The historical backdrop for this exhibition is the 1990s, when Ahmad Fuad Osman embarked on his formal study of art at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) focusing on painting and printmaking. UiTM initiated him to currents that had dominated Malaysian art in the 1970s and 80s — from the competing ideological frameworks of conceptualism, abstraction, and installation art, to the movements of Surrealism and Dadaism.
In order to test his understanding of these ideas against his own imagination, the artist travelled extensively across Malaysia armed with an attitude that collapsed anachronisms from current times with historical subject matter.
It was in Sarawak where he began to think about Western art’s fascination with the ‘primitive image’. At the Sarawak State Museum, he undertook careful object analysis and crafted ways to subvert primitivism by linking the Malay world’s deep knowledge of the environment with the colonial fascination with ethnographic objects and natural history specimens. The Museum revealed the complexity and multifariousness of the past in the present. How stories can be transmitted with different styles of narration, documentation and display has been a central focus of the artists’ work ever since. Each new gesture another step towards testing the limits of received wisdom by drawing parallels, making jokes, interpreting nightmares, and recognising that multiple subjectivities may exist in conflict within a single individual or community.