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Q&A with Scarlette Lee, Director of Core Design Gallery, on Contemporary Malaysian art
Ahmad Fuad Osman, Leap of Faith, 2013. Oil on Canvas, 122cm x 83cm.
SUBANG JAYA.- Scarlette Lee, the director of Core Design Gallery, an exclusive boutique art gallery which specializes in Malaysia Contemporary Art, talks to us about the gallery’s new project, the Great Malaysia Contemporary Art (GMCA).

Malaysia Art has been very much sought after especially with the emergence of art auction houses for the past 3 years. What is the current scenario for Malaysia Contemporary Art?
For the past 10 years, Malaysia Contemporary Art has been receiving tremendous awareness and response from art enthusiasts, collectors and public alike. However, due to the lack of proper representation from art dealers, galleries or even agents, the top notch Malaysia Contemporary Art has never been displayed in a major scale event like this to the mass public. It has always been the privileged few who have access to contemporary art galleries and get to collect and amass many pieces of seminal works of art.

Due to the lack of the infrastructure in the Malaysia art market, many can only head to the fairly accessible art auctions to select and pick, mostly on the Malaysia Modernist works of art. As for those without access to the information will seek to buy from international art market without knowing that Malaysia does have truly international artists that can match or even superceed the Masriadi of Indonesia or Zhang XiaGang of China, be it in value or quality of work.

What is contemporary art?
There have been many definitions put forth by various scholars, academicians or auction houses on what contemporary art is all about. Some speaks of contemporary art as art made post-war whereas some has defined it as any active, very much alive artist making art.

Before we attempt to hypothesize on what is contemporary art, we need to understand the question of contemporaneity itself. Contemporaneity is shaped by the question of what is the current world picture?

How has it changed since post-war and decolonization of Asia and Africa?
Contemporaneity is the most evident attribute of current world picture. From human interaction with the geosphere through the manifolds of cultures to global politics to the interiority of individual. All these cannot be defined or characterized by modernity anymore. Contemporary art is the art today shaped by its situation within contemporaneity. In short, contemporary art deals with issues directly related to its present day world.

And how do we define the quality of contemporary art especially seminal works of art?
Contemporary art is one complex world and it is not easy to make an intelligent acquisition especially when it concerns a major work or seminal art. I have once read that if one is considering to buy an art but cannot make the decision, one can consider the use of past, present and personal (PPP) criteria.

• Past : Does it understand the past?
Artwork that is too involved in the past tends to be derivative and decorative. It is not work of art but just a pretty picture.

Artwork that is ignorant of visual history will tend naïve in its concept.

• Present : Does it explain the present?
Artwork that is too much of its time will lack the universal aspect of ageing with time.

Artwork that is not in tune with its time will fail in its main mission as an artwork- to be predictive and intepretive tool of the future.

• Personal : Does it reflect a personal vision?
Artwork that is too personal or self involved similar to a diary is not art.

Artwork that lacks personal reflections will also lack the originality and vision. Viewers will not be able to see through the eyes and imagination of the artist.

What is the concept of GMCA?
For the first time in the Malaysia art history, Core Design Gallery brings together the selected Malaysia Contemporary Artists whose works have the critical value and museum quality through a project known as the Great Malaysia Contemporary Art (GMCA). GMCA will consist of top contemporary artists whose works are critically acclaimed and sought after. GMCA is a curated exhibition that will showcase the true quality of transforming months of paintstaking effort into a seminal artwork.

Which Malaysia Contemporary Artists are involved?
All the Malaysian Contemporary Artists has been specifically selected for being the top in their specific genre from painting to sculpture to installation works.. We have Ahmad Fuad Osman, Anuar Rashid, Eng Hwee Chu, Fadhli Yusoff, Hamir Soib, Haslin bin Ismail, Husin Hourmain, Mohd Noor Mahmud, Muthalib Musa, Shooshie Sulaiman, Tan Chin Kuan and Zulkifli Yusoff.

How will GMCA take the Malaysia Contemporary Art to another level?
The first GMCA show will take place during Malaysia Art Expo from September 19th to September 22nd at Matrade, Kuala Lumpur. Core Design Gallery will make this its continuous trademark project that seek not only to bring all the top notch Malaysia Contemporary Artists to important art fairs like Malaysia Art Expo but also to international art fairs as a next step. It is time to bring the well-deserved international Malaysia Contemporary Artists to the international arena.

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