“The roles of art are to help us understand ourselves and others and to engage with another in the process of making, receiving and embracing important meanings that are carried through the elegance of aesthetic form.” (Anderson & Milbrandt 2005). Throughout history artists have expressed their personal identity of self and society through the means of visual representation using many mediums and techniques. And the young artists who showcased their work at Spectacle 2016: Art and Design Graduation Show, organised by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Brunei Darussalam – are no exception. Their work clearly shows how art can provide a vehicle for the artists to investigate their thoughts, emotions and inner personal identity; and how it also has the power to connect people from all walks of life.
This year’s exhibition which was held at UBD’s Art Gallery from April 13th to May 21st attracted over 4,000 art enthusiasts. And according to Dr. Martie Geiger-Ho, Senior Lecturer, Art and Creative Technology, the show “… was designed not only to highlight the artistic talents of the ACT majors, but also to share with the audience the students’ visions for a wider acceptance of aesthetics and respect for culture life and the environment”. Karen Leong Pei Kuan from the Public Relation and Marketing Team invited Inspire Living Magazine to view the exhibition. And we were given a guided tour by a few of the artists themselves, who took the time to give us in depth explanations of the concepts and materials used in each of the forty displays. While looking at these impressive works which took approximately ten months to be completed, it became apparent that many of the artists consciously used the theme of identity – creating a visual self-examination of the past, present and future; while others, chose to incorporate personal struggles and experiences within their artwork.
The students proudly revealed that guided by Associate Professor Kong Ho and his dedicated team of teachers, they were encouraged to do a great deal of research and were given the confidence and encouragement to “think outside the box.” And what resulted from all of their hard work and relentless effort was definitely a “kaleidoscope of innovative and visually striking art and design works.” Some of the main themes were related to the past, and included: appreciating the beauty of Islamic art; valuing the sacrifices of parents, grandparents and historical places; twisted versions of popular fairy tales; the interpretation of Anding; and rejuvenating the traditional Gulintangan music in a new form that combines both past and present sounds. Other concepts were linked to current issues such as: the importance of having a positive body image; living fearlessly; embracing diversity; the meaning of home and importance of communication within the family; sustainable design; aspects of nature’s beauty; creating Bruneian superheroes; safe driving and the health dangers of smoking. These and many other ideas were communicated through “well executed original acrylic paintings, murals, sculptures, photographs, videos, computer graphics, animations, product designs and art installations”. The diverse techniques, styles and themes of the artworks, combined with the varied backgrounds of the artists themselves, means that each work contains its own unique world of inspiration, emotion and interest that immediately captivates the viewer, provokes thought and leads to discussion.
All of the artists in Spectacle 2016 managed to create their own unique and distinct styles, but there was also a semblance of unity in their art through the portrayal of the physical, social and cultural elements of their environment. They used inventive art forms as a means to explore identity, to celebrate and promote self-expression and its diversity, and through this expression – hopefully, positive and powerful dialogue will be created, that speaks to our community about acceptance, tolerance and respect for one another.