Throughout his career, Jalaini Abu Hassan (better known as Jai) has frequently introduced his own personal past and present into multi-level compositions that then become larger negotiations around memory and identity. This time, the simple and somewhat cheeky exhibition title Cerpan-Cerpen: New Works by Jalaini Abu Hassan betrays few clues as to how to approach this loosely-interconnected series featuring unassuming scenes of life in KL and Taiping, Jai’s hometown. All the works in this solo exhibition are drawing-paintings executed with bitumen and fabric dye wash. The tints are layered with a transparent stain giving them an aged feel, while the cropped format of the canvas suggests archival and personal documentation, history, and memory. 

Jai is in a reflective mood here, using his mastery of painting and drawing to return to some of his recurring concerns: belonging, homeland, and the past. Conspicuously avoiding the recent political upheavals in Malaysia, Jai seeks a more intimate examination of personal history over a longer time frame. As a process artist, he has always made his work an exploration of medium and material. Jai “speaks” with his work as he progresses, moving away from certain elements, negotiating narratives, journeys, departures, and homecomings, without necessarily keeping a fully worked-out destination in mind. 

With Cerpan-Cerpen, the artist’s longstanding concerns take their latest shape as Jai’s unencumbered painterly skills work through the dongeng-dongeng (folklore) of mundanity in Malaysia. Everyday life has continued unabated here, and the gentle suggestion is that this, perhaps, is where we should search for ourselves and our nation.