The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.
– ‘The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious’ (1928). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.305
Masks and Stories is an ongoing group exhibition by four participating visual artists – Caryn Koh, Dedy Sufriadi, Indra Dodi, and Syahbandi Samat; happening at Artemis Art, Publika now until the 29th of July 2018. Read on to find out more about the featured artists and the show’s central theme on ‘masks’ and the ‘persona’, a Jungian thought which we will be briefly touching upon. How does the persona becomes an important element in storytelling within visual art?
Masks, Personas and the Human Façade
Featuring the recent works by these visual artists from Indonesia and Malaysia, the show explores the idea of the human façade and narratives retold via depictions of the human figure. What is a persona? Carl Jung said that the Persona is an element of the personality which arises “for reasons of adaptation or personal convenience.” The Persona can be seen as the ‘PR’ part of the ego, the part that allows us to interact socially in a variety of situations with relative ease. The persona usually festers and develops from the parts of a person who wants to please someone other than themselves, parents, teachers, bosses and other authoritative figures – pushing one’s best exemplifying qualities forward and leaving the negative traits behind to what Jung also calls the “Shadow”. As social beings, it is a coping mechanism we employ, heavily based on a system of relations as typified between individual consciousness and society, it is a system both to conceal and impress upon others. Though to grossly oversimplify, it is the iconography of masks at play, connotations of concealment and ‘layers’ to uncover from a person’s well, persona.
In Mardi Gras, masks were used as a channel for people to express transgressive ideas and even satirical commentary under the safety of an anonymous guise. In “V” for Vendetta, the mask of Guy Fawkes carry the symbolic weight of anarchism, revolution, and civil disobedience – and even that idea carried over into modern day pop culture with many appropriating this as an image of defiance. (Just look at Mr. Robot). In Phantom of The Opera, the iconic broadway mask of the Phantom is far different than how it was illustrated in the novel, choosing to go for a sculpted look that was more reminiscent of Greek aesthetics and statues that embodied the ideas of ‘perfection’ than the ‘clown‘-esq venetian vibe the mask would have had. From a literary standpoint, the masks serve it’s purpose as physical representations of these character’s thoughts, insecurities and alter egos.
It is always a narrative about relations in that sense. How does then the persona become an important element in storytelling within visual art?
Vantage points and varying personas may help to piece together a more comprehensive understanding of an event, and as postured by this exhibition, perhaps “a story is nothing more than the cumulative end result of two or more personas interacting. Façade meeting façade; mask meeting mask.”
Dr. Caryn Koh
Best known for her Sekolah (School) Series of pen and color pencil sketches and drawings, Caryn is a qualified medical doctor who decided that her true calling was in the visual arts. Her artworks draw from personal experiences, and observations of the people and world around her. Her drawings and paintings included in this exhibition focus on the process of change, and how individuals cope with change, either within themselves in ways that might be physiological, psychological or spiritual, or changes to the environment and social circumstances.
Caryn’s works are pensive and contemplative, buried under a veil of muddled colours and emotions that yet may become apparent once taken time to ponder upon. Reflective and plenty of blues, an underlying theme of (almost) sadness seems to envelop these drawings and paintings. Perhaps not right on the nose, but a sensation close to that; empathetic too.
The thematic framework of Masks and Stories has its genesis from the series of semi-abstract paintings by emerging Indonesian artist Dedy Sufriadi. Apart from his paintings that deal with text, Dedy frequently proposes figurations as key focus points in his art. His Batmanthology series of works deal with the idea of the human alter ego, the alternate personality that exists within all of us, but not always acted out. Using the popular pop culture icon Batman and his dichotomy between that and his human philanthropist half – Bruce Wayne, what sort of transformation does his persona undergo?
Among the question Dedy ponders – which persona is the true Bruce Wayne; the spiritually tormented playboy billionaire, or the Dark Knight whose resolve is absolute? And so it is with many people in real life – the mask they wear tells only one aspect of perhaps a very complex personality.
Indra Dodi is a natural storyteller. His naïve-style figurations could be described as what happens in the world at large as visualized by a young child – and indeed, we are transported into the world of a kid through his paintings. The clues of what specific stories Indra tells may be surmised through his use of color symbolism, and facial expressions seen in the figurations. The collection of works included in this exhibition comprise of the artist’s recent works, emanating from observations of people and events around him. Just about any anecdote he hears, or events he comes across, may make their way onto the canvas.
The youngest of the four artists, Syahbandi Samat is a self-taught artist whose skill with the simple ballpoint pen doesn’t cease to impress. He emerged onto the Malaysian art scene back in 2011 and has since participated in numerous group exhibitions. Syahbandi’s artworks are, quite simply, visual storybooks. His early fascination was with the retelling of popular folklore and fairy tales, providing his own visual interpretation within his works.
His art have since moved away from the whimsy of fairy tales, delving deeper into his own self, providing introspective insights, fears and hopes. The works selected for the exhibition are his expression of love for his wife and life partner, with a good dose of visual symbolism and a dash of humor thrown in.
Exhibitian Dates: June 30 to July 29 2018
Opening Hours: 11am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays) 12noon to 6pm (Sundays)
Mondays Public Holidays ** only by Appointment
Venue: Artemis Art
Lot 21 & 22, Level G4 Publika@Dutamas
Block C5 Solaris Dutamas,
No. 1 Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Gallery: 03-6211 1891
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and for more on the show and participating artists for “Masks & Stories” , you can follow their website linked here