KLAS 777 Vernissage
7 April 2019 at KLAS @ Jalan Utara
By Sara Yeoh
Upon entering the KL Lifestyle Art Space (KLAS) on the night of its Vernissage recently, a sense of comfort and familiarity hit, as paintings of rural Malaysian scenery and landscapes by Khalil Ibrahim welcomed the guests. A quick glance around the KLAS gallery and you would spot artworks with familiar Southeast Asian elements on the walls like batik, Jawi scripts, oriental landscapes and portraits of local women — a true celebration of local art indeed. It is no wonder, as the gallery was displaying its curation of masterpieces sold and exhibited over the 7 years by 7 Malaysian and 7 Singaporean artists, in conjunction with the gallery’s 7th anniversary. And hence, the title 777.
In attendance at the opening of the event were KLAS’ guest of honour, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and a few close friends of the gallery.
7 Illustrious Years: The Journey
It all started in 2011 in Tropicana City Mall, when KLAS first opened with an intention of hosting an art auction. Within the span of two years, it hosted two art auctions – Malaysia’s Inaugural Indonesian and Malaysian Modern & Contemporary Art Auction, and The Malaysian Modern & Contemporary Art Auction – which saw a sale of over RM4.4 million worth of artworks in total. It was clear that Malaysians’ enthusiasm towards the local art scene was starting to flourish.
When Singaporean artworks and buyers started making their way into KLAS art auctions, Malaysian artworks were exposed to our neighbours, and they have been fascinated with them since. On an international scale, KLAS has successfully hosted two major shows to date. Our Being, a solo exhibition in 2011 by the seasoned Indonesian artist Jeihan Sukmantoro, marked KLAS’ foray into promoting artworks by renowned Southeast Asian artists. KLAS’ second international exhibition took place in 2017 with a major Australian artist, David Bromley, for his inaugural exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.
Fast-forward 34 auctions later, KLAS has become a major mover in the Malaysian art landscape, spurring it towards its promising prime.
People of Southeast Asia put artworks of the series on a pedestal, as the artist translates the physical and spiritual elements of the region’s natural environment into beautiful paintings. Latiff’s pursuit of nature and the organic led him to draw inspiration from the most ordinary forms found in the region, like shrines, boats, leaves, bamboo, and many more. The honoured series is almost like a study of culture, flora and fauna of Southeast Asia. Each sketch and painting carries so much spirit that it speaks to the locals on the importance of taking care of the environment.
The inspiration for the series’ name comes from the land Pago-Pago – a distant island in the territorial capital of American Samoa in the South Pacific – where Latiff saw rows of huge sculptures of human figures, all facing towards the direction of Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asian Pride
Latiff was the first to represent Southeast Asia as a leading modernist in an exhibition at the renowned gallery Centre Pompidou, Paris. The exhibition, in collaboration with the National Gallery of Singapore, featured more than 70 works from the Pago-Pago series from 1960 to 1969. The 1960’s were a particularly formative period for the artist’s works as he journeyed through Europe and Southeast Asia. The ‘Debris’, which was sold by KLAS, was on display in the Pompidou Gallery in 2018 as well.