The world of art may seem secretive for those who do not traverse between galleries and art collections. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to talk to two art professionals who dedicate themselves to help bridge the disconnect between the art and the wider public: Beverly Yong and Rachel Ng.
In 2019, the co-founders of RogueArt, working with a changing editorial team and collaborating with many contributors completed (publication of) Narratives in Malaysian Art, a four-volume series (that began in 2009) that dives deep into the art practices, history, and infrastructure in Malaysia. Through their tremendous efforts in the art scene, the duo succeeds in fostering new conversations about art and its vital importance in society by bringing voices together.
WHAT BARRIERS HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER?
It’s not so much a personal obstacle. In our opinion, not being able to get more people to value art has always been the greatest challenge. And by value, we’re not referring to the price of artworks. People see the price tag of artworks, but they often don’t recognise the value that they bring to society. They also don’t see the economic value of people working in the arts, which we think we need more of. The people who make art, the people who support artists, they are contributing to the health and development of our society. So people should value that.
HOW DOES ART AFFECT CULTURE AND SOCIETY?
B: You can’t separate art from culture and society. Art represents ways we think and how we express ourselves. It’s about people finding ways to imagine, to critique themselves as well as others; it’s a way for people to take a step back and look at what’s happening around and to us. So, I think when we are having trouble being imaginative about what we are doing in the world, where we are going, or who we are, we have artists to help generate different ways of seeing and thinking.
"Art represents ways we think and how we express ourselves. It’s about people finding ways to imagine, to critique themselves as well as others; it’s a way for people to take a step back and look at what’s happening around and to us."
R: I think that artists are a moral compass for us. I find that artists are able to articulate and express what we often can’t. They find ways to weave their thoughts into a process where their thoughts are a critical part of their art. Artists also help us think about things like “How do we fit into society?”, “How do we contribute back to society?” and stand up for the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS THAT YOU ARE PARTICULARLY EXCITED ABOUT?
B: We are working on a couple of projects with Sabahan artist, Yee I-Lann. She’s been working with weaving communities in Semporna and Keningau, and bringing contemporary art and traditional crafts together through collaborating on tikar (mats). It opens all kinds of possibilities about sustainability, new creative economies and how the contemporary can meet the traditional. So, we are helping her to put together an exhibition and a monograph covering the last 10 years of her work.
R: The other project that we are excited about is our Art Exhibition- Making Toolkit, which is a workshop series in partnership with KOTA-K Studio. The idea of the project is to encourage arts and activist organisers in Sabah to get involved in and develop art exhibition making. Basically, we set up a short syllabus encompassing two workshops, introducing them to basic know-how on planning and setting up art exhibitions. The idea is that the participants will be organising their own art exhibition by the end of the workshop series. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sabah, participants are exploring various physical and online presentations to complete their projects.