The Fotoseni The exhibition at the National Art Gallery’s Portrait Gallery in Kuala Lumpur may not be a big deal, but it’s a rare event where photography enthusiasts and art lovers can trace the evolution of the photographic art in Malaysia, as well as its application to contemporary art.
Fotoseni presents more than 30 exhibitions (photographs, paintings and multimedia works) and 100 digital works.
These works produced between 1963 and 2020 by local artists are taken from the collection of the National Art Gallery (NAG). Some of the featured artists include Abdul Latiff Mohidin, Yee I-Lann, Fuad Arif, Soraya Yusof Talismail, and Redza Piyadasa.
“Think of the exhibition as a journey that photography has gone through within the context of the Malaysian art scene, from a medium used to document, to becoming art itself. This is why we named the exhibition as such. From photography to art, so photo art“, explains the curator Haikhal Zulkifli.
A vintage print by the late Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, the country’s fourth king and avid photographer, also takes pride of place in the exhibition.
At Fotoseni exhibition, a collection of photographs donated by the late Datuk Loke Wan Tho, philanthropist, business magnate and collector, is sure to interest art historians and curious visitors.
The NAG is currently the repository of over 500 black and white photographs donated by Loke, making it the largest collection of photographs in his custody.
Two original photographs from the early 1960s and over 40 reprints, selected from 2006 Loke’s Legacy: The Photograph Collection of Dato’ Loke Wan Tho exhibition and publication, are presented.
If you want to scroll through the entire collection, an interactive screen and tablet allow you to browse the extensive inventory.
Additionally, Haikhal mentions that what the exhibition shows is that “photography can also be used to enhance artistic creation, including installation art.”
It refers to the artist-scholar Nor Azizan Rahman Paiman sky kingdom series. This is the Perak-based artist’s series of social commentaries on the religious sect “Kerajaan Langit” based in Besut, Terengganu, founded by Ayah Pin.
The sky kingdom The series includes 14 digital photo prints which show the artist wearing a gas mask, carrying a briefcase and sitting in a chair in various local towns as well as Putrajaya. The exhibit includes the briefcase and the chair.
“If his exhibit was just a prop exhibit, it might not make much sense to viewers. But by using photography, he was able to elevate his subject,” says Haikhal.
“When photography first appeared, people said that painters would become useless. But photography is not to overthrow the artist but to help him create greater things,” he adds.
At Yee’s Horizon Seriespremiered in Australia in 2003, audiences can revisit the way she placed the people, architecture and objects of Malaysia on the horizon-clear landscape of South Australia and created a silent, eerie yet surrealist.
For attention to detail, Chan Kok Hooi’s photorealism Boleh! (2003) painting is another gallery highlight, showing how photographic collage methods can hold their own.
More than a photography exhibition, Fotoseni is also part of NAG’s ongoing curatorial research project.
A collection of materials such as past publications and exhibition catalogs and biographical archives from the Art Resource Center and NAG’s Publications and Documentation Department are also on display.
Fotoseni will run until February 2023. Free admission to all NAG exhibitions.
More info here.