Just the other day Yiga and I visited the new Ilham Gallery which is located in the rather swanky Ilham Tower in Jalan Binjai, central Kuala Lumpur. There seems to be a plethora of new skyscrapers in town, this one is unique in that it includes a free art gallery which is open to the public.
I am no art expert but I do enjoy feasting my eyes on different pieces of art from time to time and also to embroil myself in a bit of culture!
Walking in we saw some amazing outdoor sculptures designed by renowned sculptors Ai Wei Wei from China and Southeast Asian sculptor, Pinaree Sanpitak. It's quite breathtaking to sit outdoors and admire these fine landmarks.
The actual gallery is located on two floors, level 3 and 5 so we decided to visit the main gallery on level 5 first where there is a special showcase by the late Dato' Hoessein Enas who emigrated to Malaysia from Indonesia in the late 1940s. The name of the inaugural exhibition is "Picturing the Nation" which is a very good representation of art during the era where eventful moments took place in Malaysian history.
The whole 5th floor featured the personal collection of Dato' Hoessein's sketches and drawings and paintings from his life.
Aside from the fascinating paintings and sketches, I liked the fact that there are a lot of cosy reading nooks where you can sit and soak up the atmosphere; just losing yourself in the art !
There was also a special exhibit where you got a glimpse of what Dato' Hoessein's actual studio looked like. The curator, Valentine Willie, has recreated Dato' Hoessein's art studio together with all his paintbrushes, art easels, books and sources of inspiration. On top of that his personal musical playlist softly hums in the background adding to the mood.
It almost felt as if you were transported back in time to his era and it made you feel a bit more closer in understanding the man behind the paintbrush!
We then sauntered down to level 3 where we got to view a more contemporary, experimental and fresh look at Malaysian modern art. What interested me most was the rather kitschy light-box installation of photographs aptly named "Through Rose-Coloured Glasses" by Yee I-Lan. The collection featured photographs taken in a commercial portrait studio in Malacca between 1977-82 and provided a glimpse into the life and styles of ordinary people. Looking retrospectively, these snapshots, which capture sweet, intimate moments between friends, families and perhaps even lovers, create a sense of nostalgia for a romanticised, harmonious and multicultural past.
Aside from giggling at and enjoying all the retro hairstyles, fashion and facial expressions, by looking at these photos it made me think how different it was getting your photo taken then as compared to today. One had to go to a proper studio if one wanted a family portrait and wait a rather long time to get your photo developed. How times have changed! It was really quite different from today's internet generation with easily accessible selfies and instant gratification, one just had to be patient back then!
Another art exhibit featured more photography by Vincent Leong named "Run, Malaysia, Run!" which was a photo collection coupled with a 5 minute video of a group of actors dressed in their cultural outfits running around a studio. The message behind the video and photo collection states that it "Caricatures a cross-section of Malaysian society, depicted as stock figures dressed in their respective cultural attire". Apparently the artist was trying to show how official campaigns tend to rely on stereotypes in society, which he believes is not necessarily true.
On level 3 we also discovered a fledgling art library, one of the few places in town where you can browse art, grab a quiet seat and read a book. It's a small, and hopefully continuously growing, collection of books featuring Malaysian and ASEAN artisans.
It was nice to see such a large part of the building dedicated to an area that is open to the public. Art students and aficionados alike will really appreciate the space and enjoy the number of talks and events that the gallery has started to host and are planning to host in the future. We were told that the next installation titled "Love Me in My Batik: Modern Batik Art From Malaysia and Beyond" will open on February 28, 2016. Seeing as we are Batik&Bubbles, you can bet we are looking forward to it!
After a fair dose of art, we skipped over to one of our favourite haunts Acme Bar and Coffee strategically located across from Ilham Tower at the Troika, for a quick lunch and chat.
It was good to see that they have their new seasonal menu for 2016 .
That's what I love about ACME as they are always innovating themselves by creating new flavours and dishes. We decide to try two of their new seasonal dishes on the menu.
I tried the Chicken a la Milanese spaghetti which was absolutely yummy and delightful. There seem to be so many dishes to try at the restaurant and I'll just have to make another few visits so I can try more of them!
Our bellies full, we ended our meal with the ever-delicious and ubiquitous Cafe Latte - always a favourite!
Well it was simply a rewarding morning that we spent at Ilham Gallery and I am definitely looking forward to the next art exhibit in February. I understand that Ilham Art Gallery has special school holiday workshops too for older children and families. Who knows, maybe I'll take the kids with me one day so they too can experience and hone their appreciation in art.
Ilham Gallery is located on Level 3 & 5, ILHAM Tower, 8 Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur and is open Tuesdays - Saturdays (11am-7pm) and Sundays (11am - 5pm). They are closed on Mondays. For more information please visit their website www.ilhamgallery.com or facebook ilhamgallerykl.
ACME bar and Coffee is located at Unit G1 at The Troika, 19 Persiaran KLCC, Kuala Lumpur and is open daily (11am-12midnight) and Weekends (930am-12midnight). For bookings please call (03) 2162 2288 or their website www.acmebarcoffee.com.