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Review: Bakat Muda Sezaman 2010

Posted by on Monday, 24 January, 2011 at 3:05 PM. Filed under: Reviews

Disclaimer: One of Arteri’s managing editors, Simon Soon, was part of the judging panel for BMS 2010. However, no conversation has taken place between the writer and Simon Soon regarding the exhibition or competition.

Goh Chi Kuan, Aiyah… It’s Not Mine Lah, Cigarette boxes and sticker

Organized by the National Art Gallery biannually since 1974, Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries Award) has always gotten the art scene heated up, with plenty of bitching and healthy (plus unhealthy) debate surrounding the exhibition, artists and winners. This year, the buzz has been relatively low, especially considering the last BMS was in 2006. A lot can happen in 4 years in this fast-changing country, and I speculate that the goalposts for artists have moved elsewhere.

There is a sense that BMS is no longer the lightning rod that commands the attention of the art scene once every two years. I wonder if this is reflective of the many transformations that have happened at National Art Gallery in recent years – changes in Director General, other top-level staff and lately, legislation. Both the institution and the awards seem unsure of their roles in the shifting landscape of Malaysian art, but are soldiering on ahead regardless.

Fazli Othman, Aku dan Persekitaran, Recycled object, plastic, glass & mild steel

This uncertainty shows clearly in BMS 2010. The exhibition is very uneven. 36 artists were chosen to exhibit, out of a total 84 applicants. This year introduced a new format: candidates must be nominated by someone in the art community, whereas previously entry was by open invitation. Chosen candidates are then invited to submit and exhibit one work. The judging panel chooses 4 winners based on works in the exhibition.

It’s interesting to note how closely BMS 2010 mirrors the art market sales process. We can conclude that awards are essentially given based on a single artwork – not quality or consistency of art practice sustained over a period of time – quite similar to a collector picking out which work he or she would like to buy. Likewise, the nomination process introduces a kind of mutated ‘curator’ aspect. It may have been put in place as a quality control measure, but it reduces artists’ autonomy. Instead of presenting themselves and their works for consideration in the way artists deem best, this important exercise in self-representation is now mediated by another party.

Aznan Omar, Gerbang, Aluminium cast, cement, wood, cloth

Cindy Koh, Shadow, Oil on canvas & installation with wood, ceramic, metal and plexiglass.

Furthermore, chosen artists had less than 6 months to conceive and submit new, original works for exhibition. It’s no wonder that many are slip-shod and sloppy – in terms of concept or execution, or both. Most works have lengthy artist statements. Perhaps banning artist statements would force artists to communicate more profoundly through their art. As it is, so many works are shallow one-liners – they try to get a point across, but fail to activate the perceptions or thoughts of the viewer.

In addition to the short production time, this could be caused by the competition aspect – since they’re being judged, artists want to make sure their message (any message) is heard loud and clear. A sense of conviction or intellectual exploration through visual language is really missing, replaced by a kind of desperation and need to impress… I cannot help but wonder whether, instead of encouraging it, BMS actually stunts the growth of young artists.

Shaharudin Sabu, The New World Disorder, Steel, acrylic sheet, mechanical & electronic device

Edrojer Cesidi Rosili, Society for Art, Books

More than half the exhibition deals with Important Social Issues. You name it, it’s in there. Goh Chi Kuan’s ‘Aiyah… It’s Not Mine Lah’ is concerned with cigarette smoking, Mohd Fazli Othman’s ‘Aku dan Persekitaran’ is about recycling, Aznan Omar’s ‘Gerbang’ about politics and power, Mohd Sharudin Sabu’s ‘The New World Disorder’ about Middle East conflict, Rozana Musa’s ‘A Little Something to Share in a Little Wooden House’ about body issues, Wan Zulkifle Wan Yaacob’s ‘Kehidupan Baru’ about migrant labour, Muhammad Rasfan b. Abu Bakar’s digital prints about the health of our oceans and so on, and on and on and on.

The pitfall with being socially engaged is that artists can easily mistake their good intentions for good art. So many visual gimmicks! I often felt like I was on the receiving end of an extended advertising campaign about every reason why our world is messed up.

Rozana Musa, A Little Something To Share In A Little Wooden House, Glazed ceramic, wood, metal, transparent plastic roofing

Wan Zulkifle Wan Yaacob, Hijrah Series: Kehidupan Baru, Mixed media on zinc plate

You can clearly see the difference between works that jumped out of the artist’s brain onto the floor and those that have been built up, worked and reworked in the process of making. These are more subtle and open-ended, less ruthlessly decoded in the artist statements. Yim Yen Sum’s ‘How Did It Go’ is a good example of using of materiality and the plaster casting process to explore ideas about memory, traces and history. Sabri Idrus’s ‘The Park Project’ is a quiet and well-made kinetic installation that gently seduces the senses, and Issazeral Ismail’s inkjet print ‘Bill – Is Hero’ is simply a witty, mysterious and inspiring image. Other well-resolved works include Umi Baizurah Mahir’s ceramic pieces in glass cabinets, main prize winner Haslin Ismail’s ‘The Way It All Works’ and jury prize winner Tan Nan See’s ‘Rupa Malaysia: Jewelry’.

Sabri idrus, The Park Project, Aluminum, stainless steel, resin, slate, plastic pigment & bearings.

Yim Yen Sum, How Did It Go?, Emboss dye print on fabric, plaster cast

It’s no coincidence that these artists already have years of practice under their belts. The age requirement for BMS 2010 is 20 – 40, so the potential difference in experience between artists ranges up to 20 years! That’s a lifetime in any field.  Unfortunately, the exhibition isn’t arranged in any way to make sense of the discrepancy (e.g. by adding birth dates to the labels). Likewise, there are no categories in the competition – either by career status or medium. The organizers may have sought to maintain the ‘open platform’ spirit of BMS, but what has resulted is a watery soup of young contemporary art in Malaysia – messy, without direction.

Tan Nan See, Rupa Malaysia: Jewellery, Color photographs, video, installation

Issarezal Ismail, Bill – Is Hero, Inkjet print

It’s a shame. This year the stakes are higher, with cash prizes that will make artists’ eyes go $_$. RM20,000 goes to the main winner, and three others will receive RM10,000 each. $_$! Alas! It’s not easy being the National Art Gallery. It’s clear that providing monetary incentive and other resources is not enough – what audiences and artists desperately need in a national institution is leadership. The awards have been given out, but beyond the attractive number of zeros, we don’t know what they mean. Here’s looking forward to a better, more meaningful BMS in 2012.

Umi Baizurah Mahir @ Ismail, The Genius, Ceramic, glass cabinet, velvet, wheels

Haslin Ismail, The Way It All Works, Mixed media, wood & paper


More reading: Faizal Sidik’s excellent analysis and suggestions for revamping the structure of BMS.

Winners of BMS 2010 were announced last Tues, 18 Jan 2011. Main prize winner: Haslin Ismail. 3 jury prizes: Tan Nan See, Diana Ibrahim & Helmi Azam. Heartiest congratulations to the winners.


Sharon Chin is co-founder and managing editor of Arteri

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  1. Tweets that mention Review: Bakat Muda Sezaman 2010 @ Arteri -- Topsy.com says
    24/01/2011 3:58 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ARTERI, dill. dill said: Organized by NAG biannually since 1974, Bakat Muda Sezaman has always gotten the art scene heated up! http://bit.ly/e7HEM0 […]

  2. >_ says
    24/01/2011 6:10 PM

    Malaysians dun read, so cut books kekekekeke

    SEA’s Borders book shop now just a mini ‘Express’ version in the basement floor.

  3. sdw says
    24/01/2011 10:46 PM

    Did I read that 6 months is not a long time to conceive and submit ONE NEW WORK?

  4. alwi says
    24/01/2011 11:49 PM

    Saya merasakan yang pelukis perlu diberi lebih penekanan kerana bila dilihat sejarah BMS kemanakah perginya pemenang2 adakah mereka ini layak digelar pelukis. Mungkin pemilihan pelukis muda perlu lebih “specific” mungkin BMS 2012 hanya memilih pelukis yang sudah ada sejarah yang jelas dan kukuh dalam bidang seni…. mungkin juga boleh digunakan cadangan en Hasnul… hanya pelukis yang ada pameran solo saja yang dipilih… (cuma risau, sedikit yang benar2 layak). BSLN juga mungkin boleh lihat kembali pecahan kategori bagi setiap pemenang..
    Dalam BMS2010 catan agak lemah terutamanya dari penguasaan bahan dan teknik…..

  5. Simon Soon says
    26/01/2011 8:01 AM

    >>>hanya pelukis yang ada pameran solo saja yang dipilih… (cuma >>>risau, sedikit yang benar2 layak)

    ironisnya, kebanyakan seniman yang sudah adanya pameran solo itu yang membikin karya yang konformis dan membosankan kerana kebarangkalian mereka yang dibagi peluang untuk membuat pameran di dalam satu ruang dikehendaki mematuhi format dan ‘convention’ pameran yang kian tidak relevan lagi.

    malah, segolongn seniman yg tidak lagi adanya pameran solo yang sedang menekan pendirian dan cara penyampaian yang lebih menarik dan inovatif.

  6. simun sing says
    26/01/2011 2:27 PM

    Jugde BODO…NAG goyang kaki BMS extend to next 3 month…waste of space, time and rakyat fund!!!

  7. admin says
    26/01/2011 6:08 PM

    No more personal or insulting comments. They will be deleted. Thank you.

  8. Jeksen Polok says
    27/01/2011 10:37 AM

    ulasan oleh JEKSEN POLOK
    (pengkritik seni halus “self-taught”)
    (c) Jeksen Polok 2011

    Menjadi “lain” hanya sekadar untuk jadi “berlainan” dan “pelik-pelik” supaya boleh “fit in” dengan terma “kontemporari” membuat sesetengah artis memaksa diri untuk ber-kreatif tetapi artis itu sebenarnya kurang mampu. Sesetengah artis sekadar “mengada-adakan”.

    Ada yang cuba menjadi kritikal namun seperti mencolek timun ke sambal belacan. Tidak berani lagi menelan semangkuk penuh sambal belacan supaya sakit perut, termuntah dan cirit birit, masih belum berani lagi.

    “kejutan” yang dilihat selalunya seperti “terkejut” membaca headline sensasi surat khabar tabloid dan manifesto parti politik. Dalam dunia zaman ini, perkara ANTI juga sudah jadi HIP. Kita mahu persekitaran seni yang lebih tak terduga dan mencabar, tetapi kenapa? Para artis ada jawapannya.

    Jadi eloklah kiranya artis itu cuba mengenal diri, belajar skill dan teknik asas semula agar yang tumpul itu bisa menjadi tajam. Kuasai dahulu perkara ASAS, kemudian barulah fikir untuk ber-kontemporari dan ber-Bakat Muda Sezaman.

    Idea yang hebat perlukan kajian, perlaksaan, kerja, bla bla bla dan akhir sekali – hasil seni yang hebat juga. Jika sekadar “pelik” dan “ganjil”, Ripley’s Believe it or Not itu lebih ganjil. Jika sekadar hujah pula, lebih baik dibuat teks pidato saja.

    Para pengajar di menara gading yang bertanggung jawab dalam proses “mass production” dan “penternakan” artis artis baru pula harus lebih bertanggung-jawab. Sekiranya anda kaya, hebat dan dasyat, ingatlah akan nasib para artis muda yang anda didik itu, kasihan mereka. Mereka naif, bingai, lembab, keliru, perasan, suka perhatian, takut dikeji, pemalas dan suka meniru. Bantu mereka, jika tidak mereka akan kecewa dalam dunia seni – berakhir berkerja sebagai pereka kad kahwin, supervisor 7 Eleven atau promoter supermarket (dengan BA Fine Arts!). Ada baiknya, tendang mereka awal-awal lagi dan suruh mereka pilih kursus lain.

    Jangan biarkan diri anda, diselubungi…
    fitnah, perangkap dan kepura-puraan seni kontemporari. Siapa mahu jadi kaya? Selamat maju jaya kepada semua.

  9. Bakat Muda Sezaman 2010: The Tour @ Arteri says
    28/01/2011 6:43 PM

    […] read the review, now watch the video! Join Rahmat & Poodien as they tour the exhibition into Mohd Hafiz […]

  10. MANHIL says
    03/02/2011 1:10 PM

    walaupun ada pro dan kontra..BSM perlu diteruskn…….ingin melihat generasi baru berkarya…….jangan patahkn semangat mereka………mrk adalah pelapis ‘next generation’……berikn mereka peluang utk mencipta nama………smangat 1MALAYSIA…

  11. peminat seni says
    06/02/2011 10:16 PM

    harap yang menang selepas ni lebih giat berkarya. jangan dah menang terus hilang ibarat angin berlalu. malu seh ada pelukis macam ni.

  12. pikhasoh says
    05/04/2011 10:17 PM

    Ramai lepasan Universiti yang tidak berkarya dan hanyut dalam arus kerjaya yang tidak kena mengena dengan seni… sia – sia saja belajar hampir 5 tahun di universiti awam. Yang berkarya pula tak ada disiplin…hanyut juga.

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