Tucked away in Jalan Panggung, amidst antiquated kopitiam eateries and above a couple of art galleries, FINDARS has finally nestled itself in a comfortable locale. Not too far away from the centre of the city and the urban art scene, yet also not right in the thick of it, allowing for the collective to utilise a healthy amount of space for its needs. Of course, it wasn’t like this prior to their move to this Chinatown space in January. A little over a half-decade ago, four enterprising artists fresh out of school took a risk in opening an independent space not far from their current residency, in Central Market where they curated both visual and aural art alongside their own works.
“We wanted to express ideas with our own independence, to not be constrained by rules in commercial art galleries,” remarks Keh Soon, one of the founding members of FINDARS, “We wanted to set a contemporary platform for new concepts and ways to do things.” Alas for the four, after their initial brainchild took off, they were forced to leave the artistic hub due to their leasing agreement. They pulled in a few more partners and reopened their gallery in an out-of-the-way hole in the wall in the suburbia that is Wangsa Maju. A couple of years in, and the same fate as before befell them, with their nefarious landlord doubling the rent. Thankfully for them, a space opened up above LostGens and aku, and the rest is history. The open space concept is akin to most art galleries, with the uncluttered minimalistic space accentuating the artwork on the walls. They utilised their knack for design and furnished the barebones space among the seven of them, deciding to open up a coffee bar while they were at it. It wasn’t just a spur of the moment idea, but a calculated decision to provide an additional stream of income for the alternative gallery. The open concept also allows them to turn the space upside down for every show hosted at FINDARS, be it a Friday night gig or an art residency, for the best possible fit.
Initially starting out as a platform for young artists and college students, they’ve lately opened their doors to anyone and everyone to display their work, as long as it fits in the same direction that the collective wants to go. Even so, the focus is still on independent creatives who tend to showcase their avant-garde stripes at this café-in-a-gallery. The work on the walls is often brutal, and aggressive, with political undertones matching the owners’ ideals and leanings. Besides the art, everyone from local folkster Azmyl Yunor to dark garage singer GuiGuiSuiSui have laid their hands on a mic at FINDARS, with many more from multifarious genres and varying scenes soon to pass through their doors. “There are seven of us, and we’re into all sorts of music, from punk to metal, and even some softer tunes. We listen to different things, and we pitch in ideas for different acts and invite them over. That’s why you see such a wide range of independent acts here,” chimes in chief music curator Bannai Roo.
“The music around these parts is definitely getting better, but the local audience’s mindset is still the same. It’s the same problem dating back years ago. More people are just into commercial stuff and it takes a lot more to absorb something that’s a little different. The art scene is definitely similar to the music one in that sense. It’s just going to take time. Who knows how long? A few years, perhaps,” he adds. “But we’re doing our part in this field, because if no one does it…”
And the best part is that they’ve only just begun. So far, the lineup is looking pretty promising; they’ve had writing sessions, art exhibitions in both aural and visual mediums, gigs every week, and a busy year up in the horizon. Only good things can come of this, and if more spaces like FINDARS start to spring up in support of the local scene, a new creative generation who isn’t afraid to experiment and break the established boundaries set by our predecessors is certain to come up. As Keh Soon put it, “When you do things as an independent artist, you’ll only get much more expressive and open up to more possibilities.”