BY ZENA KHAN
Zena Khan is an independent curator, researcher and published writer who specialises in Malaysian contemporary art. Additionally, she is curator for The AFK Collection, a seminal private collection of the first generation of Malaysian contemporary art. Her practice is delivered across several curatorial platforms, including the production of exhibitions, publication of books and a series of culture columns for art and luxury publications. Zena received a Master’s degree in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art London in 2017. Follow her on Instagram, @zenaaliyakhan, for global arts news from a discerning perspective.
If contemporary art reflects The Now, then how does the art of young Malaysian artists mirror life today? The answer is found in a delightful constellation of artistic practices that span across diverse mediums and genres, and presentations that engage audiences. As young artists seek ways to visually represent the technological, political and societal advancements that mark twenty-first century Malaysia, their dynamic projects not only build on the foundations of Malaysian art history, which is known as an ecology that has always prized innovation but weaves themselves into our everyday activities. To celebrate Merdeka 2021, I have compiled a list of five exciting young Malaysian artists whose distinct aesthetic signatures and methods of engagement reaffirms this creative desire to describe the contemporary Malaysian condition.
For her first physical solo exhibition ‘Deep The Sea, Above Galaxy’ Ain Rahman produces an immersive experience that explores the ways in which knowledge is gathered and shared today. Working in a strange time where we have the ability to constantly be in contact, yet are set apart from each other due to pandemic lockdowns, she engages diverse media in a single multi-sensory installation that builds intimate connections with her audience.
Conceiving of and producing this one-work show in the midst of the Movement Control Orders necessitated in Malaysia as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ain wondered how connections can be established in the face of limited physical interactions? Turning to the digital platforms we are increasingly reliant on, she live-streamed key stages in setting up the exhibition on the Instagram account of Core Design Gallery, where ‘Deep The Sea, Above Galaxy’ is held. Ain’s quietly confident ability to give audiences the connection and experience they seek after lengthy periods of isolation shows that her art burrows deep into society’s consciousness and desires, fulfilling them. Ain possesses an observational quality that bodes well for her continued artistic growth, announcing her as an artist whose works have the ability to sit well in both Malaysian and transnational contexts and rendering her an artist to watch.