Date(s) - 18/05/2019 - 29/06/2019
Our latest exhibition, entitled, For the Few and the Many, brings together two young artists: Nadia Waheed and Haffendi Anuar.
The Piloti has been a recurring theme of Anuar’s work for five years. Pilotis are structural columns made to lift a building from the ground. Haffendi’s Malaysian heritage has fed into an interest in the use of these architectural elements in Southeast Asian architecture; in this part of the world, they are used to elevate buildings from floods and dangerous ground-dwelling animals such as snakes and scorpions.
The sculptures in this exhibition are crafted from store-bought melamine tableware like cups and sauce bowls, typically used in Malaysian homes and hawker shops. In an allusion to architectural construction, the sculptures are coated in layers of sand, cement, latex, and puttyfilla. With a repetitive (somewhat ritualistic) method, the artist painted each Piloti with up to one hundred layers of paint–one in the morning, one in the afternoon. This temporal element further arises through Anuar’s hand-sanding of the surface, exposing the inner layers; the effect is almost like a faux-antique, where the passage of time’s corrosion and patination of the surface has been replicated. The resultant surface texture is akin to that of a living creature: organic, irregular, liquesant. The sculptures’ original form as steadfast columns (used to hold heavy buildings) have been diminished–now, placed on the floor, they look like small, vulnerable lifeforms.
This notion of vulnerability extends into the paintings of Nadia Waheed. Waheed explores ideas of selfhood, the brown female body, and ‘the other’ through large-scale painting. Waheed’s process is one of continuous refinements and intuitive mark-making. Whilst she initially works from quick sketches, when applying paint to canvas Waheed engages in a kind of conversation with the work (or conversations between multiple works); a dialogue of lived-experiences and emotions. Pakistani women are painted in bold colours (hiding their true skin colour), with cultural signifiers such as bridal mehndi, razai blankets, and long braided hair being the elements that form the individuals’ identities. This particular body of work paints an image of quiet and enduring resilience; uncelebrated and invalidated effort to survive in the face of adversity. This feeds into an overarching exploration: a questioning of what ‘womanhood’ means. Does resilience look different on a woman? If so, how?
Based in Kuala Lumpur, but having lived in London, Rhode Island, and China, Anuar’s works are primarily based around the varied landscapes that surround him. Sculpture’s ineluctable link to the landscape (through movements such as land art and, more simply, public sculptures), allow the artist to explore notions of modernisation, urban fluctuation, and architectural vernaculars. An example would be his ‘Pilotis’ series, which appropriate the forms of traditional columns found supporting Malaysian buildings. Brightly coloured like street art murals, the sculptures explore not just the physicality of these architectural elements, but the immaterial elements of them that work to form the urban landscape–such as the power monuments and skyscrapers display when built alongside traditional buildings.
Haffendi Anuary (b. 1985, Seremba, Malaysia) lives and works in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He studied BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, London, UK. Solo exhibitions include: ‘Midday Stanza’, Richard Koh Fine Art, Singapore (2019); ‘Migratory Objects’, Volta New York, New York City (2017); ‘Elephant Utopia’, Future Section, Art Taipei, Taipei City (2015); and ‘M13’, Richard Koh Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur (2015). Group Exhibition include ‘Summer of Love’, J:Gallery x Design Republic, Shanghai (2018); ‘Flotsam, Jetsam, Lagan and Derelict’, A.I. Gallery, London, UK (2018); ‘New Look’, Christine Park Gallery, New York, USA (2018); and ‘head heap heat’, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore (2018).
Nadia Waheed’s works are very often autobiographical. Born in Saudi Arabia, the artist originally hails from Karachi, Pakistan, but has lived in places such as Islamabad, Paris, Sydney, Cairo, and the USA. In fact, she hasn’t lived in the same place for longer than four years. This movement–and particular the stark cultural shifts she has experienced–have significantly affected her artistic trajectory, placing her in the position of having experienced vastly differing perceptions of female selfhood. Boldly coloured and often densely patterned in areas, Waheed’s paintings are as visually eclectic as her worldly experiences. The figures depicted are vehicles upon which the artist builds symbols and metaphors pertaining to her Pakistani heritage, her westernisation, and explorations of the brown female nude–a taboo subject that would have been difficult to directly deal with in Pakistan. By painting her subjects’ skin in fanciful colours, the artist questions what it is that designates race. ‘What really signifies one’s identity,’ questions Waheed, ‘do they have to be painted brown to be brown?’ Cultural signifiers are rife in her paintings: bridal mehndi, long braided hair, patterned razai blankets. But these images are often stripped down, forcing us to read behind the more overt symbols, often unearthing a dark narrative. In Odalisque, for instance, an image of a MOAB hangs on the back wall, signifying impending doom–a fact made pertinent by the knowledge that the noun odalisque means ‘female slave or concubine’. In Nikka (Pink) a woman’s hands and arms are decorated with bridal mehndi, but missing is the adornation of heavy jewelry and clothing typical of Pakistani weddings–instead, the figure stands nude, vulnerable, clutching her hands for comfort whilst a white flag waves in the background. Elements such as these, say Waheed, ‘are metaphors for the constraints that come with the expectation of women in Pakistani culture; things may look innocuous at first, but on second glance take on a darker context’.
NADIA WAHEED (b. 1992, Al Khobar, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia) lives and works in Austin, TX. She graduated with a BFA in Painting & Drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. Solo exhibitions include: ‘Eight Chicks in a Pod’, Bolm Studios, Austin, TX (2018). Group exhibitions include: ‘Hear Me Out’, ARC Victoria, Melbourne, Austrlia (2017); and ‘Closing Party’, The Space, Sydney Austrlia (2017). Future solo exhibitions in 2019 will take place at The Museum of Human Achievement, Austin, TX as well as another solo at Raw Paw Gallery, Austin, TX along with a 2-person show at BEERS London, UK in May (2019).