21 October 2020

Curatorial: The year of _________

D Gallerie x Project Mei

Abenk Alter & Hilmy P. Soepadmo

HOW many of our plans saw the light of day and how many of our inhibitions finally received attention? The year has unraveled unimaginable circumstances that have both been challenging and complex in nature. For a moment the world stopped in its track, life at full speed came to a halt and everything that we knew as normal crashed, collided, and cracked. A shockwave ran through reality where the competent became incompetence, the strong was weakened, and the weakened adapted. The sense of uneasiness was felt in all nations, in all sectors and of all backgrounds. In the same breath that the majority of us were forced to run on survival mode, we also had to stay vigilant, calm and level headed. Unlikely alignment formed to care for the greater goods. Collaborations between competing counterparts created new avenues. Before long whispers of optimism begin circulating, perhaps this is the break we all needed. Despite the piling challenges the year has shown a collective perseverance and despite the surmounting problems we have turned to creativity to find small means of adaptation to face our obstacles.

As daily activities slow down and commodity chains are disrupted , certain void becomes apparent. Hilmy P. Soepadmo who’s artistic practice normally juxtaposes the elitism of art as luxury goods, by exposing factual labels that are printed and presented on materials associated with mass ready-made and fabricated mediums, such as perspex, have returned to a conventional medium of oil on canvas. The cryptic positioning of texts and symbols of X’s are an admission to the unrealized plans that have slipped the year. Although this global crisis has affected everyone, it is certainly a daunting time for the younger generations who are scheduled to enter the workforce. This angst is hinted in Hilmy’s cropped figures in “Half Empty” and “Half Full” where they sit and float ambiguously against a brightly colored background. The checkered grey and white boxes in his, “fill in the blank” are identifiable as the empty space of a raster graphic editor are often a place where both excitement and anxiety are met with precise and experimental actions. An upward facing arrow is sometimes overlaid as an apparent reminder of the optimism we should carry in the uphill battle we yet to overcome.

If adversity is the mother of invention, we are facing multiple adversities of magnitude proportions, which mean there are huge potentials to lay new foundations to invent or reinvent. In the case of Abenk Alter that effort is steered towards creating manageable goals intended to propel a sustainable progress. More time is spared to break off bad habits. Here, his oddly shaped canvases are as if caught in the midst of breaking from its conventional shape. It houses numerous planes interlacing imageries of figures and gestures of virtues. Patterns recede and emerge and what should be at odds, instead, form a sense of rhythm. These contradictory expressions navigate from a place of chaos and order. In one work parts of a tiger appear bringing attention to the more aggressive prideful nature that lies within us. In another, a figure gesturing an offer of a flower indicating the conscious act of giving. The recurring symbols in Abenk’s work are reminders of the existing characters that we have to often revisit in order to stay connected and presence within us.

The artists through their works embrace the conflicting nuances of our current situation. Many of us are holding on to sensible optimism as we ride through this weather.