New Straits Times, 18 June 2011
Where art meets fashion
by Meera Murugesan
In a crossover project between the two fields, new perspectives are being explored, writes Meera Murugesan.
Creativity rules in art and fashion. So what happens when these two highly expressive and influential fields merge? In an interesting experiment by Wei-Ling Contemporary and The Gardens Mall, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur, eight fashion designers and eight artists came together to work on the theme The Garden Of Hidden Desires.
This bridging of art and fashion is well established in the rest of the world but has hardly been explored here and the end result, now showing at Wei-Ling Contemporary in The Gardens Mall, is proof that art can move easily onto fabric and fashion makes its way comfortably onto canvas.
Creative boundaries were pushed and new perspectives explored in this crossover between art and fashion and this was evident in the provocative, eye-catching paintings, stunning couture dresses and innovative sculptures and installations on display.
“We hope to give the audience a glimpse into how artists and fashion designers feed off one another and how fashion designers can get inspiration from contemporary artists,” says Wei-Ling Contemporary director Lim Wei Ling.
For the artists and designers on this project, the process allowed them to appreciate each other’s creative inspirations and challenged them to find that joyous meeting point between art and fashion.
“There was a lot of give-and-take, sharing of ideas and discussions on the theme but the most important was that we could be honest and open with one another,” says fashion designer Izrin Ismail of the batik brand Innai, who worked with artist Dhavinder Singh. Izrin’s designs are known for their distinctive prints and vibrant colours while Dhavinder’s artwork stands out with its clean cut, subtle and minimalist approach. Their challenge was to find a way to merge their two different perspectives and they did it by using the element of fish and water.
For the exhibition, Dhavinder created an innovative, cross-shaped, hanging aquarium (complete with fish) and placed laminated pieces of Izrin’s oceanic print fabric inside the aquarium to create a striking underwater garden effect. Izrin’s creation to accompany this artwork is a stunning deep blue gown with hand drawn Japanese seigaiha (blue sea and wave) motifs on the flowing skirt.
“At first, I was a bit sceptical about the collaboration but Izrin and I had an instant connection. She’s a simple, straightforward person and that’s how I am too,” says Dhavinder.
Another striking piece is an eye-catching rattan sculpture called Arousing Venus by IM (Izan Tahir and Marvin Chan). The artists, who work as a team, were paired with fashion designer Michael Ong. According to the artists, “hidden desires” refers to what’s inside our head, the secrets we hold inside so it was a natural step to create a sculpture in the form of a large, striking, human head. Taking the words “hidden” and “desires” a step further, IM’s huge rattan sculpture is also designed to open up and reveal a cosy hidden love seat inside.
To complement the sculpture, Ong designed a long, tiered dress in georgette silk in a colour similar to rattan and with piping and trimming that mimic strips of rattan.
Another interesting collaboration was between artist Munkao and designer Sonny San. Munkao, who’s known for his cheeky and mischievous approach and who enjoys translating images from popular culture, has a different point of view from San, who’s famous for his trendy and wearable designs.
In keeping with Munkao’s pencil rendered canvas of a charging bear with its huge, furry body captured in vivid detail, San has designed a flowing, faux fur skirt paired with a body suit that has a dramatic “blood splattered” effect on the chest as if a bear attack has taken place.
“He’s interesting, even playful in his approach. We threw ideas around and eventually came up with these provocative pieces,” says Munkao of his collaboration with San. Another noteworthy contribution is a Datuk Tom Abang Saufi dress that artfully makes a statement about life and death.
The bright summer prints on the top half of the dress and fabric blossoms on the shoulder strap cheerfully echo life, while the solemn skull prints and dried leaves on the skirt clearly spell death.
Tom was paired with artist Justin Lim, who was also inspired by life, death and religion, silk-screened images of ancient gods, skulls and Tom’s solemn images, to produce a collection of nine, hauntingly beautiful art pieces.
Artist Samsudin Wahab and fashion designer Tengku Syahmi of Ultra interpreted the given theme as paradise lost and found, in a painting entitled Should We Stay Or Should We Go.
His painting sits unconventionally framed within metal bars and draws the eye with its depiction of unrest in the world while Tengku Syahmi’s dress to complement the artwork is in complete contrast to this turmoil.
Fresh, youthful, clean, modern and futuristic, Tengku Syahmi says the characteristics of the dress reflect what the future can be like if we stop the violence and unrest on our planet.
The Garden Of Hidden Desires runs till June 30. Admission is free. To commemorate the exhibition, Shiseido has also come up with eight limited edition Zen White Heat perfume bottles which draw inspiration from the art and fashion on display. The perfumes will be sold at Isetan outlets next month and proceeds go to tsunami victims in Japan.