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Sly via / 9 0 x 1 4 3 cm / ac r y lic on can vas / 2 0 1 1

E nt r ance d an d T e r r ifie d by the S t r ange W omen & their M acab r e S to r ies


exhibition at

E N T R A N C E D A N D T E RR I F I E D B Y T H E S T R A N G E W O M E N & T H E I R M A C A B R E S T O R I E S

Her et h ereal vocal cord s / 2 7 4 x 1 3 6 cm / M i x e d me d ia on can vas / 2 0 1 0


Walking into this exhibition by Khairul Azmir Shoib [Meme] one could be easily mistaken that they had arrived upon the storyboard for Tim Burton’s next film, a world of willowy characters suspended within their own spatial fantasy – evocative, intriguing, and slightly sinister. The exhibition’s title, however, offers us a clue that this body of work sits well beyond filmic references. Who are these ‘strange women’ it mentions? And how literal are their macabre stories as a contemporary mouthpiece to classic fairytale morals? While we want to read Meme’s drawings and paintings within the realm of illustration, rather they are fragments of a fantasy that are extremely open ended to interpretation and, if anything, enter an isolationist position of alter-egos, psychosis, and introspective dreams – the space of non-narrative. It offers a hint to the collision of creative sources that have driven Meme’s unique visuality over the past decade, what he describes as, “...a silent conversation between the corporeal and ethereal world.” He continued, “That is the point – they offer total anesthesia.” Moving between materials and scale, these new works are collectively parceled within a Gothic-fiction ethos heralded, for Meme, by a group of female writers: Holly Black (The Chronicle of Spiderwicks), Camille Rose Garcia (The Magic Bottle), Audrey Niffeneggar (Her Fearful Symmetry, The Adventures), and the more obscure images of surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington – by definition Meme’s ‘strange women’. Furthermore and prosthetic to that literary tradition, Meme adds fringe music genres, punk rock to Icelandic post-rock for example, the iconic Lucas film Star Wars, the animations of Japan’s Studio Ghibli and his penchant for collecting toys – giving greater texture to the foundation of his art making. To pin Meme’s work on any one influence or subculture limits our experience of the work. Indeed it is that very layering of styles and moods that mirrors the complexity of the human disposition. We are not simple by nature, and nor are these works. It is not surprising then scanning across this exhibition that we are witness to the slide between Meme’s artistic personalities, most obvious in the shift from his mature angulated, somewhat Fauve-styled portraits of women to his signature illustrations aligned with a teen fiction genre. Are these disparate styles the schizophrenic musings of one’s alter-ego; the struggle between our light and darker side? Or is this hybridity



simply condition of our times and our increased ability to filter and fuse material? It is a considered effort to react to the questions of self, cultural proclivities, social spaces and memory. Starting with the portraits Nelliel Tu, Sylvia and Ophelia, there is a strength and sureness to their rendition that is underlined by their scale, offering bold punctuations across this exhibition. They tell their own haunting narrative. With their low-lighting, unbalanced compositions and stylised drama, these portraits again return us to film, but this time to film noir. They are sexually charged and elusive. Take the painting Sylvia, she is distant and yet her sultry gesture is alert to being watched. In Meme’s words, “...these paintings depict the women symbol in the male unconscious.” He aligns his palette and raw broad strokes to her blue emotion and, while given a name, her open engagement remains anonymous. We are not interested in details or happy endings; Sylvia captivates the viewer in their role of voyeur, subtly perverse and enthralling. She is the definition of Meme’s ‘strange macabre women’. In dramatic contrast are the delicate drawings Each object spoke the words of fortune teller, which light the soul with child-felt magic and nostalgia, a kind of Alice-like portal to wonderment, aka Lewis Carroll’s 1954 novel. They are read in series like frames from a comic book, their narrative unfolding. Just as a fortune teller accelerates our hope beyond depression or confusion – a portal to the future – this metaphor takes a more literal form in Meme’s use of the circle and its symbolism for completion, and more abstractly Victorian vignettes. Worked in acrylic and ink on both paper and wood panel, their materiality echoes their mood of vulnerability and fragility. These drawings demand an intimacy and in comparison to Meme’s female portraits, bold and oversized, illustrate that metaphorical tug between our personalities, conscious and subconscious. This corporeal quality of the work I find particularly interesting, especially in regard to Meme’s reference to Leonora Carrington, a woman working in the male dominated genre of Surrealism. It says a lot about the depth to Meme’s inquiry. The Surrealists above all believed they offered a revolutionary shift in how we viewed the world, where the arrangement - or disarrangement - of the ordinary opened to a full range of imagination. It was a textured expression that aimed at unleashing



us from conformity and society’s baffled prescriptions, and it demanded the inseparability of writing, art, film, music and the lived experience. Meme’s unique and solitary voice, especially within a Malaysian context, has a deep correlation to the surrealist embrace, if not stylistically but as an inclusive creative understanding. We can start to read it in paintings such as The Cold Black and Funeral Procession, for example, that flutter between the surreal and a more mainstream fiction of pophorror populated by villains, demons, perambulating skeletons, ghosts, and magicians. Meme unleashes the innocent fairytale to a more layered, labyrinthine realm of strange stories environmentally alert. The painting Familiar similarly calls upon art history and a collective ‘familiarity’ to help rephrase our known world. Meme words confirm: “I view my paintings in a reconstructing and deconstructing phase. They are not a repetition but a variation of the ideas that I have developed over the years.”1 Using Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night (1889), its turgid sky a metaphor to his own emotional instability at the time of painting in an Asylum at Saint Remy, Meme mimics Van Gogh’s staccato brush strokes and unrealistic palette with eerie unease. The connection is unmistakable and we recognize it instantly, offering a comfort in the sense of collective ownership of this image and, through that familiarity, accept the ‘unfamiliar’ narrative. Stranger than fiction, it is a fantastic guide to how we can approach the imagery of Khairul Azmir Shoib.

1 Khairul Azmir Shoib in conversation with Priya Menon, published in “A penchant for painting fairies and ghosts” Thursday March 12, 2009

Other comments in email conversation with the writer, Gina Fairley, March 2011

n e x t p a g e ; s electio n o f ; D ra m atic / C I N E M A T I C A c r y lic an d ink on pape r / 2 0 1 0


L E F T ; T h e s n a k e , t h e a p p le , t h e w o m e n / 1 3 6 x 6 7 x 2 3 c m / m i x e d m e d i a / 2 0 1 1 R I G H T ; W h a t if y o u r g h o s t e n d u p el s w h ere / 1 4 6 x 4 6 x 1 5 c m / m i x e d m e d i a / 2 0 1 1


E x ti n ct S p ecie s / M i x e d me d ia on fab r ic / 2 0 0 9

D E T A I L ; Fa m iliar / 3 7 x 5 2 cm / A c r y lic on can vas / 2 0 1 0


T h i s cold b lac k / 8 8 x 5 2 cm / A c r y lic an d ink on can vas / 2 0 0 8

E N T R A N C E D A N D T E RR I F I E D B Y T H E S T R A N G E W O M E N & T H E I R M A C A B R E S T O R I E S

S T O R YB O A R D ; E ac h o b j ect s p o k e t h e w ord s o f t h e f ort u n e teller Va r ious size / A c r y lic an d ink on pape r / 2 0 1 0




Master of Art, Fine Art and Technology, UiTM, Shah Alam 2000 Bachelor of Fine Arts, Hons. UiTM, Shah Alam 1997 Bachelor of Fine Arts, UiTM, Shah Alam A R T E XH I B I T I O NS


Entranced and Terrified by the Strange Women & Their Macabre Stories, Taksu Gallery, KL locals only, Taksu Gallery, KL 2010 Picture Book Exhibition, Petronas Gallery KL Survival exhibition, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor 2009 Post Gothic Dreams, 2nd solo art exhibition RA Fine Arts gallery, KL Iskandar Malaysia contemporary art show, Johor Tanah Air, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor Subliminary, Shah Alam Gallery Fantasy...Reality...Possibility, Art case gallery Channel 6, RA Fine Art, KL Expressi Artistik, RA Fine Arts, KL 2008 The Unknown, RA fine arts gallery, KL Shifting Boundaries, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor Candy Coated Cute Confusion, Arts Alive Artspace, Launceston Tasmania, Australia Tukar Ganti, Valentine Willie Fine art, SG Art with a Heart, Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur Cabinet, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Bangsar 2007 0.15 Superstar, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor Art Show, Valentine Willie Fine art, Bangsar Filter, Wei Ling Gallery, KL Jejak, Galeri Nasional Indonesia Between Generation, 50 Years across modern art in Malaysia, UM and USM 2006 Fairieality, Solo Art Exhibition Maya Art Gallery, KL 10 Years, NN Gallery, Ampang, Selangor Closer, Miniature Show Maya Art Gallery, Bangsar Sculpture show, Gema Rimba gallery, KL WWF - Feed Me, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor Tribute to Jeri, National Art Gallery, KL Art Invitational, Bank Negara Malaysia,KL 2005 Artist’s Box, National Art Gallery, KL Miniature Art, Maya Art Gallery, Bangsar Contemporary Metal, Maya Art Gallery, KL Malaysia Open, National Art Gallery, KL Pop Culture, Maya Art Gallery, KL

2004 Young

Contemporary National Art Gallery, KL 2003 Open Show, Shah Alam Gallery 2000 An Art Exhibition of Expression ‘Beautiful Selangor’, Shah Alam Gallery Contemporary Islamic Art, National Museum, KL Untitled, Shah Alam Gallery Doors of Creativity, Art and Design Centre, KL Harmony, Art and Design Centre, KL 1999 Open Show, Shah Alam Gallery Shah Alam Landscape Drawing Competition Miniaturization 2, Art Case Gallery, KL 1998 Open Show, Shah Alam Gallery ‘Scream From Within’, Tangsi Gallery, KL ‘Nature’, Tangsi Gallery, KL Miniature Art, Art Case Gallery, KL A.R.T, Maybank Gallery, K.L ‘Cetusan Rasa’, Ipoh Museum, Perak 1997 Degree Show, UiTM - Identity ‘Form and Media’, Shah Alam Gallery Young Contemporary, National Art Gallery, KL 1996 Kenyir sculpture contest ‘Journey’ by Suara Jiwa Group, Perbadanan Muzium Melaka, Perzim Installation, UiTM 1995 Flower Power, Bank Negara, KL Rakan Muda, FSSR, UiTM Printmaking Workshop with Bill Morrow Jackson, UiTM Mini show ‘Suara Jiwa’ at Sultan Salahuddin secondary school, Selangor ‘Suara’ art exhibition by Suara Jiwa Group, Shah Alam Gallery Ledakan, UiTM 1994 Academic Show, FSSR, UiTM



1st Prize, Life Drawing Competition, LSKL National Art Gallery, KL 3rd Prize, Figure Drawing Competition National Art Gallery, KL 2004 Juror’s Award, Young Contemporary National Art Gallery, KL 2000 Consolation Award, Expression of Beautiful Selangor 2nd Prize, Drawing Competition, National Day Shah Alam Gallery 1999 Incentive Award, Open Show, Shah Alam Gallery 3rd Prize, Drawing Competition, Shah Alam Gallery 1st Prize, Drawing Competition, Shah Alam Gallery

B r ochu r e © 2 0 1 1 T A K S U M alay sia A r two r ks an d I mages © 2 0 1 1 meme

C O V E R ; D E T A I L ; T h e s h ado w s o f t h e cro w s dar k e n ed t h e river 1 4 3 x 9 2 x 2 0 cm / ac r y lic an d assemblage on can vas / 2 0 1 1

17 Jalan Pawang 54000 Kuala Lumpur T +603 4251 4396 F +603 4251 4331 Opening Hours Monday to Saturday 10am – 6pm Closed on Sundays Essay Gina Fairley Catalog concept & design Printer Unico Services All rights reserved. No part of this brochure may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronically, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior consent from the artists and gallery. Brochure © 2011 TAKSU Malaysia Artworks and Images © 2011 MEME

Entranced & Terrified — Meme  

Entranced and Terrified by The Strange Women and Their Macabre Stories showcases paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations by Khairu...