A sepia tint washes over this freehand drawing of an old black and white photo the artist found in a flea market. The discolouration is thicker in places reflecting wear and tear, and we are made very conscious that this is a scene caught in a certain time, some way back. The gentle and yet very precise handling of the charcoal medium – paying attention to every crease and fold of their colonial-era uniforms, and the nuances of each figure’s body and facial language – draws us into the image with the same curiosity the artist must have had when the original photo caught their eye.
Since the picture takes us back to “the early days of Malaysian police force, showing the early local features of Malaysian mindset about law and order”, our instinct may be to look for familiar and unfamiliar details. We note the signs in English, and the wooden slats of the station walls, but perhaps what feels most surprising is the small number of police officers that appear to be manning this post, and how accessible they are to us – a neighbourhood force working for the community.
As we try to scrutinise their serious expressions and imagine what they are thinking, we are made aware that act of looking at an old photo is not just about remembering, or finding out about the past, but trying to understand what has changed since.