Auction Land, 2013 by Hamir Soib

A strong example of the socio-political commentary that is Hamir Soib’s conceptual signature, ‘Auctionland’ debuted at GMCA I, a seminal exhibition curated by Farouk Khan that presented Malaysian contemporary art in a museum-like setting at the local Art Expo art fair in 2013. Given the gravity of the exhibition Hamir spent an extended period of time refining the work he would present, leading ‘Auctionland’ to have an incredibly refined finish and level of detail across its expanse of 16 feet.

‘Auctionland’ marked Hamir’s return to colour after a five year monochromatic period. The canvas is layered and built up in the bitumen medium he perfected during his monochromatic period and overlaid with acrylic, making it ‘glow’. As the pioneer of monumental canvases in the Malaysian contemporary art scene Hamir is skilled in the art of composition across an expanse, which is seen here as the entire area of the canvas is filled with thoughtful details and harmoniously composed to draw viewer’s eyes across the surface.

Layering is crucial to Hamir not only technically but also philosophically, which is reinforced with the concept behind ‘Auctionland’. An expensive commodity, the koi has been used as an icon to represent the ideas of value, buying and selling and the auction market. Within the contemporary Malaysian art scene there was an explosion of auction houses. Hamir questions the significance of these institutions within a booming contemporary art market when they promoted and idealised Nanyang art over contemporary. The lateral position of the koi becomes key in this context, as within Nanyang art there is frequent representation of the koi in a bird’s eye view; by changing the context Hamir asks his audience to look at issues from new perspectives. Impeccable in scale, finish and content, ‘Auctionland’ is a seminal painting from one of the landmark exhibitions in Malaysian contemporary art history, representing a significant moment that underlined why Hamir has his reputation as a true master in the contemporary Malaysian art scene.