G13 Gallery’s FURiends: Portrayals of Cats & Dogs exhibition shows us the love that is found within our pets
Review by Hamidah Abd Rahman

Artworks credited to the FURiends Catalogue

The FURiends: Portrayals of Cats & Dogs exhibition explores the idea of pets as an artist’s companion and support system, and depicts their quirky personalities.

The gallery’s e-catalogue mentions that the inspiration for the subject of the exhibition comes from animals having played a significant role in the lives of many influential artists, including Frida Kahlo, who owned various exotic pets, and Andy Warhol, who had an affection for cats and dogs.

The gallery features works from 21 artists, and includes a range of styles, including photorealistic paintings and self-portraits, which truly document and define the connection that the artists have with their furry companions.

Local artist Fadilah Karim’s “Companion Since 2011” (2020), for instance, could be a self-portrait. The image is of a girl sitting with two cats, and there is an air of mystery looming over her as she looks towards an empty space not shown in the image.

For the observer, there is nothing in the painting that indicates the predicament that the girl is perhaps going through, but whatever it is, it is implied that she seeks comfort from the friendly felines that keep her grounded.

Fadilah Karim - Companion since 2011

The “everyday life” that is within the realism paintings highlight the idea that pets are not just animals but, in fact, they are family to the artists. Not only is there a sense of warmth and familiarity emitting from the art, the exhibition also provides the audience with a space for contemplation for our own pets too. Being a pet owner myself, the realism in the art reflected my own connection with my cats, and this made me grow fonder and more appreciative of the comfort with which my animals provide me.

Nevertheless, most depictions of the fellow felines and canines had a whimsical approach and were full of comical touches, as the artists portrayed the pets in deeply imaginative ways.

Take Shafiq Nordin’s “The Ronin Cat” (2020), for example. A comical painting that reimagines a cat as a samurai from feudal Japan, this painting features the feline adorned in samurai gear with an expression that implies its hunger, whilst various flowers and fish “spirits” seem to circulate around it.

At first glance, the acrylic piece does not seem to have a significant meaning behind it but upon learning that the painted cat is called “ronin”, one realises the art plays around the idea of general cat behaviour and personality. The animal is known to be a creature of disobedience, which never follows the orders of its owners, linking to the definition of a “ronin”, which is a samurai who has no lord or master and alluding to its independent nature.

Shafiq Nordin - The Ronin Cat

The whimsical artworks of pets may not initially reveal a sense of depth, but they will entertain audiences who have pets and can relate to the reimagined portrayal of these animals, demonstrating their personalities. Plus, as audience, we witness the way that the artists showcase the animals in such a light-hearted, fun and animated manner, and we get a sense of how much joy and fulfilment these creatures add to their lives.

However, there was also art that seemed questionable, as it did not seem to provide any substantial importance. Such could be said for Syed Fakaruddin’s “Andy was here… after Duchamp” (2020), as one of the artist’s artwork displays a cat’s litter box that had been “used”.

The conceptual art piece seemed a little pretentious. Without any context behind it, it is merely a cat litter box. Perhaps it was Syed’s intention to send audiences into confusion when they witness it, but to me, it seemed slightly out of place against the rest of the artwork featured.

Syed Fakaruddin - Andy Was Here after Duchamp

Despite this, I found myself enjoying it as it spoke to my experience as a cat owner. Relating to my own reality, the litter box is the bane of every cat owner’s existence but it is a responsibility that simply cannot be avoided. My personal context made the litter box art piece quite humorous to witness, especially when seeing something that is all-too familiar for me at home, to be in the middle of an art gallery. Pretentious as it may have been, the litter box is the one that evokes the most truth in pet companionship.

The exhibition would have been more perfect if there were texts accompanying the art pieces, to provide more context. Nonetheless, during a time when most art shows are depicting art surrounding the current pandemic, FURiends: Portrayals of Cats & Dogs gives us something that is pleasantly different, as it is a showcase full of humour and adoration for cherished pets. You will definitely leave the gallery with a heart full of love.

FURiends: Portrayals of Cats & Dogs runs until Dec 31 at G13 gallery, a private art gallery located in Kelana Jaya, Selangor.

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.

Hamidah Abd Rahman is a writer under the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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