Art Talk

SEA OF TEARS exhibition L’atelier Rouge

This is an exhibition aimed at creating awareness of the perils of the sea, especially for the people, ie the coastal inhabitants, the ships, tankers and fishing boats plying the route and the immense difficulty of the authorities to patrol and make it safe from piracy & smuggling activities.

It was even suggested in the exhibition brochure preface that the ‘Sea God’ seem to have a ‘soft spot’ for pirates by providing them with numerous ways to hid and escape detection, with ‘hideaways’ like ‘inlets and coves’ along the coastline. (Pirates of the 21st Century by Nigel Cawthorne)

Even the image of pirates have too long been romanticized in swashbuckling adventures from the time of Blackbeard to Johnny Depps’s Pirates of the Caribbean. But piracy is indeed a criminal activity and have resulted in losses of life, limb and loot.

Curators, Kenneth Wong, sole proprietor of a social enterprise called People Ideas Culture and Alan Teh from  Atelier Art Space have brought together distinct and often thought-proving pieces of art work for this exhibition at L’atelier Rouge, in The School, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Exhibition runs from 13 May to 2 June 2017

So amidst the jovial banter of artists, friends and supporters of art during the opening of Sea of Tears exhibition, there is an underlining sadness that in this day and age, piracy, human trafficking and smuggling is still much a part of life in many areas

From left :  Singapore artist, Zhang Chun Lei,  Alan Teh, Kenneth Wong and Malaysian artist, Tan Suz Chiang. Unfortunately, the other two artists from Indonesia and Philippines were unable to attend

Some of the guests enjoying the event.

Artist, Zhang Chun Lei is from Singapore. He utilises deliberate flat brush strokes, both equally well done in acrylic and Chinese ink. “His unique sense of succinct but stimulating arrangements of dots and lines reflect the intrinsic attributes of depicted structures” (excerpt from Sea of Tears exhibition brochure)

Zhang Chun Lei (Singapore)
Lazy Afternoon
Chinese ink on rice paper

These are some of the paintings of Indonesian artist, Januri.  Hailing from Tuban, east Java, he is a graduate of Indonesia Institute of the Art in 2005, but has already been exhibiting in group shows and workshops overseas since 1995. He was among the top three artists in Nokia Art Awards 2001

From left :   Fisherman in Gesing (2017)  and  Fisherman in Depok (2017) – acrylic on canvas

Artists, Zhang Chun Lei, Yew Souf and Alice Lai, .discussing art amidst Januri’s paintings.

This is the distinct watercolour style of Malaysian artist, Tan Suz Chiang. He is a graduate of Central Art Academy and later joined as its art lecturer.  

He ‘infuses abstract expressionism in his works by allowing his moods and feelings to dictate his vibrant use of colors’  (excerpt from Sea of Tears exhibition brochure). His inimitable style has won him many awards at watercolour art festivals and competitions worldwide.

From left:  Sunrise (2017) and Vibrant Harbour (2017)

The most poignant pieces in relation to the theme of Sea of Tears is Filipino artist, JC Vargas’s rendering of people and children living on the coastal villages, amongst weathered-worn boats and ships. How will they make their living? What does the future have for them?

Sa Aming Pagtawid (As we pass by) – Watercolour  (2015)

At 3pm on the same day, there was a screening of a short film by a young award winning filmmaker, Putri Purnama Sugua. 

It was about a stateless child who did not even know what Ambition is, for without formal papers (birth certificate) he was unable to attend school and was teased for being illiterate. But soon after his guardian, an old man who found him on the beach and loved him like his own child, sacrificed and sold his fishing boat to ‘buy’ a fake birth certificate which enabled him to be put in a government orphanage and attend school, the boy dreamt of flying as a pilot. Hence the title “Dream To Fly”.

This film was shot on location in Sabah (Sulu Sea) and delves into the issue of stateless children and the bureaucracy of trying to get formal papers leading to the emergence of fake certificate sales. It also showed how the people there had no say in their future when the area they had inhabited of decades was re-developed and the coastal village was torn down with no compensation and people lost their livelihood and home.
Putri Purnama is from the very same area and sets out to create awareness of the situation through her film.  She also sets an example of how one can get out of poverty and hopelessness through education which led her to be where she is today, an emerging filmmaker.
Upcoming –Saturday 20 May 2017

There will be a talk on human trafficking. These are issues we cannot ignore.

While we talk about the sea and its environmental sustainability, its security, its trade and shipping, one forgets the People On the Sea.

The panelist will bring to light the forgotten, the migrants smuggled and sold, the women and children trafficked, the refugees lost and lonesome on the boats, the fishermen trafficked and bonded, the children to be sold as brides, the families whose life and livelihood is rely on the sea but without proper ID.

Who are they? And who are the perpetrators? We bring you their pain, their tears, their untold stories. And last but not least, where are you in their lives and struggle? Do come and join us.

1. Aegile Fernandez - Director / Consultant ATIP Tenaganita.
2. A Survivor of Sea Piracy.
3. Arifa Sultana, Rohingya Vision TV

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely the current opinions of the author and should not be construed to reflect the opinions, policies or positions of any entity other than the author's.