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Narratives in Malaysian Art

Four-volume publication, comprising texts, essays, and interviews on the development of visual art in Malaysia. Published by RogueArt
Nov 2012

Malaysian art is a rich and diverse field with a compelling history and a promising future. The creative visions of Malaysian artists offer insights into many discourses - from stories in Malaysian art and its development, to pre- and post-Merdeka national narratives, as well as current social, political and cultural developments in the context of a globalised world. 

However, the documentation and discussion of this vital aspect of our culture is still under-developed with only a limited bibliography available for interested arts, academic and general audiences. Narratives in Malaysian Art addresses this imbalance through a body of collected and commissioned writings in a four-volume in Bahasa Malaysia and English (in separate editions). It is a project by Malaysian art writers to begin a larger exploration of Malaysia’s artistic heritage for today’s generation and for generations to come.


- To invigorate the debates and discourses around Malaysian art history

- To create a valuable resource for students, artists, curators, writers and members of the  general public

- To support a tradition of critical writing in Malaysia by providing a platform for both established and emerging authors 

Narratives in Malaysian Art has selected as its starting point the pre-Merdeka (pre-Independence) period and will cover artistic practice and production, and their contexts up to today. It seeks to address the development of diverse visual art practices, movements and discourses, and their relationship to the Malaysian historical context, as well as to other cultural disciplines and phenomena.

We do not claim to be a definitive history of Malaysian art, but a weaving together of its stories, issues, and context from many different viewpoints. 

The structure of the 4-volume publication is based on large themes and areas of interest, with Volumes I & II covering art production, practices and history, Volume III addressing the role and nature of Malaysian art world infrastructure, and Volume IV looking at a range of viewpoints on key issues in the context of reading and interpreting art in Malaysia. The first volume, "Imagining Identities", was launched on 7 July 2012 at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

Narratives in Malaysian Art is published by RogueArt, and made possible through the support of generous corporate sponsors, individuals and friends of the project. Profits from sales of the books are channeled back into the project.

Volume I:
Editors: Nur Hanim Khairuddin, Beverly Yong, with T.K. Sabapathy
Published in July 2012
380pp (Eng), 420 pp (BM), with 140 illustrations
This first volume, launched in July, examines the intellectual, philosophical and thematic preoccupations that have shaped art practices in Malaysia since their beginnings. It looks at how Malaysian artists have attempted to make sense of an enduring albeit always evolving Malaysian subject matter, content and meaning. This volume is divided into two parts:

The Journey Between the Pastoral and the Urban, and the Building of a Nation begins by addressing early developments in Malaysian art against the backdrop of the lead up to Merdeka as well as the forging of a national identity. It looks at developments in artistic production in parallel with the influence of socio-historical events like urbanization, cultural difference and racial relations always against the backdrop of the evolving landscape of a rich and bountiful land, nationhood and national pride. Claiming/Reclaiming National Identity in Malaysian Art looks at Malaysian art’s preoccupations and experiences with the concept of identity and how it constitutes a site of struggle between competing artistic practices, narratives and discourses. 

Essays by Anurendra Jegadeva, Beverly Yong & Adeline Ooi, Chai Chang Hwang, Emelia Ong, Izmer Ahmad, Kelvin Chua, Laura Fan, Ooi Kok Chuen, Rahimidin Zahari, Redza Piyadasa,  Safrizal Shahir, Siti Zainon Ismail, Sulaiman Esa, Syed Ahmad Jamal, TK Sabapathy,  Tengku Sabri Ibrahim, Yee I-Lann, Zakaria Ali, Zainol Shariff.

Volume II:
Editors: Nur Hanim Khairuddin, Beverly Yong, with T.K. Sabapathy
Publication date: Early 2013
The aim of this second volume is to accumulate and highlight key information pertaining to the response of artists towards social, political, cultural and artistic contexts. It examines the development of new artistic strategies from the late 60s to today, taking into consideration changes in the socio-political context, technological development and the emergence of new methodologies in art practice and thinking. 

Seminal moments such as the Mystical Reality exposition and manifesto, new media exploration by Ismail Zain, conceptual practices by the New Scene, and multi-disciplinary tendencies among the Anak Alam collective, will be covered and given fresh perspectives, joined by new documentation and discussion of more recent key events. The volume will explore the development of approaches to various media such as photography, performance and conceptual art, and the use of electronic and new media technology, as well as how artists have chosen to negotiate space, and engaged with other cultural disciplines.

Volume III:
Publication date: 2013
This volume will look at the development of the Malaysian art scene - its history, current situation and future prospects. It will examine the history and role of art education, art institutions, and the art market through overviews as well as interviews with key figures. This survey will also encompass art publishing, art programming by international agencies, corporate support and private patronage, art residencies, competitions and prizes, which have all played an important part in encouraging artists and audiences. Importantly, the volume address the ways in which artists have been perceived in Malaysian society, and how they have sought to make themselves heard, supported each other, and shaped their environment through the creation of societies, collectives, alternative spaces and even foundations.

Volume IV:
Publication date: 2013
This volume presents diverse viewpoints on key issues in reading and discussing contemporary art in the Malaysian context. Specially commissioned essays will look at under-researched areas such as art historical and critical methodologies, gender, art and technology, and engagement with communities, while there will also be surveys and interviews with local art world figures as well as specialist essays addressing more familiar central topics such as post-colonialism and ethnicity and identity. In this way, Volume IV: Perspectives hopes to stimulate further discussion, which may in turn expand into a more sustained sense of discourse in Malaysian art.


(Information provided by RogueArt)

Narratives in Malaysian Art:
A Publication Project

Published by:


I7 Taman Tunku Apartments, Bukit Tunku,
50480 Kuala Lumpur

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