“Am I Alone?” Virtual Art Exhibition – Self-Portraits of Ourselves in The World We Live In
Review by Wai Lu Yin

This is ___ (2020) by ANJU

Being alone, you allow yourself to reconnect with your emotions and reflect. Sometimes, you wonder whether you are the only person who thinks and feels a certain way. The question is……“Are you alone?”

The “Am I Alone?” virtual art exhibition, curated by Ranerrim with the support of Ipoh-based Projek Rabak, features the multidisciplinary works of Malaysian, Indonesian and Japanese artists. The exhibition is inspired by the story of Van Gogh’s painting Self- Portrait Without Beard (1889). His final self-portrait, a birthday gift for his mother, was painted after his close friendship with artist Gauguin ended horribly. The exhibition breaks down the depths of being comfortable in one's own skin and space.

As an art lover who is used to visiting on-site exhibitions, I had a bit of trouble navigating through this exhibition. I was not given the option of clicking on the artists’ works to view more information. A guided tour did provide me with brief details about the works, but it left me wanting more. I needed the exhibition catalogue to also be viewable, but on the desktop, it was difficult to both see the artists’ works and scroll down the page. It was troublesome to switch tabs between the exhibition catalogue and the exhibition. Finally, I settled on an acceptable workaround – reading the exhibition catalogue on mobile while viewing the exhibition on the desktop.

Identity, An Optical Delusion (2020) by Kara Yong – 杨, In The Shadow of Character | 嘉, Taboo against Beauty | 仪, The Yin and Yang of Apperances

Walking through the exhibition with the arrow keys, I first encounter Kara Yong’s self-portrait series, “Identity, An Optical Delusion”. The deconstruction of her Chinese name, 杨嘉仪, drawn with striking colours and images of constrained women, catches my attention. Kara incorporates anecdotes and even a short story - The Yellow Wallpaper, which is about a woman who goes insane because she is trapped in a bedroom – into each Chinese character. The common Chinese surname 杨 (Yáng) has a rich history, meaning “preserving the family’s reputation”. 嘉 (Jiā) means refined beauty. 仪 (Yí) represents appearance and attitude. The series expresses how women are judged and are subject to expectations by their families and society. They also struggle to hide their inner darkness behind a veneer of beauty. This series questions how we have the freedom to embrace our natural looks and true selves.

Bayangan Ahli Silap Nujum (2020) by Adam Ummar

Adam Ummar’s “Bayangan Ahli Silap Nujum” draws on his relationships to the tarot card, ‘The Magician’, and his astrological sign, Capricorn. It reflects on his creative process and perceptions about letting go and taking full control of his life, world and universe. I explained more about this piece and his other paintings in my previous review. Depicting himself as a mythical character lets him reconnect with himself, allowing him to see his limitless potential in bringing stories to life and communicating with like-minded people through art.

I Sculpt Myself (2020) by CC Kua

CC Kua’s animation, “I Sculpt Myself”, explores her approach in sculpting a self-portrait of herself based on her photo. The more she sculpts, the more she struggles in perfecting her sculpted face. It reminds me of how we feel when we see our faces in the mirror. We tend to have concerns about how we look. Some of us think we look better in real life than in photos. The animation also reflects on how artists embrace imperfections within the representations of beauty in works of art as a way to connect with the audience.

I Am Not Really Sure Who I Am Anymore (2020) by ANJU

ANJU’s two-part series, “THIS IS ___” and “I Am Not Really Sure Who I Am Anymore” depicts her frustrations in feeling disconnected with her body and senses. As I look closer at each work, filled with psychedelic colours and rough lines, she conveys her complex journey in isolation where she is struggling to love and be herself. Her heart-wrenching written words give a deeper insight into her work. Her words for “I Am Not Really Sure Who I Am Anymore” - "Even though I am not entirely comfortable with myself, this is me existing truthfully. Maybe I can be so many other things, a better person perhaps, but right now I am just my body. I do know that through this struggle, I will find an understanding of myself, but right now this is me.” – hit me hard emotionally because she accepts her failure while keeping herself from falling apart. However, I believe that going through this inner battle makes her stronger.

Other works which intrigued me were Jun Kitazawa’s “DUAL WINDOW” and Andita Purnama Sari Putri’s “Cloud Number 11”. The beautifully designed windows that show imagined landscapes of Japan and Indonesia in “DUAL WINDOW” express our fond pre-COVID travel memories and the longing to travel during the pandemic. “Cloud Number 11” sheds light on the women facing cold and harsh societal pressures of being a perfect woman.

With this exhibition, Ranerrim and Projek Rabak have managed to select visual artworks with unique self-portrait styles that are compelling and relatable.They provide visitors with a challenging and thought-provoking perspective. The experience of viewing art on our screens creates accessibility for the artists and visitors around the world, which enables us to realise universal expressions and thoughts. Seeing art in a connected digital space allows us to widen our perspectives on local and global issues that matter for individuals and communities.

The question remains, "Am I alone?".

The “Am I Alone?” virtual art exhibition was held from 3 January - 3 February 2021.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Wai Lu Yin is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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