Survey exhibitions invite us to track ways in which a single artist reflects on ideas and reconfigures his craft over time. While this reveals much about the individual, it offers insight into the wider culture through which they move. ‘At the End of the Day Even Art is Not Important’ is a lens to view the flowering of contemporary art in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. The dramatic social, political, and technological changes that gave rise to this Golden Period in the Nineties to Noughties echoed throughout Southeast Asia resulted in a host of contemporary practices regionally. The snapshot of a multi-valent practice that emerges through the exhibition is in fact representative of what has been happening throughout the region.
Curated by Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, senior curator of National Gallery Singapore, ‘At the End of the Day Even Art is Not Important’ solidifies Ahmad Fuad Osman’s position as one of the definitive Malaysian artists. Primeval Landscape II, 1991 which was created during the artist’s final year in UiTM, indicates his innate talent, giving way to a room of abstract and neo-expressionist works. For Fuad, this early period formed a training ground for the formal aspects of creating art including composition, scale, colour, and perspective. These are essential tools for succinct visual communication, which subsequently allowed him to move seamlessly across several genres and styles of mixed mediums.
Walking through the mid-career survey exhibition, audiences will not only note a variety of mediums, but a range of conversations. Fragile: Handle with Care, 1996 is a personal rumination on mortality, while Quarantine, 2009 tells us of Fuad’s own experience with Islamophobia. Other works including Dreaming of Being a Somebody, Afraid of Being a Nobody are political in nature. ‘Enrique de Malacca Memorial Project’, now in its third iteration after stagings at Singapore Biennale 2016 and Sharjah Biennial 2019, brings history into contemporary consciousness, while questioning the veracity of truths laid down by colonial powers.
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