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Sabri Idrus

Altered Perspective – Gina Fairley


17 Jalan Pawang 54000 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia T +603 4251 4396 F +603 4251 4331

Despite its title Antara – a Malay word for being caught ‘in-between’ – this exhibition has little feeling of uncertainty or stasis. Rather, these paintings embrace a dynamism and surety in their making. They address a singular proposition and their execution is evidence of the artist’s intent and maturity. The ‘in-between’, then, is merely a tag used as a stopgap when our 21st century compulsion to categorize and assign ‘meaning’ falters. Simply, it’s antara.

In recent years this term has taken on an inflection in global art circles to describe the peripatetic artist – born here, lives there, works here and there – a translocality that is celebrated as the very nature of ‘contemporary art’. It is a new breed of place-politics and it hangs its hat on the neutrality of its fissures.


43 Jalan Merah Saga #01-72 Workloft @ Chip Bee Singapore 278115 T +65 6476 4788 F +65 6476 4787 BALI

W Retreat & Spa Bali Jalan Petitenget Seminyak Bali, Indonesia T +62 361 4738106 F +62 361 4738104



ISBN 978 - 981- 07-3525- 8 PAPERBACK

978 - 981- 07-3534 - 0 E-BOOK

I would like to thank everyone who has helped me to make the exhibition runs smoothly, in particular Suherwan Abu & TAKSU Singapore & Kuala Lumpur team, Gina Fairley, Mr. Lim Peng Koon the studio owner, Ipartnership & team, The Painting Hall team, Eddie Chan Time Photography, Jeffrey Lim- Print design, to all my gurus, fellow colleagues at the School of architecture UiTM and to all my artist friends.

Special Thanks: Norhana Yunos, my sons; Zaim, Adib, Waie and my mother Hajah Sabariah Hj. Hassan for their patience and undying support; who has believed and trusted in my skills and my art which made this exhibition possible.


Ranch mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012 cover:

New York mixed media on canvas 178 x 260 cm / 2012



But what about these paintings, how do they ‘visually’ occupy this layered semiotic zone of the in-between? Sabri plays out a curious proposition across this suite of works using ‘sameness’ as the moderator for observation. Working from the simple proposition to present thirteen canvases of identical size and orientation, the premise was an even playing field so that our engagement was reduced to a purely formal dialogue: line, surface, form. In conversation Sabri explained,

“I wanted to remove all narrative elements so that these works rest entirely in their material being. I wanted to look at painting as object, not as the object of making.” Arena mixed media on canvas 178 x 229 cm / 2012

Scanning across this group of paintings there is no disjuncture, no gaps or furrows. The spatial conversation flows from one painting to the next; it finds its nexus in the passage of Sabri’s career and yet pushes forward with clear understanding of a direct proposition and material exploration. The in-between has become the point of definition, not non-definition.


Perspective is an interesting element to this discussion. Perspective is conventionally defined as ‘the way in which objects appear to the eye based on their spatial attributes’. How variant is it dependent on our position? Does it account for the in-between? For Sabri

“the abstract is non-perspective.” He continued,


“I want to readdress perspective as a drawing mode. I want to invest in material as content.” While as viewers we may struggle to disconnect from conventional perspective looking at the painting New York, for example, hard-wired to read its title against its driving angles that firmly locate us in relation to the object, Sabri offers an alternate answer with the painting History. Its spiraling dramatic red lines on a black ground, while seemingly leading us back to a vanishing point, flatten perspective to drawing - a linear abstraction in 2-dimensional space.

History mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012



Stead mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012

To further dissect this proposition one might consider Sabri’s idea of articulating perspective through ‘material content’. What does this mean? The painting Stead (2012) offers a good example. Sabri constructed a 12ft dome in his studio to test and observe how the movement of paint would react on the surface of the dome, responding to form, gravity, and time. He approached the painting as an ‘object engagement’ foremost. What we are witness to is a facsimile of that experiment, a kind of report of its outcome flattened again into a 2-dimensional plane. We are not looking at a dome; we are looking at the material reaction to an object.


“These points are not to polarize the intended occurrences – the natural and the self-imposed – but to acknowledge the reciprocities between the created work and the creation of work. The textures are manifestation of moments that concede space as finite while time is not, and that time encompasses space.”


The lessons learnt in Sabri’s earlier series inform these new paintings. As he explains, “The drips I have drawn from my Masa series (2010); and their internal light from Keroncong series (2006).” It is an accumulative vocabulary and it is spoken through Sabri’s choice of materials and the physicality of the built form. Process has long been the silent subject of Sabri’s works. He is an architect of ideas.

California mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012


As viewers we can see the connection between architecture and materials across this exhibition, most obvious in the paintings California and New York, or even Cage, Kosong and Cave where an abstract composition of lines allude to a built structure and its materials, such as concrete, glass, or steel, that are quite literally adopted by Sabri in the work’s making. In Cave, for example, he used plaster to build surface texture, ridges, and polish, a calibration of the craftsman and the built form. The material object overrides the narrative. 10

left top:

Location 01 mixed media on canvas 89 x 229 cm / 2012 left bottom:

Location 02 mixed media on canvas 89 x 229 cm / 2012 right:

Cage mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012



Cave mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012

Cave is a fabulously optical painting. Looking into it one feels that they are within a skate park or swimming pool, our eye carried on a journey through the painting’s belly. It is merely a channel through which we visually pass, engaged by its intrigue. But as Sabri states of these paintings,

“I wanted there to be no entry point.� It is not weighted by narrative or meaning. We are permitted to enjoy it for its sheer physicality. It offers an interesting comparison to California, for example, both spatial propositions. While California takes its cue from the photograph, Cave makes reference to computer-aided architecture design programs (or CAD) and the use of vectors. It is further reduced in Kosong, Cage, and History, where the computer acts as a neutralizer reducing narrative to a graphic consideration spatially engaged.



Pond mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012 right:

Aviation mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012

It again returns us to that word ‘perspective’. We have all used the adage ‘to step back and get perspective’. It is about taking grasp of the situation. Sabri has taken this to the most extreme, examining a landscape from 14 an airplane, its form and line abstracting before our very eyes. The painting Pond is the areal observation of a water reservoir snapped 1,400ft above Indonesia. Aviation is a bird’s eye view of Kuala Lumpur. The photograph captures the integrated elements - light, movement, form, pattern – which are then abstracted on their own terms. Content is obscured.



Verdict mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012 right:

Di Antara mixed media on canvas 178 x 230 cm / 2012


Comparing Aviation to California this reduction process becomes clearly illustrated. Verdict takes that step further. A staircase, which is the foundation of this painting, has been reduced to the point where the image is removed. It is treated entirely as a surface built up with over 40-layers of lacquer, sanded and polished. We are left with antara. This is an intelligent exhibition. It starts with a proposition – an idea – and then proceeds to strip from it all imposing thought so that what hangs on these walls are an observation of technique and material. It is as though the object of the painting is cracked open, and it is their in-between that remains as their substance.

Keroncong Series: A New Form of Physical Listening Wei-Ling Gallery 2006


Bangau Oh Bangau Balai Berita NST

Lorek-Lorek. The Creation of Lines Townhouse Gallery 2004

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The Search of The Uncertainties The Painting Hall

Suherwan Abu Director, TAKSU Galleries

Timeline for selected solo exhibition


TAKSU is a leading contemporary art gallery and specialist in Southeast Asia. Representing selections of fine art with distinctive urban edge, we are at the forefront of contemporary art in this region. TAKSU works to forge a platform for established and emerging artists to share their pool of creativity and knowledge through its residency programs and exhibitions. Encapsulating the true meaning of the word TAKSU; divine inspiration, energy, and spirit.

Artworks and Images Š 2012 Sabri Idrus Essay Gina Fairley Catalog Design Jeffrey Lim / Studio 25 Printer Unico Services

Susur Galur. 1990. 122 x 183 cm. Mixed media Collection of Bank Negara Malaysia

Pelican. 1997 122 x 183 cm. Mixed media Collection of Pelikan Malaysia

Faded. 1999 153 x 167 cm Mixed media on metal Private Collection

After Dawn. 2001 163 x 176 cm Mixed media on metal Private Collection

Karat Series #2. 2003 92 x 183 cm Mixed media on aluminium Private Collection

Lorek-Lorek Series #15. 2004 58 x 152 cm Mixed media Private Collection

Bangau Oh Bangau Series. 2004. Variable Sizes Oil on wood Ministry of Finance, Malaysia

Keroncong Series. 2006. 104 x 115 cm Epoxy & light installation Artist Collection

Architecture. 2008. 163 x 206 cm Mixed media on canvas Petronas Collection


Antara Taksu Gallery, Singapore

Muafakat The Painting Garage, Bandung, Indonesia

2010 Tapis. 2007. 122 x 122 cm Coffee & resin on fabric Private Collection


Masa Series: A Reduction Process Taksu Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

In Transit. Malaysia-Poland Aula Gallery, ASP Poznan, Poland 2009

MyDomain Ahmad Zakii Anwar's Gallery at the back of the house 2008 Tirai. 2005. Variable Sizes Mixed media Private Collection

In Transit. 2009. 160 x 200 cm Recycled paper ASP Poznan, Poland Collection

ORY., RGB., Blue Cube. 2010 90 cm diameter each. Fiberglass, slate, stainless steel, plywood & bearing Collection of Bank Negara Malaysia

Pencarian. 2010 200 cm diameter wood & metal Private Collection.

Cage. 2012. 178 x 230 cm Mixed media on canvas Artist Collection


_ ISBN 978 - 981- 07-3525 - 8 PAPERBACK

978 - 981- 07-3534 - 0 E-BOOK

Antara — Sabri Idrus  

Antara, the first solo exhibition by Malaysian artist Sabri Idrus in Singapore. Antara is a Malay word for being caught ‘in-between’, he is...