Malaysian art historian to give lecture

From Abstract Expressionism to Conceptual Art: Malaysian Artists in the 1960s and 1970s

Dr. Sarena Abdullah is giving an art history lecture on February 7, 2019 (Thursday) from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. in Hodgdon IRC 9 in the context of Dr. Pearlie Rose Baluyut’s ARTH 219 (Contemporary Art Since 1945) at SUNY Oneonta. The lecture examines the changes in London’s art education and how it affected the thoughts and practice of several Malaysian artists who attained their art education there at that time. The changing structure of art education and exposure to Western art, including American art, influenced these Malaysian artists who produced the early forms of abstract and abstract expressionist works that were seen in GRUP exhibition and the Abstract Expressionists exhibition in Malaysia in the late 1960s.

As a reaction to these exhibitions, this lecture also discusses the New Scene artists (hard-edge) and the Mystical Reality (Conceptual Art). With the postwar and the context of the newly independent Malaya in 1957 and subsequent formation of Malaysia in 1963, this lecture situates these early artistic approaches within a shifting culture ideal—from a Malayan identity to an early search and quest for a Malaysian identity.


Sarena Abdullah received her M.A. in Art History from SUNY Buffalo and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Sydney in Australia. Currently, Dr. Abdullah is a Senior Lecturer in the School of the Arts; Deputy Dean of Research, Postgraduates, and Linkages in the School of the Arts; and Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CENPRIS) at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia. Specializing in contemporary Malaysian and Southeast Asian art, 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 and Culture at the University of Sydney and funded by the Getty Foundation in 2015. A recipient of the College Art Association (CAA)-Getty Travel Grant 2016-2017, Dr. Abdullah was recently awarded the London Asia Research Award by the Paul-Mellon Centre in London and Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong. She has published her research extensively in various journals and as book chapters, as well as authored the book Malaysian Art Since the 1990s: Postmodern Situation (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 2018). Dr. Abdullah has collaborated with Dr. Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut of SUNY Oneonta through their COIL courses VHS 202 (Malaysian Modern Art) and ARTH 294 (Selected Topics – Asian Art), respectively, in Fall 2017.

Pearlie Baluyut to give curator talk

Art Department’s Pearlie Rose Baluyut, Ph.D. is giving a Curator Talk on the exhibition Menagerie: Paintings by Tawan Wattuya on February 7, 2019 (Thursday) from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Project Space Gallery in Fine Arts Center at SUNY Oneonta.

Dr. Baluyut will provide a biographical overview of the contemporary Thai painter Wattuya, a formal analysis of his watercolors, and an art historical reflection on the exhibition theme, beginning with how Art History chronicled mankind’s visual obsession with itself and its invention: the Other—mythic or divine, familiar or grotesque, sheathed in gold or scales, inhabiting a summit or the underworld.

From anthropomorphic gods to caricatured ghouls, creatures of fantasy mirror humanity’s ascent and descent as the latter masters its unpredictable environment since time immemorial. Furthermore, when fused into hybrid forms such as the lamassu, gorgon, or sphinx of antiquity, they performed an apotropaic function, forewarning enemies with their sheer size, causing injury with their evil eye, or protecting sacred temples and mortuary precincts with their ferocity. Indeed, power manifested itself as man’s negotiation with nature—a perpetual tug of war where the predator and the prey were interchangeable.

The exhibition Menagerie: Paintings by Tawan Wattuya, which provides a panorama of our progress, runs from February 6 to March 15, 2019.

Project Space Gallery to feature “Menagerie” paintings

SUNY Oneonta will present “Menagerie: Paintings by Tawan Wattuya” from Feb. 6 to March 15 in the Project Space Gallery.

A public opening reception will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, with an artist gallery talk at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a curator talk at 5 p.m. Feb. 7, and the artist will present a master class/painting workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Curated by SUNY Oneonta Art Department Lecturer Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut, the exhibition stages a recent series of watercolor paintings of 67 humans and 22 animals rendered in a fluid manner with increasing ambiguity and of varying dimensions, from 11 x 15 inches to 39 x 80 inches.

Referencing the 18th-century French word “menagerie,” which is a strange or diverse collection of animals kept in captivity for display, this exhibition explores the art historical continuum of image- and myth-making even before the medieval times and until the explosion of mass media and social media. As a prototype for the modern zoological garden gone awry, the Project Space Gallery will be transformed into a menagerie of global politicians caricatured as grotesque monsters and domestic or exotic animals revered as national symbols or charted as signifiers of the Chinese zodiac.

The Martin-Mullen Art Gallery and Project Space Gallery are free and open to the public from 11 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday when the college is in session and during special events.

For more information about the gallery or upcoming exhibitions, contact Gallery Director Tim Sheesley at (607)436-2445, (607)436-3456 or visit


About the Artist

Born in 1973 in Bangkok, Thailand, Tawan Wattuya attended Silpakorn University, where he received a B.F.A. in painting. His early works were large acrylic paintings on the theme of popular culture, fusing portraiture and fashion in the garish colors of acid green, fuchsia and orange, among others. In 2003-2004, his interest shifted to the tumultuous landscape of politics, referencing the infamous in mass media. In 2007, Wattuya explored the concept of duality and imagery of twins in folklore and contemporary imagination in his one-man exhibition, “Siamese Freaks! A Modern Courtyard of Miracles.” From 2008 to 2009, he launched a series of watercolor paintings that focused on copulating nudes, rabid dogs, bimbos and superheroes.

In 2010 and 2013, he boldly critiqued conventions, depicting those in uniform, from marching military soldiers to beauty pageant contestants, in a manner that approximated their own decomposition as individuals. In recent years, Wattuya gravitated toward mural-size formats to capture the character of humans and animals in fleeting and dynamic brushstrokes through a series of portraits and studies. To date, he has exhibited in 22 solo shows and 46 group shows in Asia, Europe and the United States.

About the Curator

Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut received a B.A. (summa cum laude), M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the recipient of more than 60 grants and awards allowing her to conduct research in the United States, The Philippines, France, Thailand, Singapore and Japan. Among these was her selection as a two-time Fulbright U.S. Scholar from 1999 to 2000 (Student Grant) and from 2012 to 2013 (Faculty Grant). Baluyut has presented at many national and international conferences, authored numerous publications and curated a range of exhibitions.

She has worked as a guest curator, gallery director, art historian and adviser, and project manager, and served as a national juror of the Philippine Art Awards in Manila. Since 2005, Baluyut has taught art history, theory and criticism with a global dimension, as well as museum studies, at 10 institutions in three countries. She serves as International Committee Chair of the College Art Association, promoting the fields of art history, visual arts/culture, design and museum studies and their understanding through advocacy, intellectual engagement and commitment to the diversity of practices and practitioners.