On the Publika art trail

Ajim Juxta co-founded Titik Merah with several fellow artists. – Photos by Choo Choy May
Ajim Juxta co-founded Titik Merah with several fellow artists. – Photos by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Kuala Lumpur’s art enthusiasts are familiar with White Box and Black Box, two spaces at Publika that regularly host exhibitions, film screenings, workshops and other creative expressions. But did you know that there are more artistic hot spots within Publika? Specifically, it is home to eight art galleries, each with its distinctive focus and approach.

To the uninitiated, art galleries can come across as intimidating, perhaps even elitist and exclusive. If I don’t know art all that well, you may think to yourself, I probably shouldn’t even step in. Or if you’re not an art buyer or collector, is it worth your time visiting them?

Haris Rashid chatting with participants about his Humanimal series at Artemis Art
Haris Rashid chatting with participants about his Humanimal series at Artemis Art
S. Jamal Al-Idrus introducing his gallery, Artemis Art
S. Jamal Al-Idrus introducing his gallery, Artemis Art
Publika has long been a favourite haunt of Kuala Lumpur’s art lovers
Publika has long been a favourite haunt of Kuala Lumpur’s art lovers

The Publika Art Walk, an initiative of MAP KL which manages White Box and Black Box, is meant to break down those inhibitions and is meant for everyone, whether you’re an art aficionado on the hunt for the next masterpiece or simply have an interest in the local art scene. After a successful debut in April, the second Art Walk took place earlier this month and was led by Mimie Baharuddin, the former Gallery Manager of HOM Art Trans, an independent artist-run space. In curating this walk, Mimie emphasised the unique direction and focus that each gallery takes.

Artemis Art

Lot 21 & 22, Level G4, Block C5 Tel 03-6211 1891

Opens 11am-7pm, Tue-Sun; Mondays by appointment only https://www.facebook.com/ArtemisArt.KL/

Owners S. Jamal Al-Idrus and his wife U.C. Loh built on their personal collection of works by artists from Yogyakarta and founded this gallery in 2011. Besides promoting contemporary Indonesian art, Artemis also serves as a platform to support young and emerging artists from South-east Asia and is one of just a handful of galleries in Kuala Lumpur that focuses on photography.

Galeri Chandan

Lot 24 & 25, Level G4, Block C5 Tel 03-6201 5360

Opens 10am-7pm, Tue-Sun; closed Mon

https://www.facebook.com/galerichandan/

Galeri Chandan actively promotes the works of Malaysian artists to the world
Galeri Chandan actively promotes the works of Malaysian artists to the world

Named after Bukit Chandan, the seat of Perak’s arts, culture and heritage that dates back to the Malaccan Sultanate, this eight-year-old gallery serves as a space for local artists and collectives to showcase their works. The exhibits are often experimental and provocative of the senses, affording glimpses into the zeitgeist of the local art world, which the gallery is actively promoting through initiatives like the bi-annual Malaysian Emerging Artist Award and The Kembara Jiwa (Travelling Soul) project that aims to bring contemporary Malaysian art to the world. Galeri Chandan hosted its 100th show last November.

Pipal Fine Art

Lot 9, Level G4, Block C4 Tel 03- 6206 5111 Opens 10am-7pm, Tue-Sun; closed Mon https://www.facebook.com/PipalFineArt/home

The late Datuk Ibrahim Hussein was one of Malaysia’s most respected artists who pioneered a medium he called “printage”, a combination of printing and collage. Up until two years ago, you could view his works at his eponymous museum in Langkawi but since its closing, his stunning criss-crossing linework pieces are only accessible through private collections. Or at Pipal Fine Art, previously known as Art Folio, which has two of his Untitled pieces (on loan from a private collector) on display until the end of the year.

Pipal Fine Art focuses on the works of senior and established artists
Pipal Fine Art focuses on the works of senior and established artists

As Mimie pointed out, this is yet another reason for visiting an art gallery – to savour masterpieces that are otherwise not available for public viewing. For art students, there is also a small library of reference materials.
Pipal’s focus is on senior and established artists; besides Datuk Ibrahim, you can also see the works of luminaries such as Syed Ahmad Jamal, Rafiee Ghani, Khoo Sui Hoe and Hoe Say Yong.

Segaris Art Center

Lot 8, Level G4, Block C4 Opens 10am-7pm, Tue-Sun; closed Mon http://segaris-artcenter.blogspot.my/

Local printmaker Poodien explaining his work that’s on display at Segaris Art Center
Local printmaker Poodien explaining his work that’s on display at Segaris Art Center
A visitor admiring local printmaker Poodien’s work at Segaris Art Center by UiTM
A visitor admiring local printmaker Poodien’s work at Segaris Art Center by UiTM

An extension of UiTM’s Faculty of Art and Design, Segaris mainly features the works of its alumni while also highlighting the best of contemporary local artists, from the cutting-edge to the historically significant. As its name suggests, Segaris is also a hub for art-related events including seminars, workshops, performances and fairs.

Art WeMe Contemporary Gallery

Lot 3A & 5, Level G4, Block D2 Tel 03-6211 1269 Opens 10am-7pm, Mon-Sat; Sundays by appointment only https://www.facebook.com/

www.ArtWeMeContemporaryGallery/home

Sufei Liew of Art WeMe explaining the gallery’s direction
Sufei Liew of Art WeMe explaining the gallery’s direction

Established in 2008 under a different name, Art WeMe moved to Publika two years ago and continues to specialise in the works of contemporary artists — from the young and promising to mid-career and established names — both locally and from around Asia. WeMe also hosts artists from Mainland China for solo and group exhibitions.

Ruang Sementara @ Art Row

Lot 56, Level G2, Block C3 Tel 012-303 4410 Opens 11am-8pm daily https://www.facebook.com/RUANG-SEMENTARA-367733061000/home

Mimie Baharuddin founded Ruang Sementara, an arts management company and event space
Mimie Baharuddin founded Ruang Sementara, an arts management company and event space

The name says it all; this temporary space, founded by Mimie, has gathered several independent local artists for its final show (until September) titled “Behind The Seen” that allows visitors to delve deeper into the psyche behind the works. But more than just a venue, Ruang Sementara is actually an arts management company that provides artists with a comprehensive range of services, from exhibition planning to financial know-how.

Titik Merah Gallery @ Art Row

Lot 53, Level G2, Block C3 https://www.instagram.com/titikmerahgallery/

Initially set up as a transient showcase, Titik Merah has instead found a firm footing at Publika’s Art Row, having been based here for two years now. Co-founded by three artists — Raja Azeem Idzham or Ajim Juxta, Adeputra and Latif Maulan — the cosy rectangular space is both a working studio for them and a showroom for their pieces as well as those of fellow artists they collaborate with or whose works they like. The latter includes an artist known as Blank Malaysia, who fuses a philosophical twist into his portraitures.

Besides the founders’ own works, Titik Merah Gallery also showcases those of other local artists
Besides the founders’ own works, Titik Merah Gallery also showcases those of other local artists

The Publika Art Walk was scheduled for an hour and it’s a quick jaunt to get from one gallery to the next, with most located on the same floor. It allowed even frequent visitors to Publika to become more familiar with the mall’s oft-confusing layout and know of its other tenants, besides the usual boutiques and F&B outlets.

Art lover and collector Azlynne Yuen, a lawyer, attended the first walk in April as well and found it to be an eye-opener. “Prior to that, I only knew about Art Walk but wasn’t aware that there are so many other art galleries at Publika,” she revealed. “This time around, they had some of the exhibiting artists around to speak to us, and I found that to be very interesting.”

Jane Ong, Gallery Assistant at Pipal Fine Art, in front of a piece by Datuk Ibrahim Hussein
Jane Ong, Gallery Assistant at Pipal Fine Art, in front of a piece by Datuk Ibrahim Hussein

For others, an important takeaway was to see that the local art community is a close-knit and friendly group that welcomes visitors, and is happy to answer questions about their work or the industry. Even if you don’t know much about art to begin with, you will come away with something. As freelance curator Sharmin Paramesvaran explained it: “When you look at a painting and you become curious about it, and you ask questions... then your art appreciation has already gone to another level. You’re looking at art beyond just seeing the visual.”

The next Publika Art Walk will be held in December; follow them on Facebook for updates https://www.facebook.com/PublikaGallery or https://www.facebook.com/mapkl

Despite repeated visits, Vivian Chong still gets a bit lost whenever she’s in Publika, but stumbles upon new discoveries each time. Follow her adventures at https://thisbunnyhops.com