At this point, having made contact with Chief Yahaan and expressed my sympathies with his cause, I feel it is necessary to state my connection and attitude towards Petronas. In 2001 I worked for Petronas in the capacity of a curator. Then director of the Petronas Zainol Abidin Sharif (ZABAS) , kindly gave me a great opportunity – to curate the first retrospective of the important Malaysian artist Sulaiman Esa. It gave me the ability to apply and develop the approach that I first articulated in 1998 – that to build a meaningful interpretative frame for the contemporary art of South East Asia we must combine the study of Sacred Forms as developed by the likes of Nasr, Burkhardt and Coomaraswamy, combining this with social history, and ultimately, we should look ‘Beyond Art History”. Traditional art history with its chronologies and detailed stylistic differentiation is not so relevant to us, it is uninteresting. The exhibition I curated and wrote for at the Galeri Petronas was titled Insyirah: lukisan Sulaiman Esa dari 1980 hingga 2000. I am proud of this work, and am grateful to Petronas for supporting it and for all their contributions to Malaysian art.
Petronas is a government corporation, so unlike Shell or Exxon, it has a natural obligation owed towards the nation as well as a natural loyalty owed in return by Malaysians. I feel that debt and I am proud of Petronas’ achievements in the corporate world. I want to see them succeeded in all their ventures. However, as a Malaysian who makes his home and is bringing his children up in British Columbia, my loyalties are complex. This blog explores this particular nexus of interests, my interests and the interests of those for whom I care, in the face of the events that are unfolding around me.
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