If you've tried to call or email me in the last seven weeks or so then you will have been greeted by my answerphone or an out-of-office reply. That's because I've spent the last couple of months in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I have been undertaking an eight week residency at Shalini Ganendra Fine Art, courtesy of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.
I've given lectures at the Multimedia University and the Malaysia Institute of Art, had interviews with magazines and radio stations (not too sure how well my thick Kiwi accent is understood over the airwaves), and I've been living at SGFA with various interns who are students or recent graduates from Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford, and their youth and enthusiasm makes me wish I could be an idealistic 20-year old poet again!
Long and intensive studio hours have been mixed with bursts of travel, most notably Singapore, Malaka, and the island of Penang (whose exceptional colonial district of Georgetown is quite rightly recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site), and I've enjoyed an array of experiences that I could not have foreseen before my arrival in KL. Jungle treks, waterfalls, isolated beaches, and the architectural wonderlands of Malaysia have proven inspirational, and the food is a daily highlight (and, quite frankly, a national obsession), but of course it is the interactions with the people that will stick with me the most. Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures are all in the mix here, and I'm able to appreciate things from another perspective altogether.
Local artists have been incredibly gracious hosts, taking me to studios, galleries, freeform jazz gigs, traditional Malay shadow-puppet shows, temples, and in one case – no kidding – turning up with a 10-foot python in a sack. The snake had been caught in somebody's house nearby (not every local artist supports themselves by lecturing or working in a gallery you know!), and they invited me to travel north of KL and release the python. Apparently they would hold the 'head end' and I just had to support the body. I thought of what an adventure this would be, hiking into the lowland jungles with a massive python and slightly unhinged artist. Then I thought of my partner and daughter back in New Zealand, and I politely declined. I'm still pretty comfortable with that decision.
So anyway, my exhibition here at SGFA opens tonight at 6.30pm, with cocktails and – believe it or not – Kapiti icecream. Strange mix? Hey, when in KL, just go with it. I attended a dinner at the residence of the NZ Ambassador to Malaysia and Brunei shortly after my arrival in KL (a truly amazing evening), and apparently I was well behaved enough that His Excellency David Pine is going to officiate at my opening. The show is called repeat pattern, and although it's rather short notice I do hope if you happen to be passing through KL (unlikely, I know) you can make it. Below are a few pics of the works completed during the residency, and no doubt this is a shameless hijacking of the gallery blog in a blatant attempt at self-promotion, for which I expect much grief upon my return. The cocktails are on me (erm, thanks Shalini), so we'll see you there!