London, Asia Research Award Grantee 2017
Sarena Abdullah is the current Deputy Dean (Research, Postgraduate, and Linkages) at the School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and a Research Fellow at the USM Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CENPRIS). She was one of the Field Leaders for Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art, a research project led by The Power Institute Foundation for Art & Visual Culture, The University of Sydney, and funded by the Getty Foundation in 2015. She is the author of Malaysian Art Since the 1990s: Postmodern Situation, published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 2018.
Abdullah’s project explores the artistic relationship between Malaysia and Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. Her research examines ways the London–Kuala Lumpur links formed, evolved, and were later supported in the postcolonial context of Malaya. She looks into how the knowledge of modern art and the transfer of cultural ideas can be reconstructed through the interrelated networking of artists and art educators, between the colonial centre and its periphery, from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. This research will involve an investigation of early art educators and a few Malaysian artists who attained their formal art education in Britain. A second part of this project will focus on the various international exhibitions hosted by the Malaysia National Visual Arts Gallery from the late 1950s to late 1970s, such as the exhibitions organised by the Commonwealth Institute, London. Abdullah will present the findings on her research in Hong Kong in August 2018.
The London, Asia Research Award
London, Asia posits London as a key, yet under-explored, site in the construction of art historical narratives in and of Asia, and examines the city’s influence through exhibitions, patronage, art writing, and art education. London, Asia also reflects on how the growing field of modern and contemporary art history in Asia intersects with, and challenges, existing histories of British art.
The inaugural London, Asia Research Award explores the institutions and institutional histories that are key to shaping a more nuanced understanding of the cultural entanglements between London and Asia across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Like exhibitions, institutions produce multilayered and multitemporal histories. They are nodes within a complex web of connections. In thinking about the role that institutions have played in forging these connections, we can cut across different time periods and bring together a range of people, objects, materials, and approaches.