Malaysia is a diverse country enriched with multi-cultures, religions, and tradition. The art culture gives an identity and personality towards the Malaysian society. Although the art scene in Malaysia is still growing and it is still trying to get more recognition in the international exposure, the art culture is enriched with beautiful histories, traditions, and heritage. If you like to study and understand more on the Malaysian and South East Asian art culture, Kuala Lumpur could be your first stop.
KLCC (also known as Petronas Twin Towers)
The Petronas Twin Towers is an iconic skyscraper and a symbolic monument in Malaysia. The building has 88 floors including the shopping mall, hotels, and beautiful parks. The shopping mall, Suria KLCC is located underneath the Petronas Twin Towers. The mall is always filled with locals and tourists. It is a good shopping destination too.
You can take the train (LRT) to the KLCC LRT Station or you can just hop on Grab or Uber and it is very convenient as there are many available drivers around Kuala Lumpur. I took a Grab car because the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is very congested during the weekends. So it is best if you take Uber or Grab if you could not find a public transport around your area.
The preservation of contemporary art in Malaysia: Galeri Petronas
Galeri Petronas is an art gallery formed by Petronas, Malaysia’s National Oil and Gas company. It is located at Level 3 in Suria KLCC shopping mall. The gallery showcases visual arts and art installations. They host exhibitions, talks, classes and many more. Most of the exhibitions discuss the history of the Malayan art culture and how it influenced the modern society today.
ALEGORI Exhibition: Contemporary Art Expressions from Malay Manuscripts
Recently I visited an exhibition to inspire myself and immerse in the Malaysian arts. Sometimes, I go to art exhibitions during my free time and it is always a different and unique experience. The admission is free and all you need to do is register your name and email at the front counter. The exhibition I went was called ALEGORI and it explores the Malay culture derived from the olden Malay manuscripts and the exhibitors/ artists involved create a very metaphorical concept related to the Malaysian society.
Artists from different South East Asian countries, including Malaysia, come together and showcase 10 different contemporary art installations to express South East Asia’s cultural and traditional elements. I did not get to take all the pictures during my visit because I was too busy studying and admiring the art details and concept. Therefore, I could only manage to take a few installations I really liked.
These are a few of the installations that captivated me.
Art Installation 1: Malaysia
This artwork is made by Samsudin Wahab. The display represents two human sculptures, one is covered with salted fish and the other covered in dried tamarind. In the Malay expression, the human salted fish (orang ikan masin) are also associated with smelly people as salted fish has a very strong and pungent odor and it is also a common ingredient and delicacy in Malaysia. The dried tamarind represents the Malaysian saying, “kurang asam”, which meant impolite & the saying usually expresses irritation and annoyance. I was truly and shocked by the approach the artist was portraying. I really admire his bravery & thought to display the artworks covered in pungent ingredients being displayed in a fancy gallery.
From afar, I really thought it was just a normal sculpture, but when I got closer and paid attention to the details, I was indeed shocked and impressed.
Art Installation 2: Myanmar
This installation is my personal favorite because it is heartwarming and unique. “A Monument For My Mother” by Htein Lin is a huge textile installation representing a mosquito net. The mosquito net is a very symbolic element in South East Asian countries as it is commonly used since the olden days until today. Mosquito nets are used in local homes throughout generations.
The artist explains how his mother used to collect scraps from dressmakers to make school bags for him and his two brothers when they were much younger. He was very embarrassed at the fact that his mum could not afford a school bag, but later he understood his mother’s love and effort and decided to create an installation to show his respect towards his mother.
I was really touched by the concept he was conveying and the installation was beautiful and mesmerizing. There were so many fabrics with different patterns, materials, and colours. When everything was sewn and put together, it creates a vibrant space and it also gave me a very magical experience. The fabric patterns really hit me back during my younger days where I would visit textile shops to choose fabrics for my projects. The patterns and colours really gave me an old-school yet nostalgic feeling, therefore it was very personal to me. The artwork covers a lot of space and I took a lot of photos at every angle, yet it still looks different in every photo. That installation really inspired me as an artist.
Other Art Installations
There are many other installations that were very interesting and captivating. If you’re into art and culture, Galeri Petronas is a good head start towards your artistic travels. There are many art galleries and museums in Kuala Lumpur, but if you’re staying nearby Bukit Bintang, you can take a short visit the Petronas Twin Towers and Galeri Petronas in Suria KLCC.
I really enjoyed the time there and I hope I can visit more of these exhibitions soon. Galeri Petronas also hosts talks, seminars, and free short classes throughout the year. Although the ALEGORI exhibition was only until February, there are many more exhibitions to come throughout the year. You can visit Galeri Petronas’s website for more upcoming events.