Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Group exhibit presents youthful generation’s vision of Malaysia

Group exhibit presents youthful generation’s vision of Malaysia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sharina Shahrin’s ‘Wanita’ series (digital print on canvas, 2018). Low Boon Tat/The Star

Group exhibit presents youthful generation’s vision of Malaysia

There's food on the walls of Balai Seni Maybank, and it smiles at you. The Rojak Project, an initiative by social enterprise TRP Creatives, has 49 digital portraits made from local food by workshop participants here. The food spans diverse styles, tastes, cuisines – as diverse as the faces they form.

This series is part of the MerdekaMalaysiaMillennial exhibition at the art gallery at Menara Maybank in Kuala Lumpur, where the spotlight is on millennials and what they have to say.

In conjunction with Merdeka Day and the Malaysia Day celebrations, 11 artists and collectives under the age of 40 have come together to present works that reflect their thoughts, hopes and dreams.

“Their voices are critical as millennials represent the future. It is therefore important to have some sort of insight into their personality, taste and proclivities,” says curator Tan Sei Hon.

Sceptics are hard to please, though. How often do we hear an elder complaining about “those young people” who can never seem to live up to expectations of the generation before them?

“Every generation is fairly and unfairly judged according to the standards of the previous generation or generations. The millennials are no different. But after three generations of maintaining the same predictable outlook, one would or should hope for different narratives to emerge if we are concerned about the direction the country will take in the future.

“If not, it shows we have not really moved forward or, at least, meaningfully towards a direction that reflects the ideals a successive generation would have,” adds Tan.

Although MerdekaMalaysiaMillennial is by no means preachy – in fact, it offers very few overused symbols of “unity” in its artworks – it manages to address hard-hitting topics like social disparities, artificial intelligence and its implications, feminism and the effects of post-colonialism among the young generation of the country.

Alvin Lau’s Hierarchical Progression has a pigeon and a rooster perched on different levels, while in another photograph, where a ladder reaches to the sky, he has chosen to title it Gets You Closer To Nowhere.

“I set out to create a series of images that embody the spirit of hard work that we as individuals strive to pave on a daily basis. The idea was to explore the concept of hard work and its subtleties,” Lau says in his artist statement.

R+, a research arm of GDP Architects, has seven artworks depicting the country’s history in stamps. It effortlessly juxtaposes architectural elements and the nostalgia of stamp-collecting, against the instant gratification of social media updates.

At the other end of the gallery, Sharina Shahrin’s visually striking series titled Wanita is surely a standout in this show.

“Through the use of local textile and batik, the images of women shown here represent the shift from the rejection and neglect of Malaysia’s cultural identity to the adoption and acclamation of it. These images seek to encapsulate a modern narrative of Malaysian women . . . one that contests the Western ideals of beauty constructed in our post-colonial history,” she says.

Almost all the artists in MerdekaMalaysiaMillennial are designers, illustrators and photographers, a departure from the visual artists gathering that we are perhaps more used to.

To Tan, it is interesting to see what this group of millennials can come up with, using all the tools at their disposal, which also happens to be their everyday.

“The technology for creativity and self-expression are readily available at one’s fingertips these days; the younger generation are the recipients and the active users of such tools. Art can be fun and accessible, yet still allow the individual to express something personal, hopeful and unique on topics that can sometimes be heavy,” he points out.

Tan comments that it is high time we have more exhibitions by designers, photographers and architects as they form the broader part of the local creative commercial industry.

“These people are its foundation and driving force, yet not many opportunities are given to them to showcase their talent. I hope more millennials will come out and share their creativity and artistry on subjects that matter to them. Being exposed to their work will broaden our definition of art and will also encourage others to explore these areas for art-making,” he says.

Accompanying the exhibition are short pieces by writer Sharyn Shufiyan, author of the recently released book Tapestry: Weaving Through Malaysia’s Social And Cultural Complexities.

“We may not be able to connect with our past, but we can create the future. And as we grapple to find a unique Malaysian identity, perhaps we should find refuge and comfort in that there is more than one identity, given that we are a society of mixed ancestry and many histories. There is nothing wrong with being a pendatang,” Sharyn writes.

The Star (Malaysia)


  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting