Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy

Solo Exhibition:-

Ain Rahman

8th September – 3th October 2021

Core Design Gallery, Subang Jaya

E- Catalogue

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In Ain Rahman’s new art presentation, ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’, intricately woven sculptures join with video to form a single large installation that fills up Core Design Gallery. The staging of ‘Deep the sea, Above Galaxy’ in fact intersects ideas of art, design and the use of space that have always motivated Core Design Gallery. The gallery itself is a marriage between husband Tan Chun Hooi, an interior designer and architect, and Scarlette Lee, director and founder of Core Design Gallery. As they consider ways art can be an emotive object that fills our lives and homes, they continue the deep-seated commitment Core Design Gallery holds to supporting emerging and experimental artistic practice in Malaysia, situating it alongside the blue-chip local artists the gallery champions.

Ain first caught the attention of Chun Hooi when she was invited to participate in the 2021 group exhibition ‘The Red Dot’ at Core Design Gallery. Struck by the nuances of storytelling and usage of space in her work, Chun Hooi felt a strong parallel between what Ain was producing and marriages of art and architecture that had been taking place on an international level, both in critical art spaces such as Serpentine Gallery London as well as global cultural events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Ai Wei Wei was invited to collaborate with Herzog de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium. Chun Hooi immediately felt that a similar opportunity was available to collaborate between himself as a designer, Ain as a fine artist and Core Design Gallery as an art gallery, in an experiment on furthering the precincts not only what art can be, but the ways in which it can be presented and experienced. The immersive experience sought here was to be a radical way to not only examine the creation and presentation of Malaysian contemporary art as a whole, but a route through which design might offer possibilities for establishing an increasingly intimate relationship between an artist and their audiences.

Born in 1994 in Kelantan, a state on the east coast of Malaysia and often referred to as the country’s ‘cradle of culture’, in graduated from prestigious Malaysian university UiTM’s fine art department with a first-class degree in Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons.). In 2021, she held her first virtual solo exhibition, an indication of her commitment to new modes of art production and presentation, at TumbukTikus virtual gallery. ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’ is another first for the young female artist as her first physical solo exhibition, which provides new ways for Ain to expand on her experiments in making art and communicating with an audience.

Upon graduating from UiTM, Ain returned to Kelantan to continue her studio practice. Kelantan is a state where several distinctly Malay crafts are deeply embedded. over the years Ain has found the impact of Kelantanese culture and Malay heritage has emerged in her work, both in the conceptual and technical arenas, in ways that often surprise her. Concurrently the research and work developed over both her BA and MA have carried weight in her current practice. Thus, it may be understood that Ain is an artist whom uses each experience as a stepping stone through which she navigates future development. Studying the textile sculptures that form the weight of ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’ provide a lens through which this notion may unfold.

Ain first sought out fabric and thread as potential mediums while on the BA course at UiTM. While at the time the choice felt like an experiment in medium that suited a young artist working in an ecology where mixed media has been a dominant genre, reflecting back on this choice today shows the quiet seeping in of Kelantanese culture, as textiles are both a heritage craft and important cottage industry for the Kelantanese people. Reclaiming and repositioning textiles into the intellectual sphere of artistic production, Ain grounds herself in global artistic discourse, where artists such as Anni Albers or Sheila Hicks progress textile from smaller or domestic discourse into a powerful visual tool that often accompanies multi-disciplinary art practices.

Parallels may be visually drawn between Ain’s works and those crafted by Chiharu Shiota, who represented Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Both of these contemporary asian female artists seek to use thread as a starting point to create immersive art experiences in which narratives envelop their audience. Yet while Shiota’s works often have a distinct air of recognisability, through the incorporation of household objects either suspended from or built up through thread as well as large physical objects such as wooden boats, Ain’s practice tends towards more geometric woven shapes. She harnesses the emotive power of abstraction as a tool through which her stories, observations and questions are communicated. ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’ reminds audience that Ain is in-fact a multi-disciplinary artist who has traversed photography, sculpture, drawing and video through an exploration of space and creation of an immersive atmosphere.

Ain’s technical and conceptual efforts in ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’ have their roots in the charcoal drawings and performance pieces seen in her MA thesis. The subtleties of compressed charcoal, which hold texture and shades of dark and light, are immediately present in the weaves of her thick black thread sculptures. Ain creates areas of dark and light, ever conscious of the impact negative space holds. She extends this in an architectural sense with the long tunnel that forms the main body of ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’ and thread wrapped freestanding sculpture that accompanies it. Both these objects come together to illustrate a concern with geometry and how we move through and inhabit spaces around us- be they physical or metaphysical.

Concerns with the metaphysical bring Ain back to Kelantan and Malay culture. The Malays are known to be equally consumed with myths and religious philosophy, often turning to oral traditions or performances as a way to record and transmit. ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’ records the story of Ain via a subliminal self-portrait. Instead of a representational work that depicts her physical likeness Ain considers all those elements that make her whole, from the stories that coloured her childhood to her own lived experiences and observations. She subtly reminds audiences of the complexity of human existence by turning to a diverse range of media, including a video and poetry that she writes and inscribes. As audiences walk through and around ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’, shrouded in fog and enveloped in sounds of the sea and Ain’s voice, they are able to inhabit a form of her own reality while bringing in their own views, thoughts and conclusions. As such Ain in fact comments on the way in which contemporary knowledge is gained, understood and shared on. Even when stemming from a series of facts, knowledge becomes coloured by the view of each person who encounters it, rendering it an ever shifting and evolving phenomenon.

This care for highly contemporary ways of existing and knowing are manifest in the very staging of ‘Deep the Sea, Above Galaxy’. the exhibition is staged in the midst of the movement control orders necessitated in Malaysia as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time of seclusion and isolation galleries and artists have sought ways to connect with art audiences in the face of limited physical interactions. Digital platforms have thus emerged as strong forerunners. Ain and Core Design Gallery harness this via a series of live streams that show various key stages in the exhibition’s installation and progression. Yet the heart of this project very much lies in the experiential experience. With characteristic quietness born of confidence from highly developed skill, Ain indicates her art burrows deep into society’s consciousness and desires, fulfilling them. An observational quality that bodes well for her continued artistic growth, it announces Ain as an artist whose works have the ability to sit well in both Malaysian and transnational contexts- rendering her an artist to watch.

written by Zena Khan

Ain Rahman Deep the Sea Above Galaxy Steel Rod, Fabric and Thread 210cm x 420cm x 210cm (long cube), 210cm x 152cm x 210cm (truncated cube) 2021