What does it mean to be modern? What shapes a modern experience? How did this experience in post-Merdeka Kuala Lumpur give rise to a new way of representing the world in painting?
The exhibition, Gerak Rupa Ubur Penyataan 1957 – 1973, traces the emergence of modern art as a cultural phenomenon in Malaysia in the 1960s through the early works of seven modern artists namely, Anthony Lau, Cheong Laitong, Ibrahim Hussein, Jolly Koh, Latiff Mohidin, Syed Ahmad Jamal, and Yeoh Jin Leng.
In 1967, they participated in the seminal exhibition called GRUP, held in Kuala Lumpur. Today, they are recognised as pioneers of modern art in Malaysia.
Though distinct in their stylistic approaches and aesthetic philosophies, these artists can be viewed as part of a collective force that sought to express a modern sensibility through visual means.
This modern sensibility was expressed in the GRUP exhibition. The title is the Malay acronym for Gerak Rupa Ubur Penyataan.
Translated as Movement, Form, Torch and Statement, the title refers to qualities that were central to the exhibition in 1967. These terms spoke of a common ground and the ambition of a new generation of artists, newly-returned from abroad at the time, to shape a modern aesthetic in their art.
The exhibition was held in March, 1967, at AIA Building on Jalan Ampang, within the 30-storey high-rise, office building completed just two years before in 1965.
The building marked the beginning of new architectural developments that would forever alter Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.
In a sense, the formal innovations in modern painting commensurated with the urban developments that were occurring in Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s.
The exhibition presents key representative artworks by the seven artists from GRUP from 1957 – 1973, it is also an exhibition about the arts infrastructure - art space, art groups, art schools, art institutions, corporate and private patrons - that developed during this period.
The exhibition aims to give audiences a sense of the larger cultural system and institutions that facilitated the growth of modern art in Malaysia in the 1960s.
There will be a talk on that day at 3pm.