Art North

18 May 2016

“What is art?”, a simple question on the minds of people beginning to take their art seriously. Because aesthetics without meaning and context can never be deemed as art. So, how do we make art easily appreciated? By bringing it to the people.

Enter Hin Bus Depot—an open-air art space situated in Georgetown, Penang where works of art are displayed in a nonchalant atmosphere; the type of casual art gallery that makes you want to go see and be seen.

“We don’t have a door, people can just come in. We want to remove the intimidating image of art galleries. Because we believe art should be appreciated by everyone”, says Khing Chuah, who has worked with her team in making Hin Bus Depot a reality.

“My friends and I started ZAP!, a small party-organizing crew in Penang because we were bored with the party scene here. From the parties, I met like-minded people such as Gabby and later Ernest Zacharevic.” (fine artist known for his highly visible street mural works).

In 2013, while looking for a venue to set up Ernest’s first art show in Penang, Mr. Tan, (a patron of the arts in Penang) offered the crew usage of an old, abandoned building which he bought to initially turn into his garage. With his help, they managed to clean up the building, which until then was in ruins and occupied by junkies.

The show went on for only two days, but attracted art buyers from as far as Hong Kong and Singapore. From then onwards the hype for the space kept on expanding, prompting Mr. Tan’s decision to abandon his original plans of converting it into a garage, and keeping the space to its accidental artistic aspirations.

Fast forward two years, and the Hin Bus Depot is receiving more attention than before, most recently for their Urban Xchange program—a public arts festival involving international artists of various disciplines. One of the artworks entitled ‘The Star’, a light installation by architect-turned-artist Ong Jun Hao, received a considerable amount of international coverage, garnering more publicity and press for the space and the crew.

Being in Penang is no accident, although one might question whether are Penangites more receptive towards the arts in general, and the challenges of running an art space and the talents that come with it. “Penang is a small island, and events such as the Georgetown Arts Festival help raise awareness among the public. It’s a good place to showcase new art, as proven by the high attendance of people overseas who come just to view the (art) pieces,” says Khing. She adds, “Yes, people have this general perception that artists here have more time and space to develop their work, but we still need to prove a point to back up all the hype.”

Managing the artists and meeting deadlines are some of the challenges faced by Khing and her crew. But despite being a newly created outfit, they have worked with clients such as the Japan Foundation and sportswear brand Vans, clients appreciative of the space and crew’s youthfulness and their tendency in exploring new works of arts on unconventional medium.

In addition to the arts, Hin Bus Depot organizes fringe events such as their Pop-Up Flea Markets and movie screenings. A café attached to the space not only offers a good brew, but also a relaxing ambiance for locals and tourists alike to lay back an enjoy the island breeze, making it a complete experience for one who yearns a little bit of culture.

“People just usually come to Hin Bus Depot for a good time in general, not specifically for the art. But if later on they start their own little art collection or they’re interested to produce their own work, then that’s an objective achieved for us”, concludes Khing.

Their ongoing art exhibition ‘Relationshift’, features seven local artists that explores the shift of dynamics, power and control in relationships and is on until April 16 2016. Hin Bus Depot is located at 31, Jalan Gurdwara, George Town, Penang.

By Smek Almohdzar
Photos by Eng Hooi Teoh

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