Views of Downtown JB
There was still some artwork due to be put up on the walls of #blueparkjb when we stopped work (as the site had been rented). Think City asked if I could instead re direct them to suit their new office on Jalan Dhoby. I started a series of graphic artworks themed 'Views of Downtown JB'. The aesthetics are inspired by Japanese woodblocks, inked outlines and textures but the medium is contemporary, digital and created on the computer. Although the source material is digital photographs, they are heavily manipulated and processed to achieve the compositions and textures of the final image.
I've been meaning to do this for a while as much of the imagery of the city (google 'Johor Bahru' to see what I mean) is usually of palaces, mansions, government building - places, ordinary Johoreans are not allowed into. Or they are rather soulless birds-eye, panoramic, drone views, of buildings and malls celebrating the work of property developers. Or they are of iconic places -clan houses, temples, mosques, places where Johoreans are sorted into tribes.
So instead I want to capture the city and its people at a human scale, at eye level view, without iconic landmarks and with the city itself as as a character with a personality and moods (hilly, rainy etc) and in a relationship with the people living in it. It has evidence of our times - cell phones, parked cars, and also layers of history revealed in the juxtaposition of old and new buildings, old signs, modern fonts. My visual story of JB avoids on purpose the glorification of kings, rich men, clergy, clans and corporate developers and retells it from the mundane and ordinary perspective of an ordinary citizen.
A friend who is analysing data about the city, tells me that downtown JB is no longer the heart of the city, as urban sprawl and shifts in how traffic and people move now reconfigures that to Larkin. This is a fate that often befalls the historic seed centres of cities. In this contemplation of where this city began and is now in transition, I also want to provoke enquiry into whether this is good enough for us. Do we have enough green spaces, performance and public venues? Should our public venues be the insides of a mall? Are there enough people walking on the streets? Why are we crowded into walkways and markets on the streets? We pay taxes, we elect the government and state officials - we are supposedly in charge, do we have enough say in how this city looks, feels and works for us? Are we doing enough as civil society to claim this city as ours?