I really envy the coherent and consistent art development of the west. In my opinion, the art development of the east has much been interrupted by political instability and social up heaves. Maybe the learning from the west could be used as a tool for reconnection.

(1) I do not think the middle class of Malaysian are fascinated by their inner mental world. Instead mindless economic ( material) pursuit of the middle class at large is contributing to the grotesqueness.

(2) The insecurity is both self created by the artists and also due to general lack of appreciation of art by the society . What art can a society talk about when the emphasis of life hinges only on economic gain, and success is measured by how much money is in your pocket ?

(3) Its always easier to please with grace and finesse . That’s what the Malaysian “ high society” love best for now. Some artists work on that… but I am glad there are still some artists that choose to question the society and trying to make things visible for others through their works. I guess it’s easier to make graceful art work for religion (and my wife and daughter).


look from www.studiolda.com