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At first glance, Galeri Petronas may seem like corridors of interrogating lit-ups spaces with contending elements threatening to force themselves onto you, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Tucked away at an easily missable corner of Suria KLCC amidst all the hustle and bustle of shopping, Galeri Petronas is the supposed embodiment of Malaysian contemporary culture at its finest, and in the past has celebrated some of Malaysia’s greatest contemporary artists.
Admission is free and there are two entrances to the gallery which also function as interchangeable exits, and visitors are invited to choose which path to take, each allowing them to build different experiences with every visit. As one enters from the right, they would be greeted by a creative space that often facilitates art workshops for children on weekends with hopes of building some of Malaysia’s most creative minds by starting out young.
From the left, visitors would immediately be greeted by contemporary works of art ranging from abstract expressionism to surrealism. However, one can’t help but feel that there is a clash of elements in the artwork arrangement.
The arrangement is such that there is a lack of a common underlying theme in one space, so one would have to be fluid with their emotions in order to have an immersive experience, as one manoeuvres through contradictory elements. For example, one would find escapism in Lai Chan Shiang‘s works only to turn around and have inner demons haunting them by means of Haslin Ismail’s visibly troubling works.
I was particularly captivated with Lai Chan Shiang’s works, as he successfully unified bold colours to create vibrant compositions which spell “fun” and “endless possibilities”. His works had one thing in common – they seem Studio Ghibli inspired and they added another dimension of childish giddiness; that in the realm of fantasy, the rule is that there are no rules, there are no limits to the things you can see or do.
“New Zealand in the Sky” brought forth recollections of Laputa or Castle in the Sky. Then there is “Free to Love”, where one can’t help but be reminded of Ponyo.
Established in 1993, Galeri Petronas has seen many tourists and locals alike but one can’t help but feel a certain degree of suppression as photo-taking is strictly prohibited, more so when there are police personnel in the galley ensuring that the rule is abided by. It is a rather strange rule that the management should reconsider, as the aim of the gallery is to showcase, and one wonders how is that possible if tourists are unable to bring back some snippets of Malaysian contemporary culture to their homeland?
One can’t help but feel the subversive elements of Lim Keh Soon’s works of art amplified in such circumstances, adding a sentiment of rebellion one would secretly harbour while introspecting in the gallery.
In any event, Galeri Petronas is a great place to spend your weekends, whether you’re looking for some peace and quiet or if you’re a culture junkie. The location is convenient as well, as one can always stop by while shopping at Suria KLCC, so the added accessibility is a perk.
From now until the 16th of September, there is an exhibition called MERDEKA: A Work in Progress featuring works by Haslin Ismail and Samsudin Wahab, artfully curated by Badrolhisham M Tahir. It intends to showcase how far Malaysia has come since she achieved her independence, so if you’re looking to gain some insights on Malaysian history, this is the place to be!
Image credit: Galeri Petronas