by Yasmin Newman

The Kuala Lumpur Biennale returns this year from now till 31st March 2018, touting a game changer of an exhibition as it stamps its new presence with the history of the progression of the visual arts scene in Malaysia, hosted by the National Art Gallery!

The Biennale has been around for years, but now the international contemporary art exhibition will serve as a benchmark for the Malaysian national culture! (How about some of that Malaysian pride!)

Before getting into anything else, let’s talk about their very important theme:

The theme this time around for Malaysia is ALAMI BELAS meaning, ‘Beloved’, which is a beautiful word that encompasses empathy, love, pity, compassion, and mercy.

The theme is chosen to portray KL Biennale 2017 as it goes beyond the usual themes of international Biennales such as divergence, ethnic conflict war, and politics which are commonly found in their artworks. Instead, the Biennale will look to instill positive values such as compassion, sincerity and happiness and most importantly, mutual respect and sustainability.

With 114 artists (103 locals and 11 individuals from across the continent), it is certainly an amazing experience to go and see the artworks exhibition.

I absolutely loved the launch, introduced by YB Dato’ Seri Mohammed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia himself, and local Artist Anthony Lau who expressed his words of wisdom about his time in the arts industry. Further on, as one amongst the crowd, after the heartfelt speeches were given out, I looked above to the top of the building and watched as they revealed the KL Biennale’s  banner and the release of pink and white balloons into the air.

The huge Art Gallery displays 4 categories of Love/Belas:

The Love for Humanity

Love for Nature

Love for Animals

Love for Heritage

Belas will also exhibit memories of Belasungkawa, unsung heroes, artists that have uplifted Malaysian arts to a national level. These unsung heroes are Syed Ahmad Jamal, Nirmala Shanmughalingam, O Don Peris and Anthony Lan, who were there during the official launch of the KL Biennale 2017.

There was a huge number of attendees including many local artists who came to view the exhibit, which many people took the opportunity to take selfies with because it’s 2017. The Gallery was so huge, it’ll take you a good few hours to actually go around and appreciate all of the art. After being abroad for so long and looking at Arabic art as I am an art student, it’s actually very refreshing to see some local elements within these artworks.

There is a huge range of different materials to give you that really diverse look at the exhibition theme, yet the artists still made it very uniform.

There were far too many people and too many pieces to see, so I was forced to glance and take photographs without having the time to slowly absorb the beautiful pieces.There were a few pieces in particular that I really liked as there so many different art styles to look at. A lot of the artworks as a whole made me want to take some of my friends and family to this exhibition so I could go and look at them again!

Check out a few pictures from the exhibition!

Love for Nature

Love for Humanity.

And finally, the love for heritage

Okay, I’m about the contradict what I just said about finally not looking at Arabic art, but probably one of the best parts of the exhibitions was the lady in the red sparkling Abaya who walked around the art gallery randomly.

I aspire to be that extra one day.

Aside from the paintings themselves, there was also delicious food and live traditional Malaysian music playing whilst walking around the gallery! It’s very accommodating and I can’t think of a better way to host the KL Biennale.

Would I go again? MOST definitely! This gallery holds a lot of beautiful artworks that you absolutely have to see! Reminder to all, Biennale is an event that happens twice every year in alternating countries. This art exhibit goes on until 31st of March, so there’s no excuse not to go!

Go and see some art!