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Meditative Minimalist?
by Martin

Published on Correspondences, April 20, 2010
Re-published article with a new title "Sand T, Mimimalist Artist" on Dusun, a Malaysian e-Journal of the Arts, June/July 2011
, Premier issue, Page 14-21

‘Material Tendencies’ exhibition at Paris CONCRET in Paris, France.

From 29th May to June 19th, 2010, the visual artist Sand T Kalloch exhibits her most recent epoxy resin works, in an exhibition entitled ‘Material Tendencies’, at Paris CONCRET, Paris, France, alongside artists from France and the Netherlands.

Last year I was very disappointed not to be able to see Sand T’s works, in her proposed solo exhibition, at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang. The exhibition was cancelled due to lack of financial support. It would seem a pity that an artist of Sand T’s international repute, and a home grown artist at that, was unable to draw sufficient support for her show. Thus denying many the chance to engage with her exciting works, and discover more about the art of minimalism.

Sand T was born in historical Melaka, land of Nyonya/Baba, cincalok and gula. This extremely prolific artist, whose work is also in the Malaysian National Art Gallery collection, drifted towards the US of A for her Master of Fine Arts degree - and stayed on, in Massachusetts. There she has developed her stunning visual style and makes a point in promoting better understanding of fine art through her minimalist works.

For those more familiar with the figurative art of Zakaria Ali, Rafiee Ghani, or indeed the more abstract works of Latiff Mohidin and Ibrahim Hussein, Sand T’s take on minimalist art refreshes the senses that other arts cannot reach. Michael Fried, in Artforum 1967, suggested that the concept of minimalist art, or liberalist art as he prefers, is an entirely ideological enterprise. To a large extent minimalist art separates itself off from modernist art, and more especially from the contemporary arts of the time – Op Art and Pop Art. Released from the boundaries of painting, minimalist art becomes freed from the need for pictorial illusion and, to a large extent, representation and ‘flat’ art altogether, in favour of an art utilising three dimensions.

Minimalism, in its stillness, transcends the mere mimetic, stripping away the irrelevant, revealing the fundamental and it is these very qualities which are inherent in Sand T’s works, and may go some way into describing the otherwise indescribable qualities of her transcendental, seemingly tranquil, art.

Sand T specialises in art made using UV resistant epoxy resin, usually on a panel, with additional colour, and occasionally the use of graphite too. Her works are highly reflective, making use of internal colour and space as well as reflections and shadows cast onto her works.

There is a sublimely sumptuous quality about Sand T’s epoxy resin works which, though termed by the artist ‘minimalist’, actually defy categorisation. At moments when visitors wax lyrical, these highly polished and reflective epoxy resin works, often graced with graphite, appear to have freeze-framed 1970s lava lamps (as seen at the Massachusetts exhibition Negotiating the Irrationalities hosted by artSPACE@16). At other times the viewer might be encouraged to imagine that the tiny globules of semi-opaque fluid, are, seemingly, suspended, transfixed in time and space (Black Ecstasy B-2).

The self-delusionary viewer, who may or may not be a budding art historian high on the uniqueness of Sand T’s art, may imagine water droplets on the Pop Artist Allen Jones’ black patent leather boots (Voice of Silence), or perhaps the steamed windows of Dali’s surreal Rainy Taxi (Dancing Lights (clear)) as seemingly represented by Sand T’s radiant epoxy works; for there is little doubt that her works lend themselves to such reveries.

Old hippies may recall the 1960s band – Traffic, singing ‘...capturing moments of life in a jar’ from the song ‘Heaven Is In Your Mind’ (album Mr Fantasy-1967). From one perspective that is exactly what Sand T appears to do with her works. Observing globules of epoxy resin seemingly suspended within the works lends a notion of time transfixed, or caught. This notion might be encouraged by the resonance of the spectacular Time and Space B-1 (in the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur), where carefully placed semi-translucent epoxy drips and lines, against a backdrop of deep reflective black, may give the viewer the illusion of a transcendental, Zen-space.

A mind oft used to indulgent fantasies might imagine strains of Miles Davis’ cool jazz, John Cage’s Dream (1948) or Phillip Glass’s Opening (from Glassworks 1981) frozen at a potentially mind-blowing ecstatic moment, solidified music, entrapped in epoxy resin, forever blowing, notes gelling into reality, reincarnated into resin.

In German philosophy, Martin Heidegger reveals the concept of the Augenblick, a specific minimal moment in time – quite literally the blink, or glance of an eye, time frozen, reduced to its smallest component part. And in many ways Augenblick may be enough to describe Sand T’s work, where drops of epoxy resin, on clay covered board, come to represent, in the eye of the beholder, infinite time and space encapsulated.

Whatever the viewer projects onto, or into, Sand T’s works, there is certainly little doubt that those works, whatever they may appear to be, are a trigger to meditation, or prayer, if ever there was one. For the viewer, observing Sand T’s work becomes inundated, washed with spiritual, Zen-like vibes; this is one of the most vital, intrinsic values of these alluring works - their innate ability to seemingly encourage contemplation and introspection.

Sand T’s frozen Zen drops are painstakingly placed for maximum effect, despite minimalist content, delivering surfaces which at once reflect an external world of physicality, while revealing a transcendental space for meditation, inner reflection and projection. Her intricately constructed resin works literally mirror external shifting reality while, simultaneously, capturing moments forever in stasis, sitting somewhere between realism and abstract, reality and construct.

While Sand T’s works have the appearance of trapping the moment, catching the Augenblick that notion is, in reality, a sheer fallacy, for movement and time continues reflected on the surface of her works in a gleam of her highly polished epoxy resin. The works’ surfaces, with their mirror-esque qualities, bring exciting new dynamics into an already complex artistic equation.

It is true that Sand T’s artworks may appear as stasis, time encapsulated, but that is all it is - a Platonic appearance, not reality. Where romantic artistic interpreters dream of flies in amber and imagine raindrops on tropical leaves (Euclidean Space in Electric Lime), sheen on black metal (Voice of Silence), condensation in taxis (Minus Space) reality is, in fact, reflected on the works’ surfaces.

Like froth on a daydream, life is being lived external to the epoxy resin works themselves - reflections of cameras, lights, visitors, and in the darkened gallery – shadows, all dance to the tune of light reflected on the surface of Sand T’s works. For that, essentially, fundamentally is the delicious tension of Sand T’s constructs – the projected into and the reflected onto. Ultimately her artistic constructs are non-representational, in so much as they are things/goods/objects in themselves, and need exist only for themselves.

I, for one, hope that Sand T Kalloch may be persuaded to bring her works over to Malaysia, to exhibit them in a space worthy of them, so that a larger Malaysian public may share in what the world has already seen – the exquisiteness of form, the meditative grace of her epoxy resin coated clayboards, in all their unique splendour.

About the writer Martin Bradley: Guest writer at Lit Up (Singapore) 2010. As seen on NTV7 Malaysian national television and heard on BFM Radio; Philosophy graduate. Post Grad in Art History & Theory Post Grad in Gallery Studies English man living in Malaysia. This article was published on Correspondences, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, and re-published on Dusun, a Malaysian e-Journal of the Arts, June/July 2011 Premier issue.