The Horizon is Just an Illusion: New Thoughts on Landscape  
by Eva McGovern-Basa
The horizon has historically been used in maritime navigation as a guiding force to negotiate distance. Visually, it is perceived to be a perfectly straight line that orientates us in space. But the horizon is actually an optical illusion, because the earth is round, not flat. As a ‘place’, it can never be reached, only endlessly followed. In short, the horizon does not physically exist. In art however, the horizon is treated as a fixed and static line used for perspective and composition. It separates the earth and sky into two parts, creating a grand and organised observational experience of place. This pleasing containment of the natural world was appealing to many, and led to the popularity of  ‘landscape art’. But, rather than focus on this traditional and mainly Western approach, The Horizon is Just an Illusion concentrates on a horizon that is visually in flux to create new and alternative ideas on this classic genre.

Conceptually this is achieved through unexpected subject matter, unusual stylistic approaches or a curious choice of materials by ten Malaysian artists who push the boundaries of how we see, think and experience the world around us. Yeoh Choo Kuan’s visceral canvas deconstructs the view from his studio by abstracting the horizon line into a shifting deconstruction of light, colour and space. This natural vista is then countered by Haffendi Anuar’s urban geometric forms inspired by the low-cost apartment block where his first studio was located. Lee Mok Yee goes from digital to analogue by converting a Google map journey from home to office into an organic three-dimensional sculptural form. chi too also documents the urban environment, and in particular various street locations to chart the history of protest in Malaysian culture with subtexts that hint at the use of bitumen in the local art world. Sharmiza Abu Hassan’s recent relocation to Melaka led to a foraging of the area for palm pods that act as a vessel for her personal experiences as well as a reminder of the historical Sultanate period. Tan Zi Hao’s intimate works also select specimens from the natural world but on a much smaller scale through the overlooked household casebearers, a species of moths whose cocoons are made out of dust, cobwebs, and other minute domestic debris. As a silent witness to daily life, here, they are reconfigured into metaphors of human existence. Viko Zhijune continues this metaphorical trajectory via a rejection of the external world to delve into personal mindscapes of intimately painted and embroidered textile works that use foliage and plants to process her emotional experiences. Yee I-Lann reflects upon the relationship with her grandmother’s land in Sabah, where she will build her new studio, as a space of refuge and personal introspection through her signature photo media collaging. And finally Dain Iskandar Said and Hayati Mokhtar’s live performance on opening night and accompanying video for the duration of the exhibition creates a eulogy to people and place centred around their research and projects in Setiu, Terengganu. 

These diverse stories and bodies of research reinterpret the potential of landscape as both subject and performative stage. By attempting to focus on the horizon as an optical illusion, traditional ideas then unravel to rethink the possibilities of place and space in the Malaysian context.