Category Archives: Essays

Form(s) of Prayer(s) by Paul Nickson Atia

An Act of Faith

The obsessive rendering of miniature squares serves as Paul Nickson Atia’s central motif in his latest solo exhibition entitled Form(s) of Prayer(s) at Rissim Contemporary in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur from December 19, 2019 until January 9, 2020.

Executed in Chinese ink with fine paintbrushes or tree twigs on large unprimed canvas, his subject matter and preferred paraphernalia unravel personal narratives that reflect his cerebral pursuits.

Expanding from a body of work called Obsesi that was showcased in his first solo – Jari Berlari: Tlinjuk Bi’koduh, a process-oriented presentation that featured spontaneous sketches and drawings at Rumah Lukis, Kuala Lumpur in 2018 – Form(s) of Prayer(s) pays homage to the act of orison through a series of 10 large-scale paintings.

Say grace

In an artwork titled Obsession: Reformation, there are approximately 36,000 cubes measuring a square centimetre each that covers the entire canvas surface, which measures 244cm by 152cm. Representing a prayer, each monochromatic square is marked in varying intensity that mirrors his emotional state of being at the time.

Stepping back to see the big picture, one is presented with a barrage of grids and patterns. Devoid of any specific imagery, only visions of chants, prayers or zikir are depicted in fluctuating gradients.

Nonbelievers in search of meaning may ask: can we see God? And those of us with faith, trust that the Almighty is with us.  

“The Obsession series is like a formation of a new faith and a reaffirmation of faith,” says Atia.

“I am interested in the idea of Divinity, particularly the history of the three main monotheistic traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, along with Buddhism and Hinduism. Karen Armstrong’s A History of God is a good reference point.”

Akin to the Islamic Tasbih and the Roman Catholic Rosary beads, Atia’s miniature squares can be perceived as a device used to keep count of his recited prayers. Or little boxes that contain his mood and spirit of the day.

Obsession: O, Perpetual – a colossal work that measures 152cm by 426cm – is the largest work in this series. Executed in triptych format, the conceptual framework of presenting an artwork in three panels is significant.

Historically, paintings from the 15th and 16th century by Netherlandish artists with religious context were presented in three panels and was referred to as “paintings with doors”.[i]

Scholars have noted the format’s practical functions as altarpieces and made “tacit acceptance that the format was symbolic of the Trinity.”[ii]

For Atia, Obsession: O, Perpetual provides space for contemplation within the realms of prayer. A blank rectangular shape is placed perpendicular in the centre making it a focus for devotion and contemplative prayer.

Line of symmetry

In Obsession: Cerebration I, II and III, Atia introduces vertical and horizontal lines at the lower part of the canvas in addition to the recurring miniature squares that occupy the upper section.

“This method of demarcation indicates openings or ventilation blocks,” explains Atia.

Equipped with architectural knowledge, Atia incorporates certain elements in his work to achieve the desired aesthetics. Admiring the work of renowned architect, Peter Zumthor, Atia appreciates his minimalist and atmospheric approach in designing a building.

Atia works on butter paper as part of his artistic process – a method commonly practiced when employing manual drafting technique – and scribbles inscriptions on the reverse of his canvas as a way of note-making.

“I apply the rule of thirds in my composition so that in an artwork, viewers are able to get a sense of space,” explains Atia.

In Cerebration II, the perpendicular lines on the lower section of the canvas are illustrated using tree twigs that Atia collected from his family’s orchard in his hometown Bau, a gold mining town in Kuching, Sarawak.

“Deriving from the Syzygium genus plant, the canes are used by my family to build the traditional ‘A’ frame structure for runner beans. I have been gathering the excess twigs to be used in my work for the past five years,” says Atia.

The raw treatment of the perpendicular lines acclimatizing with the markings of the tree twigs inadvertently suggests an image of a wooden cage.

As Atia progresses from one Cerebration to the next, his broad linear grids have become more refined. What we see in Obsession: Affirmation; Obsession: Reaffirmation; and Obsession: Binary offer an indication of a reactive approach.  

Running high

Relating his impelling force of the will with “the running scene” from the classic American film Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks, Atia finds himself in an identical situation as Gump.

In the movie, Gump began to run across America for three years and two months only stopping for food, sleep and the lavatory. When journalists asked him: “Why are you doing this?” Gump simply replied: “I just felt like running.”

Similarly, there is no coherent answer for “why is Atia obsessively painting tiny squares?” An unknown forceful urge within compels him to. And in so doing, relieves a sense of euphoria.

“I experience a kind of metaphysical growth when working on this series. Each square may be exactly the same size repeated in the same manner, but every one of them is different. In my mind, subconsciously, I want to create patterns,” says Atia.

Bidayuh culture

Originating from the Bidayuh community of Borneo, Atia’s cultural background exposes him to the utilitarian and agrarian crafts such as basketry and tikar kelasah, a traditional Bidayuh mat weaving using rattan and tree bark.

“Bidayuh’s craftsmanship is minimalist in style. Even our traditional costume, which mainly uses black, red, white and yellow colour is less intricate as compared with the Iban’s,” explains Atia.

Perhaps Atia’s subconscious motive is a visual memory of his childhood. His agricultural family cultivates a paddy-field and harvests rice for their consumption. Tikar kelasah is often used by the community during the drying process of the rice crop.

These “patterns” that Atia yearns to create unwittingly appear in Obsession: Facilitation and Obsession: O, Perpetual.   

In Obsession: Facilitation, the vertical rectangular format measuring 180cm by 60cm is divided equally in three parts. The miniature boxes in variable intensity are framed by three blank squares aligned precisely in the centre of the composition. These blank spaces allow viewers a moment of quiet introspection.

The obsessive execution of miniature squares is a form of prayer for Paul and so is the act of looking at them. For me, a wheel of emotions is activated with a sense of self-reflection from Atia’s visual penance.


[i] “Opening Doors: The Early Netherlandish Triptych Reinterpreted”, Lynn F. Jacobs, Penn State Press, 2012, page 1.


[ii] Ibid.


Link to Form(s) of Prayer(s) catalogue here.

The Painted Rhapsody of Soh Boon Kiong

"The Fragrance of Mid-Autumn", 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 193cm by 130cm

Symphony of life

Dividing his time between Amagasaki and Kuala Lumpur, Soh Boon Kiong is stimulated by the multicoloured seasons of Japan and the lushness of tropical Malaysia. His creative oeuvre reflects the melodious rhythm of his environs. Immersing himself in the elements, his paintings radiate a kaleidoscope of colours in variable dynamics that ultimately compose a harmonious picture.

Orderly and controlled, Soh’s gestural expressions are calculated and organised in time – like an orchestra. His overall composition is highly distinctive – fluid splotches, organic brushstrokes and thoughtful drips mark his canvases in fluorescent orange, pink, and yellow with dark nuances of blue, green and red. Echoing the sounds of life, his paintings illustrate layers of quiet solitude, upbeat stride and then returning to tranquil peacefulness.

Guided by the 19th century French standard sizes for paintings, Soh’s ten artworks in The Painted Rhapsody of Soh Boon Kiong come in three dimensions: large (193cm by 130cm); medium (130cm by 130cm) and small (116.6cm by 91cm). Such attentiveness to detail reveals Soh’s personalities: organised, strategic and practical.

Colourful bliss
Encountering Soh’s new body of work for the first time, I am captivated by the application of colours – corresponding light and dark, thin and thick, smooth and rough. Such juxtaposition harmonises his contrasting palette with different form and shape well, resulting in fantastic treatment of space and surface.

For example, “The Fragrance of Mid-Autumn” depicts the rich autumnal colours of fall foliage in shades of yellow, orange, brown, purple, blue, red and magenta. One is able to experience the season and envisage breathing the crisp fresh air just by looking at this painting.

Portraying his oriental soul, Soh’s painting is a bridge between cultures. By incorporating Eastern sensibilities with Western artistic technique, Soh creates unique visual sanctuary that relaxes the mind and soul.

“I like to take my time when completing an artwork. I am optimistic about life and it shows in my paintings,” explains Soh.

Indeed, Soh’s positive outlook on life is aptly interpreted on canvas. Over the years, Soh’s artistic style has progressed reflecting the natural evolution in life. From softer pastel hues that characterise gentleness to richer and more intense colours to depict complexity and maturity embody this latest series of work.

In “In Praise of Elegance”, Soh combines the best of both elements seen in his past series and presently. Every gesture is premeditated in order to achieve the desired effect. For instance, if the pastel blue blobs are absent, in Soh’s mind, this painting is deemed inadequate and does not fulfil its purposes.

“My paintings may look spontaneous but they are highly organised. Even though I use dark colours in my new series, that does not convey tragedy… ,” describes Soh.

Universal painter
A multi-talented artist with international presence, Soh has been honing his craft since living and studying in Paris, France between 1988 and 1993. In 1998, he made Amagasaki, Japan his home, building a family of four with his wife and two children. Since then, he has established studios in Japan and Malaysia.

Soh’s exposure in different continents has enabled him to converse in five languages: Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Japanese, English and French. His flair for linguistics allows him to illustrate a universal language through his visual expressions.

From 2010 to 2014, Soh was a Resident Artist at the prestigious University of Malaya by the invitation of former Vice-Chancellor, Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon. During his residency, Soh created colossal paintings that are currently hanging at the lobby of penthouse floor, Wisma R&D, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

“The Fragrance of Harmony, May – November 2011”, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 200cm by 1000cm at the entrance lobby of the Chancellery Building, University of Malaya in 2011.

In 2018, Soh’s painting entitled The Intermingling Notes was fleetingly featured in a scene in “Crazy Rich Asians”, an American movie starring Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Ronny Chieng and Ken Jeong.

In the scene “What About Your Cousin Eddie?”, Soh’s painting adorns the wall of Eddie Cheng’s (played by Ronny Chieng) penthouse in Hong Kong. This piece of information may seem insignificant. But for Soh, the experience of signing a consent letter by one of Hollywood’s biggest production companies, Warner Bros Pictures, to loan his artwork for “the highest-grossing romantic comedy film in a decade” is an honour that is rarely granted to Malaysian artists.

What comes next for Soh? His future is certainly as bright as his artworks in “The Painted Rhapsody of Soh Boon Kiong”. And a partnership with PINKGUY gallery will certainly enhance his profile in the Malaysian contemporary art scene.

Sarah Abu Bakar, November 2019

The Painted Rhapsody of Soh Boon Kiong is on display at PinkGuy Gallery in Bangsar from December 7 to 21, 2019.

Link to The Painted Rhapsody of Soh Boon Kiong‘s exhibition invitation

Aftermath – Art Expo

Established in 2012 by the creative division of UiTM Holdings, Segaris Art Center is a commercial art gallery that promotes Malaysian contemporary art. Located at Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Segaris Art Center operates as a private entity and has mounted over 70 exhibitions over the past seven years. As a subsidiary of UiTM Holdings, Segaris Art Center aims to provide an avenue for the university’s alumni as well as for local emerging and established contemporary artists to showcase their artworks.

Segaris Art Center presents Aftermath, an exhibition featuring eight Malaysian contemporary artists at the 13th edition of Art Expo Malaysia 2019. A total of 25 artworks comprising installation and paintings by Zulkifli Yusoff, Hamir Soib Mohamed, Ilham Fadhli Shaimy, Haslin Ismail, Edroger Rosili, Ismail Awi, Hisyamuddin Abdullah and Khairi Fakhri will be on display.

The theme Aftermath explores the current state of affairs in Malaysia post-General Election 2018 – a historic turn of events with the unprecedented victory by the federal Opposition coalition party that is currently the ruling government. The artworks reflect the repercussions of past glory and the uncertainties of the future.

Hisyamuddin Abdullah

Projek akal umbi
Acrylic & oil on canvas
183 cm x 153 cm

Letusan bawah tanah
Acrylic & oil on canvas
183 cm x 91 cm

Hisyamuddin Abdullah’s Projek Akal Umbi and Letusan Bawah Tanah feature his hallmark self-portrait with blue pool floaties that symbolise support and security in life. According to the artist, Projek Akal Umbi signifies an internal attempt to mobilize a secret agenda. His work is a self-reflection that battles with internal conflicts over the question of life’s journey, desire and hope. In an attempt to escape the cocoon of ordinary life, Hisyamuddin is confronted with dilemmas and the fear of being dependent on certain things to face reality, only to be haunted by its shadows.

Hisyamuddin Abdullah was born in Terengganu in 1989. Having graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Selangor in 2012, he held his first solo exhibition entitled SArKAs at Taksu Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2014). The exhibition title is derived from the Malay words “saka” (demon) and “sarkas” (circus). He has participated in numerous international group exhibitions namely Across the Bridge at S.A.C Subhashok The Arts Center, Bangkok, Thailand (2018); Hotel Art Fair Bangkok with G13 Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand (2018); Art Kaohsiung with G13 Gallery, Taiwan (2017); and Heartbeat of Asia, Art Stage Jakarta with G13 Gallery, Indonesia (2016), among others.

Ismail Awi

One of Malaysia’s most sought-after contemporary artists, Ismail Awi presents three surrealist paintings entitled Constitute, Covenant and Opportunity. Taking on the concept of social commentary, his work responds to current issues and focuses on humanities. The images highlight the use of metaphors and appropriation, particularly of historical events and its narratives in daily lives.

As apparent in the work Covenant, which draws inspiration from the history of treaties that occur during the formation of any country – their influences have shaped the conditions and regulations that are still applied today.

Oil & acrylic on canvas
152 cm x 122 cm

Oil & acrylic on canvas
213 cm x 152 cm

In Constitute, Ismail Awi makes references to the British colonialism era which the present day has accepted as history and through which the nation’s identity has been formed. According to the artist, his work can also be extrapolated to contemporary humanitarian issues – for instance, there are agreements and disagreements between people that distinguishes one’s thinking.

Born in Terengganu in 1987, Ismail Awi obtained his Bachelor in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Selangor in 2010. He has participated in group exhibitions such as Beda at Segaris Art Center, Kuala Lumpur (2019); Morphosis at Galeri Prima, Kuala Lumpur (2018); Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong (2018); and Forms of Diversity at Redbase Art, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2018), among others.

Zulkifli Yusoff

Jolok by Zulkifli Yusoff is a mixed media installation featuring spherical sculptures in varying dimensions that resemble a beehive structure with conical-shaped objects that erect perpendicularly within each sculpture and its surrounding.

Other forms of wall sculptures in variable sizes make up the rest of the installation making Jolok a visually stimulating artwork.

Inspired by the Malay idiom “sarang tebuan jangan dijolok” or as loosely translated in English as do not poke the beehive, Zulkifli makes reference to another similar proverb “let sleeping dogs lie”, which means “avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems but may well do so as a result of such interference”.

Mix-media installation
20’ x 10’ x 9’
Variable dimension

The phrase jolok or to poke is also used as a metaphor to represent society’s latest behaviour that often provokes anger through issues of race and religion. The act of provocation over delicate matters is perilous as it encourages calamity.

This installation is an extension of Zulkifli’s artwork entitled Sarang Tebuan Jangan Dijolok from the collection of National Art Gallery Malaysia, which signifies “the warning stage”.

Born in 1962, Zulkifli Yusoff is one of Malaysia’s leading contemporary artists. His installation titled Kebun Pak Awang is currently on display at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, which runs till November 24, 2019. He has participated in the 47th Venice Biennale themed Modernities and Memories: Recent Works from the Islamic World in 1997, showcasing his installation Don’t Play During Maghrib. His iconic installation titled Immunity dated 1993, which has been in private collection for the past two decades was displayed to the public for the first time in an exhibition titled Pusaka: Warisan Kemudi Wawasan (Embracing Our Heritage for the Future) at Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery. In 2013, Zulkifli Yusoff’s work was shown at Art Stage Singapore with T.H.E.O. Arts. He was also represented at the Singapore Art Museum’s group show The Collectors Show: The Weight of History. Zulkifli currently sits on the National Visual Arts Development Board.

Hamir Soib

Hamir Soib Mohamed’s Kera Dapat Bunga (Ape Receives Flower) highlights a Pablo Picasso painting as a symbol of the infamous scandal that arose and became widespread news, putting Malaysia in headlines worldwide. Appropriating the gallery display format, the painting calls to attention events arising from human greed and abuse of power. The title “seperti kera mendapat bunga” is a Malay proverb illustrating a person who takes things for granted. As implied by the titling, the painting seeks to impart lessons on negative human behaviour that can bring about great cataclysm to society.

Kera dapat bunga
Acrylic & bitumen on canvas

The Circle
Acrylic & bitumen on canvas

Another work on display is The Circle, a large painting featuring an anonymous figure entwined and smothered by a seemingly inescapable giant white amorphous blanket. Referencing Salvador Dali’s Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943), the work extends the contemplative idea of life’s circular nature, and its utter indifference. This representation is expressed with subtle erotic elements – organic lines and shades encompass the painting, hinting at the many folds of human forms. As the artist observes the shortening of life cycles in the present fast-paced digital age, he ruminates on the struggles of man currently endured, and potential ones to come.

Born in 1969, Hamir Soib Mohamed graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the School of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Selangor in 1991. His achievements include being a Finalist in the Painting category of the Sovereign Art Award, Hong Kong (2007) and a participant in the Malihom Art Residency awarded by ABN- Amro Malihom, Penang (2007). He is the recipient of numerous awards namely Young Artist Incentive Award, Shah Alam State Gallery, Selangor (2005); Best Art Director in the Film category of the 14th Malaysian Film Festival for Perempuan Melayu Terakhir – in collaboration with Zuraini Anuar (1999); and Consolation Prize (Painting), Image of Poverty, Bukit Cahaya Sri Alam, Selangor (1990). His solo exhibitions include Small Work by Hamir Soib at Segaris Art Center, Kuala Lumpur (2017); Arrival at Ernst & Young ASEAN, Singapore (2009); Imbasan at Wei-Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2007); and Pameran Tunggal at Gudang, Selangor (2005).

Edroger Rosili

Edroger Rosili creates a pair of paintings entitled Hang Qabil & Hang Habil (after Jaafar Taib) and Mr. Cain & Mr. Abel (after Quentin Tarantino) that feature the anatomy of the human figure stripped down to its bare composition in the act of combat with an opponent.

Hang Qabil & Hang Habil (after Jaafar Taib)
Acrylic on canvas
152 cm x 183 cm

Depicted in two scenarios: East and West, Edroger incorporates combat techniques such as martial arts like silat to represent the East and the use of armaments such as the handgun to portray the West.

Rasa Kuasa (after Jacques-Louis David)
Acrylic on canvas
224 cm x 183 cm

Mr. Cain & Mr. Abel (after Quentin Tarantino)
Acrylic on canvas
152 cm x 183 cm

According to the artist, the human body is created as a mechanism that has the potential and the ability to carry out a decision that is determined by the individual’s mind, in every action that is decided by the inner self. In this work, Edroger attempts to depict the mechanisms of actions by exposing the muscles and nerves at work in response to the body’s intentions. This is to explore how humans are created with built-in possibilities to execute multiple actions along with the responsibilities that come with such power.

Born in Sarawak in 1985, Edroger Rosili graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi MARA in 2009. He has held two solo exhibitions namely Jepun Attack Malaya at HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur (2018) and WOYM? (What’s on Your Mind?) at Taksu Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2013). He has participated in several award exhibitions namely Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries Award) organised by National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2010 and 2019) as well as Young Guns Award 2016-2017 organised by HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur. He is a participant of the ACC Asia Art Space Network Residency in Gwangju, South Korea (2018).

Haslin Ismail

Intimacy is not purely physical
Acrylic on canvas
122 cm x 122 cm

Haslin Ismail creates a unique painting from a series entitled Intimacy Is Not Purely Physical that illustrates a suit-wearing reptile, a decapitated human head and a headless painter in a surrealist manner. The work manifests the quandaries faced by mid-career artists whose future ahead are paved by complex decisions to be made.

Born in Muar, Johor in 1984, Haslin Ismail graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Universiti Teknologi MARA in 2007. His solo exhibitions include Selfies presented by Core Design Gallery at Art Expo Malaysia Plus (2017); Mindmix at G13 Gallery, Selangor (2014);

Book Land represented by G13 Gallery at Art Stage, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (2014); Transfiguration at G13 Gallery, Selangor (2013); and Exorcismus Persona – Windows into the Fantasy Worlds of Haslin Ismail at RA Fine Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2009).

Khairi Fakhri

A fresh graduate of Universiti Teknologi MARA, Khairy Fakhri showcases two bitumen on canvas paintings at Art Expo Malaysia for the very first time. Entitled Berjiwa and Berupa, the large-scale figurative paintings depict solitary fisherman hauling a big fishing net – one empty and the other filled with catch of the day.

Bitumen on canvas
183 cm x 91 cm

Berjiwa or With Soul represents the artist’s observation and view on a fisherman’s life and custom. It illustrates a larger than life fisherman in the act of throwing a net at the start of his day. The artist accentuates the intricacy of the fishing net and its rolls. According to Khairy, in order to understand the nature of his subject matter and his tool, he must first observe and experience the moment. This way, he is able to be compassionate about the fisherman’s yearning for accomplishment. Khairy’s painterly technique and the effects of bitumen as his choice of medium evoke a sense of nostalgia. This work is representative of the fishing community that is still operational today.

Bitumen on canvas
183 cm x 91 cm

Berupa or With Form is a continuation of the fisherman’s life when it comes to yielding daily sustenance. The feeling of satisfaction motivates him. Khairy describes the narrative of his work as the feeling of contentment when the rewards of a hard day’s work are proportionate with the efforts put in. Similarly, art is the soul’s highest form of necessity that satisfies one’s spirituality.

Born in Terengganu in 1994, Khairy Fakhri graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Selangor in 2018. He has participated in group exhibitions namely Unknown at Segaris Art Center, Kuala Lumpur (2019); Gerak at Penang Art Open Competition and Exhibition, Penang State Museum (2018); 18 Art Show at Publika, Kuala Lumpur (2018) and the International Printmaking and Paper Art Show (IPPAS), Indonesia (2018).

Ilham Fadhli

Fugitive Hotel (scenery)
Acrylic & collage on canvas
153 cm x 306 cm (diptych)

Ilham Fadhli Shaimy’s Fugitive Hotel (Scenery) is a large- scale landscape painting in diptych measuring 153 cm by 306 cm that illustrates a tropical beachfront resort with multiple figures scattered along the coast as protagonists in his fantastical narrative.

Fugitive Hotel I to X (activities)
Acrylic on canvas
30.5 cm x 30.5 cm

The concept of Fugitive Hotel is based on an establishment that does not discriminate and welcomes all people and their differences. This non-discrimination policy is a hospitable quality that the hotel focuses on, which leaves guests contented.

A series of ten small paintings measuring 30.5 cm by 30.5 cm each entitled Fugitive Hotel I to X (Activities) depicts various activities by hotel guests performed indoors and outdoors such as an intimate moment in the hotel room, or enjoying the banana boat ride in the sea. The artist has described each moment as “historical before hotel guests are being labelled as fugitives fleeing from the archaic system”.

Ilham Fadhli Shaimy was born in Kelantan in 1980. He obtained a Bachelor in Fine Arts (Sculpture) from Universiti Teknologi MARA in 2003. His solo exhibitions include To Lie in Ruins at Pace Gallery, Selangor (2009) and Friction at Kebun Mimpi Gallery, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur (2008). He has won several awards namely Consolation Prize at the Penang Open Art Competition organised by Penang State Museum (2015); Grand Prize for the Arts and Earth Competition at KLPAC (2005); and Third Prize for Mekar Citra Independence Show at Galeri Shah Alam, Selangor (2007).

Link to pdf

Ceritera Gembala (The Story of a Shepherd)

Sculptor Jamil Zakaria presents Ceritera Gembala (The Story of a Shepherd), his second solo exhibition featuring five installations constructed by hand using an industrial material and tools such as wire mesh, plyer and hammer. Inspired by traditional Malay proverbs, the idea was conceived from juxtaposing the meaning of each proverb with the realities of life as described by the artwork titles. By adapting the universality of animals, Jamil is able to metaphorically convey the complexity of human traits.

Historically, mankind has been associating animal instinct with human nature since the Old Testament era. Scriptures from religious books namely the Torah, Quran and the Bible have references of animals in their respective teachings.

In Western modern literature, George Orwell wrote an allegorical book, Animal Farm in 1943 to tell a story characterised by animals to reflect historical events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 followed by the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. The animal populace of pigs, horses, donkeys, sheep, hens, cows, dogs, raven, goat and cat are central figures to the fable.

Similarly, in Jamil’s work, he incorporates Malay literature as the basis of his sculptural narrative with faunas as his protagonists. Mat Bunga depicts a large-scale primate donning a pair of sunglasses and holding a flower. Its oversized figure is disproportionately placed on a single seater sofa, painted in white. Deriving from the idiom “seperti kera mendapat bunga” (like an ape getting flowers), which means someone who takes things for granted, Jamil playfully incorporates the title Mat Bunga – a casual term to describe Casanovas – and in this case, not a very attractive one.

Another installation features a flock of sheep and a wolf. Inspired by the children’s tale “kambing dan serigala” (the sheep and the wolf), which tells the story of a wicked wolf attempting to trick the flock of sheep. Jamil also refers to “musang berbulu ayam” or the Biblical idiom “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” as one of his inspirations for this work.

Makan Besar (Feast) depicts an eagle attacking a swine with its claws and is elevated to portray its flight motion. Deriving from the idiom “rezeki helang takkan dapat dimakan oleh musang” (one’s sustenance cannot be pilfered by others), this work conveys life lessons on greed.

Other sculptures include a cat, a dog and a mouse to depict “seperti kucing dapat tikus” (like cats getting mice) and “bagai anjing dengan kucing” (like cats and dogs) as well as a snake tightly coiled around a wolf to portray the proverb “seperti gajah ditelan ular lidi” (like an elephant swallowed by a snake).

Although galvanized wire mesh sculptures are typically created for landscape beautification, Jamil intends to elevate the appreciation for this medium by showcasing the works in a gallery setting. As a shepherd to his immortal herd, Jamil narrates his own story by observing human nature, navigating them to righteousness.

Kedah-born Jamil Zakaria (b. 1985) obtained his Masters in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam in 2013. His artistic practice in contemporary sculpture specialising in galvanized steel wire mesh makes him one of the few Malaysian visual artists to explore this medium. Having actively participating in local and international group exhibitions since 2004, Jamil’s receent exhibitions included Young Malaysian Artists III (2016) and Readrawing (2013) at Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur; Art Triangle (2010) and Destiny: Young Group Show (2013) at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. In 2016, he presented a two-man show at Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur organised by Gallery 69 Fine Art. He was one of the finalists for the international OITA Sculpture Competition, Japan in 2010. With Andrew Shire Gallery (Singapore), Jamil participated in the Art Fair International, New Delhi, India and Spoon Art Fair, Hong Kong, China, in 2012 followed by a group show at the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, China a year later.

Independence – Art Jakarta

Established in 2012 by the creative division of UiTM Holdings, Segaris Art Center is a commercial art gallery that promotes Malaysian contemporary art. Located at Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Segaris Art Center operates as a private entity and has mounted over 70 exhibitions over the past seven years. As a subsidiary of UiTM Holdings, Segaris Art Center aims to provide an avenue for the university’s alumni as well as for local emerging and established contemporary artists to showcase their artworks.

Entitled Independence, the exhibition is a celebration of Malaysia’s National Day or Hari Kemerdekaan, which falls on August 31 during Art Jakarta weekend. The show also celebrates Indonesia’s Independence Day, which was held on August 17. The artworks on display also offer elements of freedom and devotion.

Segaris Art Center believes that the featured artworks by the specially selected artists will pique the interest of the Indonesian audience. Themes ranging from historical landscape, abstract expressionism and figurative paintings as well as sculpture offer viewers a diverse style of Malaysian art today.

Ahmad Zakii Anwar b. 1955, Johor, Malaysia

This Day in History
Acrylic on linen
144 cm x 297 cm
USD 40,000

Entitled This Day in History (Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah), Ahmad Zakii Anwar creates an idyllic landscape as the backdrop for his ever-intriguing narrative. Resembling the romanticism of Mooi Indie, Ahmad Zakii Anwar immortalises an intact bay only perturbed by a cloud of smoke in the distance – a warfare iconography. The earthy tones of the idyllic scenery make up a nondescript landscape unique to the Nusantara region.

Standing in the foreground is a distinguished yet anonymous gentleman discerned by his dapper Western wardrobe adorning a top hat and a cane. Such Victorian accoutrements reflect a healthy gentleman’s wealth and stature. The gentleman’s elusive identity masked by a white void on his face is the artist’s trademark, made popular by his earlier Smokers series. The iconic imagery of ambiguity

that represents dichotomy constantly appears in Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s creative oeuvre. In this instance, the commanding figure is present yet absent at the same time.

Accompanying him is a white English bulldog, a popular pet with a longstanding cultural association with England. Suggesting colonisation, this painting depicts a shared history between Malaysia and Indonesia. Both nations may have been colonised by different empires but the will to fight for liberation by her people is similarly experienced.

The title Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah is an appropriation from a short series of TV programme first produced in 1979 by Malaysia’s pioneering broadcaster Radio dan Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) aimed to educate the public on local historical events.

Since graduating from UiTM School of Art and Design in 1977, Ahmad Zakii Anwar started his career as an illustrator prior to painting professionally. He held his first solo exhibition at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur in 1997. Some of his lauded solo shows abroad include My Shadow’s Shadow at Baik Art, Seoul, South Korea (2018); Love + Lust at Galerie Huit, Start Art Fair, London (2015); Pleasure + Pain at Gallerie Huit, Hong Kong (2014); Bones and Sinews at AndrewShire Gallery, Los Angeles (2011); Nafsu at Nadi Gallery, Jakarta (2010); Being at NUS Museum, National University of Singapore (2009); Kota Sunyi at CP Foundation, CP ArtSpace, Jakarta (2007); Subliminal at The Drawing Room, Manila and Numthong Gallery, Bangkok (2006); and Presence at Barbara Greene Fine Art, New York City (1999), among others.

Rafiee Ghani b. 1962 Kedah, Malaysia

Rose Hill
Oil on canvas
122 cm x 91 cm
USD 10,000

Rafiee Ghani’s mastery in colour is articulated by way of abstract expressionism – a genre that he recently advanced from painting vibrantly-hued abstract gardens or “interior- scape” featuring domestic objects. An avid traveller, Rafiee Ghani often finds inspirations from his sojourns to exotic lands such as Thailand and Myanmar and as far as Tunisia and Morocco.

Predominantly painted in red and pink, The Promised Circus (2018) is composed of bold streaks of lines in white, yellow, blue and a speck of gold.

White Lies (2017) illustrates gestural streaks of pastel-hued palette in varying shapes and form. Its dynamism is marked through layers of green, pink, orange, purple, blue and white reminiscent of a garden of flowers.

In Rose Hill (2016), Rafiee Ghani employs various mark- making technique such as scrawls and scratches to achieve the desired composition. Comprising contrasting palette of black, red, white and pink with shades of grey, this painting depicts Rafiee Ghani’s spontaneity in expressing his visual language.

In 1980, Rafiee Ghani attended a printmaking workshop at De Vrije Akademie Voor Beeldende Kunsten, The Hague, Netherlands. He received a Diploma in Art and Design (Fine Arts) from Institut Teknologi MARA in 1985 followed by a Master in Fine Prints (MA) from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom in 1987. His career as a professional artist spans nearly three decades with a number of exhibitions in Malaysia and abroad under his belt. In 2018, he participated in a two-man show with Malaysian abstract expressionist artist Suzlee Ibrahim at Nou Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan. Some of his past solo exhibitions include Adventure in Wonderland at Vallette Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2017); Homeland at The Edge Galerie, Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur (2016); Desert Rose by Rafiee Ghani at Galeri Chandan, Kuala Lumpur (2014); and Room of Flowers at Carcosa Seri Negara, Kuala Lumpur (1993), among others.

Hanif Khairi b. 1972, Perak, Malaysia

Kepiting Busuk
Recycled plastic & recycled wood
68 cm x 55 cm x 24 cm
USD 2,000

Sculptor Hanif Khairi produces abstract form sculptures made from sustainable materials such as recycled wood and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic to achieve the concept of “assimilation” for his Kepiting (The Whimsical Crabs) series. Elegantly shaped, each sculpture is intricately constructed using an amalgamation of small units of wood and colourful plastic, much like the process of building blocks for a modular design. The components are bound together using fastening devices such as clamps and once the desired form is attained, the curing process of lamination commences.

Inspired by one of his travels to Indonesia, the Kepiting series originated from the Indonesian word ‘crab’. Unaware of its meaning at the time, Hanif Khairi soon learns that the term differs from Bahasa Malaysia’s ‘ketam’. Amazed by this discovery, Hanif Khairi feels compelled to “portraythecorrelationvisually”. Thus,HanifKhairiexpresseshisinterpretationofassimilation between both cultures and linguistics by uniting diverse objects, colours and shapes through the fabrication of the Kepiting series.

Rumah Kepiting
Recycled plastic & recycled wood
60 cm x 28 cm x 20 cm
USD 2,000

Titled Kepiting Busuk, Rumah Kepiting and Anak Kepiting, these unique table sculptures are delightful works of art. Their layered quality also resembles kek lapis, the Indonesian traditional delicacy. Malaysia’s multi-coloured version of the finely layered cake is made popular in Sarawak. Hanif Khairi’s Kepiting series is a rendition of diversity at its finest.

An academician, Hanif Khairi obtained his PhD in Art and Design from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 2012. He is currently the deputy dean in Faculty of Art & Design at UiTM. His education includes Master’s and Post-graduate diploma in art and design from De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom (2002 and 2001); and Bachelor’s degree in fine metal design from UiTM, Shah Alam, Malaysia (1994). Specialising in jewellery design and metalsmithing, Hanif Khairi ventured into sculpture-making as artistic research for sustainable design. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions namely It’s Lit at Segaris Art Center, Kuala Lumpur (2019); Arcadesa II (Second International Exhibition Symposium 2018 – Art, Craft, and Design in Southeast Asia) at UiTM, Selangor, Malaysia (2018); and Alami Belas Be Loved KL Biennale 2017, Gesturz at UiTM, Selangor, Malaysia (2017), among others.

Fadilah Karim b. 1987, Johor, Malaysia

Volatile Love
Oil on linen
152 cmx152 cm
USD 6,800

Figurative painter Fadilah Karim creates large-scale paintings that capture the intrinsic emotion and ambience of her subjects. Often inserting nonfictional references into context, her themes are based on personal experiences that conjure feelings of contentment and affection. As a new mother, Fadilah Karim finds the journey of parenthood extremely rewarding and all-consuming. As a result, she yearns to capture endearing moments of her 12-month old daughter, Aira.

Volatile Love depicts the artist reading a book, lounging comfortably on a corner of a long bench. Her relaxed posture – one hand holding a book while the other resting on her lap; the tip of one foot touching the ground and another leg raised midway off the ground – suggests some downtime to unwind. Also portrayed in the composition is Aira who is gleefully sitting on a wooden rocking horse positionedattheoppositecornerofthepainting–gazing

outward. Fadilah Karim’s predetermined configuration is inspired by French modernist painter, Balthus whose brilliant pictorial composition as seen in The Living Room (1942) becomes her primary stimulus. In Balthus’ work, the 19th century Rococo Revival furniture play an integral role, as equally important as the two young girls depicted. But in Fadilah Karim’s adaptation, her minimal interior allows her viewers to focus on the mother-and- daughter bond.

Greener Pastures
Oil on linen
152 cm x 122 cm
USD 5,600

Appropriating Balthus’ Girl at the Window (1955), Fadilah Karim illustrates a self-portrait in the same manner for Greener Pastures with the addition of her infant, Aira, tiptoeing against the stool that Fadilah is resting her knee on while she leans against the window sill. In this painting, both mother and daughter explore their inquisitiveness together, albeit at separate paces.

Fadilah Karim obtained a Master’s in Fine Art and TechnologyfromUiTMin2013.Herfirstsoloexhibition – presented at the age of 25 – entitled Vague (2012) at Pace Gallery (now known as Nadine Fine Art), Selangor, Malaysia propelled her meteoric rise in the Malaysian art circuit. In 2016, her second solo exhibition entitled Secret Lies at Taksu Gallery, Kuala Lumpur was highly successful. Since then, she has participated in numerous international art fairs namely Art Busan, South Korea (2016, 2018 and 2019); Art Stage Singapore (2016, 2017 and 2018); Art Basel Hong Kong (2017); Art Stage Jakarta, Indonesia (2016); Art Taipei, Taiwan (2015 and 2016); and Art Fair Philippines (2017), among others.

Link to pdf

2nd Edition by Chetak 12

Chetak 12 presents its second annual exhibition entitled 2nd Edition from [August 27] to [September 8, 2019] at HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur.

Original artworks in Intaglio print medium signed “edition 2” will be highlighted in this show to celebrate Chetak 12’s subsequent collaboration with senior Malaysian artists and international emerging artists.

Established in 2018, Chetak 12 is formed by contemporary artists Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Samsudin Wahab and Faizal Suhif as a printmaking studio that allows fellow artists to produce works in this medium.

Three senior artists: Long Thien Shih, Juhari Said and Rahman Mohamed were invited to create original prints in the studio. In July 2019, Chetak 12 welcomed three Southeast Asian emerging artists: Anton Villaruel (The Philippines), Immartyas (Indonesia) and Yas Doctor (The Philippines) to participate in its inaugural one-month-long residency programme.

The results of their artistic production featured in 2nd Edition offer fresh perspective into printmaking. The senior artists worked on perfecting their technique: Long Thien Shih produced an etching and aquatint work titled Pisang series; and Juhari Said created etchings entitled Kerbau Jantan and Kerbau Betina, a technique he has just retreated to after nearly four decades since he last worked on the medium.

Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s series of Raut Wajah etchings are created from used plates resulting in overlapping effects in each portrait. Samsudin Wahab’s series of “love ballads” in etching and aquatint technique is a reflection of his current personal life – illustrating hybrid characters based on distant memory. Faizal Suhif experiments with Chine-collé technique to produce nature-inspired works.

Through the residency programme, Anton Villaruel, Immartyas and Yas Doctor hone their skills in printmaking and at the same time, share new knowledge with Chetak 12. A collaborative work was created to commemorate the occasion. Though the artworks produced consist of individual elements, the participating artists experienced a sense of communal and togetherness in the process.

In addition to cultivating the art of printmaking through artist-exchange programmes, Chetak 12 also aims to popularise this early artistic technique by encouraging more artists to explore this medium with hopes of gaining new interest among the local audience.

LONG THIEN SHIH b. 1946, Selangor

Executed in etching and aquatint technique, Pisang Series illustrates a sphere- shaped comb of banana etched at the top centre and a banana leaf at the bottom of the plate. An undulating wave of abstract lines in monochrome representing the energy of the universe is expressed in the background.

Long Thien Shih’s concern with the environment has always been the subject of his creative oeuvre. The banana symbolises the most essential sustenance for man- kind and faunas. It is widely cultivated and consumed globally. Long’s interest in biodiversity and the preservation of nature was instigated by the issues of genet- ically modified organism (GMO) technology in food. This was initially expressed in a watercolour artwork entitled How Many More Will It Take? (2011), which was displayed in his major retrospective exhibition. It depicts an anonymous figure wearing a hazardous material suit holding an oversized multi-coloured banana with both hands.

Long Thien Shih is a veteran artist specialising in printmaking. Long began his formal printmaking training at Atelier 17, Paris – an illustrious institution for print- making established by British printmaker Stanley William Hayter – from 1966 to 1968. He then attended Atelier de Lithographic at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France from 1967 to 1969. He obtained a Masters in Fine Art majoring in printmaking from the prestigious Royal College of Art, London (1969- 1972). In 2014, Long was honoured with a retrospective exhibition entitled Man of the Times at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

Pisang Series
Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 150 gsm paper
32.5 x 24.5 cm
Edition of 18
RM 1,200

JUHARI SAID b. 1961, Selangor

Having worked on his last etching 38 years ago, Juhari Said is reacquainted with this technique at Chetak 12 with immense enthusiasm. During the process of producing Kerbau Jantan, Kerbau Betina and [untitled], Juhari devotes himself wholly by suspending other creative activities such as producing woodcut work and writing in order to immerse himself in the course of production.

Juhari Said graduated from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam, Selangor in 1983. He has mounted 12 solo exhibitions in Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Austria since 1989. His most recent solo show entitled Solitude was held at Wei-Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur in 2017. In 2018, Juhari actively participated in a number of printmaking group shows namely Go Block: The Expanded Contemporary Printmaking at G13 Gallery, Selangor; Shah Alam Biennale, Tapak, Shah Alam, Selangor; International Printmaking and Paper Art Show 2018 (IPPAS), Jakarta, Indonesia; and Seni Cetakan Sepanjang Zaman-The Art of Printmaking: Lasting Impressions at Muzium dan Galeri, Bank Negara Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

Kerbau Betina
Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
19.5 x 24.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,200

Kerbau Jantan
Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
19.5 x 19.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 900

Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
20.5 x 26.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,200

Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
19.5 x 19.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 900

Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm
19.5 x 19.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 900

Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
19.5 x 19.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,200

A.RAHMAN MOHAMED b. 1955, Johor

Academician Rahman Mohamed is an Associate Professor at his alma mater and currently serves as Dean of School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. In 1996, he received an MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the US. In 1995, he obtained a Master of Science in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, New York. From 1988, he was enrolled in the undergraduate course, Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts at Universiti Sains Malaysia and graduated in 1992. His solo exhibitions included Terap Ulang at Galeri Seni Mutiara, Penang (2010); Solo: A. Rahman Mohamed at USM ABN Amro Gallery, Penang (2005); and Design, Culture and Technology Art Exhibition with talk and slides presentation at Panduri Design Sdn. Bhd, Penang (1998), to name a few.

Bukan Kuku Besi
Etching, Drypoint & Aquatint on Saunders 500 gsm paper
25 x 38 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,800

Khat Ta Mim Kayu
Etching & Aquatint on Saunders 500 gsm paper
25 x 38 cm
Edition of 20
RM 2,500

Kaki Bangku
Etching, Aquatint & Drypoint on paper
20 x 20 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,800


Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s series of monochromatic etchings entitled Raut Wajah explore the basic motion of facial expressions as a means to convey nonverbal communication. Bayu selects the faces of generic women on the internet as to liberate himself from the weights of emotional attachments when illustrating an acquaintance. His choice of used metal plates for the etchings gives an overlapping effect to the portraits, at once giving new life by integrating fresh lines. For instance, in a self-portrait rendered in chiaroscuro – in the style of Caravaggio – there are markings of the former artist that features the mythical characters of Rama and Sita from the epic poem Ramayana.

Besides being a professional artist, cultural strategist Bayu Utomo Radjikin has produced a number of programmes through HOM Art Trans, an independent art space he established in 2007. A founding member of Chetak 12, Bayu also initiated The F Klub and Matahati. In 2017, Bayu presented a solo exhibition entitled Gejolak showcasing abstract paintings at G13 Gallery, Selangor in 2017. His recent group exhibitions include Second Edition: Chetak 12 (2019) at HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur; Life: The F Klub (2019) at Ken Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; and Awan & Tanah (2019) at Cult Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, to name a few.

Seraut Wajah – Himbauan
Etching & Aquatint on paper
20 x 30 cm
Edition of 9
RM 3,500

Seraut Wajah – Harapan
Etching & Aquatint on paper
28 x 23 cm
Edition of 9
RM 3,500

Seraut Wajah – Kenangan
Etching & Aquatint on paper
28 x 32 cm
Edition of 9
RM 3,500

Seraut Wajah – Kelam
Etching & Aquatint on paper
28 x 23 cm
Edition of 9
RM 3,500

SAMSUDIN WAHAB b. 1984, Perak

Themed “love songs”, Samsudin Wahab unveils a fresh body of work for Chetak 12’s Second Edition, detaching himself from his usual rebellious streak for the first time. His romantic approach is derived from the sentimentality of his life’s journey and personal memory. In [untitled], the fictional couple is engaged in an intimate conversation – deeply engrossed in a “pillow talk” moment. Their environment represents their socioeconomic status: a couple snuggling on the floor housed in a makeshift mosquito net. A half-full jug of coffee and a serving of kuih loyang – symbolic of Samsudin’s work relating to an episode from Bakat Muda Sezaman 2017 – is illustrated on the floor alongside mosquito coil, a bunch of rokok daun or leaf cigarettes, an oil lamp and a randy male cat approaching a snoozing female feline.

Samsudin Wahab is the main recipient of the 25th edition of Anugerah Bakat Muda Sezaman 2019 (Young Contemporary Award) for his installation, Rambu-Rambu Memori organised by National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. He obtained his Bachelor (Hons) in Fine Arts, majoring in Printmaking from UiTM Shah Alam, Selangor in 2007. His solo exhibitions included Kadang-kadang, Dekat-dekat, Akan Datang No 4, Wira Bangsa at A+ Works of Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2018); Propositions for the Future, Fergana Art Gallery, Penang (2015); Self-parody, 15th Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition, Rimbun Dahan, Selangor (2010); Not Enough!, Chandan Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2009); and Enough!, Taksu Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2008).

Dakapan Kenangan
Etching & Aquatint on paper
40.5 x 30 cm
Edition of 12
RM 2,800

Di Kala Malam
Etching & Aquatint on paper
20.5 x 26.5cm
Edition of 12
RM 1,300

Asmara Perdana
Etching & Aquatint on paper
12.5 x 20 cm
Edition of 11
RM 980

Etching & Aquatint on paper
12.5 x 20 cm
Edition of 12
RM 980

FAIZAL SUHIF b. 1984, Johor Bahru

Faizal Suhif’s fascination with the natural world and its organic matter is widely depicted in his large-scale canvas work often rooted in printmaking technique to best illustrate the texture quality of soil. For Chetak 12’s Second Edition, Faizal employs a technique in printmaking called Chine- collé. Its methodology involves transferring an image with a thin layer of painted paper adhered to the heavier print paper. The result is exemplified in [untitled] – a trail of creeping plant grows amidst the drought – illustrated by the desiccation cracks in dry earth and a skull embedded within it.

Faizal Suhif obtained a Masters in Fine Art from UiTM Shah Alam, Selangor in 2013. His solo exhibitions included Visual Poetry at G13 Gallery, Selangor (2017); Hidden: Treasure of a Natural World, Vallete Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2016); Stories from the Soil at G13 Gallery, Selangor (2014); and Fossil at Beranda Langkawi Art Gallery (2013) among others. In 2018, he participated in a number of group exhibitions namely Go Block: The Expanded Contemporary Printmaking at G13 Gallery, Selangor; Di Antara Itu & Ini organised by Fergana Art at National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; Mars 3 at HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur; and ArtAid18 Diri at White Box, Publika, Kuala Lumpur.

Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
24.5 x 29.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,200

Seribu tahun lagi…
Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
29 x 29 cm
Edition of 20
RM 1,200

Menuju terang..
Etching & Aquatint on Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper
17.5 x 27.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 850

Cementcut on Arches 250 gsm paper
62 x19.5 cm
Edition of 20
RM 950

ANTON VILLARUEL b. 1983, Philippines

Anton Villaruel was born in 1983 in Philippines. Graduated from University of Philippines Diliman Quezon City, majoring Fine Art in Visual Communication. Started active in art scene since 2013, and he has also been involved in several printmaking workshops in the Philippines. Anton process if work involves a predominance of collagraph prints. As a child, he was immersed in this art form in such a way that he would escape reality and get lost inside his comic fantasies.

My process involves a reflexive practice and process I have developed as a printmaker, gathering and documenting random visual patterns found in decrepit surfaces of worn down structures, withering masonry, decaying and discarded plywood, emaciating layers of paint from pavements, floors of public utility vehicles, bridges and found wood and creating them through printmaking in new forms.

Both consequently created from the same mode of process these visual patterns, become unique, ambiguous biomorphic forms or subjects and realms. They depict scenarios, different dispositions and concerns, towards places, events, dilemmas and circumstances in everyday life.

The source for the imagery I used as basis for this body of works comes from a common and very meaningful place for me, located between Bangbang and Tayuman Avenue in Barangay Sta. Cruz Manila. These images were taken from the walls of the local fire station, a post that is a part of an old arcade building, and painted calligraphy from registration numbers of local public utility vehicles (jeepneys). As mundane and random as my subjects are the essence and narrative for me are very personal and reflective of conversations with self.

For this instance, even the act of documenting has taken its part as a catalytic medium for emotional digestion. Somehow it has extended a bridge between my personal life and practice as a printmaker. I also found, that an amount of courage was needed to face certain conversations that required engagement rather than attempting to be indifferent towards my looming depression, because despite my attempts to engage with these conversations an initial and natural reaction to resist and cease admission to certain truths; that I am not enough, that I have no value, and that I am not worthy of belonging to someone, still persisted. It was very hard to say yes and simply accept. All these drove me to a state of wanting to escape from very hard-hitting pains.

These conversations now resonate into forms that are the works I have rendered and created.

524 – a Wish for peace of mind

State of dead end – state of mind

How is this story shaped like? Does it start from one point? Yes it had peaked to a certain height? it did crash down to fail? How do I rise up?

Stop . . Slow Down . . . Go Run . . Fly . . Run

Collagraph on paper
33 x 24 cm / each
RM 600 each

PXX Stop
Collagraph on paper
33 x 24 cm / each
RM 600 each

PXX Show Down
Collagraph on paper
33 x 24 cm / each
RM 600 each

Some Piece of Mind Ples
2 plate Collagraph on paper
50 x 45 cm
RM 1,200

Dead End Ex
Collagraph on paper
65 x 42 cm
RM 1,800

Bukit of Heart, NOT!
Collagraph on paper
52 x 68 cm
RM 2,000

Rum, Fly, Rum, Fly
2 plate Collagraph on paper
100 x 29 cm

YASMIN DOCTOR The Philippines

Yas Doctor, born in 1984 in Manila, Philippines and graduated firm University if Santo Tomas, majoring in Journalism. Yas Is a freelance illustrator and artist based in the south of Manila. She is also behind the zines Sari-sari Project Vols. 1 and 2. Yas started active in art scene since 2011 have participated in exhibitions in several galleries in Philippines and Indonesia.

Connect / Disconnect is a three-part series that deal with my experience here in Malaysia.

  1. (i)  is about the self, looking for things to remind of home

  2. (ii)  I took photos of street signs that, for me, felt distinctly Malaysian yet also

    reminded me of signs back in the Philippines.

  3. (iii)  is a compromise of elements that for me, are unique to both countries but in

    essence, have similarities. Whenever we experience something new, we as vessels look for anything that make us connect to our current environment then we learn to disconnect in order to move on.

Connect / Disconnect I
Drypoint on fabriano rosaspina 290 gsm paper
Xx x xx cm
RM 1,600

Connect / Disconnect II
Drypoint on fabriano rosaspina 290 gsm paper
Xx x xx cm
RM 1,300

Connect / Disconnect III
Drypoint, Mottage, Paper cut-out on fabriano rosaspina 290 gsm paper
RM 1,600

IMMARTYAS GHINAA b. 1996, Bandung, Indonesia

Emerging Indonesian artist Immartyas graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking from Bandung Institute of Technology, Bandung, Indonesia in 2019. In July 2019, she participated in her first residency programme at Chetak 12 Studio in Kuala Lumpur. She employs dry point technique on multiple plates to produce prints based on the photographs that she took. Immartyas said: “I have learned a lot from this residency programme particularly new discovery of materials in printmaking.”

Marka Cetak l
Drypoint on paper
15 x 20 cm
Edition of 6
RM 600

Cetak Bayangan l
Drypoint on paper
15 x 20 cm each
RM 3,000

Faizal Suhif, Anton, Yas (collaboration)
Cementcut, Collagraph & Chine-colle’ on Arches 250 gsm paper
19 x 39cm
RM 1,500

Faizal Suhif, Anton, Yas (collaboration)
Cementcut, Collagraph, Chine-colle’ & Drypoint on paper
26 x 36 cm
RM 1,500

Link to pdf

Exhibition: Breathe

Exhibition: Breathe

Artist(s): Umibaizurah Mahir@Ismail, Mohd Al-Khuzairie Ali, Satoko Ootsuki

Gallery: Galeri Chandan and Patisatustudio

Year: 2016

The Clay Chemistry

“Breathe is about patience and trust that a ceramic artist as a human being shares with one another.

The exhibition is driven by the usage of the same medium: CLAY.

Clay is a life medium. Clay itself is breathing. Breathing? Yes, it is necessary for life and survival.

Clay or earth is a unique medium. It derives purely from the earth.

What makes Breathe interesting is that it brings the three of us together.

“Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung”.

And clay reminds us of the Creator, Allah/God.

To respect life, beliefs and humankind.

Clay strengthens our hearts.

And clay makes us special…”

~ Umibaizurah Mahir @ Ismail

Breathe is the culmination of Patisatustudio’s 2016 initiative comprising whimsical ceramic sculptures by Japanese ceramic sculptor, Satoko Ootsuki alongside Malaysian contemporary artists and sculptors Al-Khuzairie Ali and Umibaizurah Mahir @ Ismail as a result of a two-month exchange residency programme.

Held at Galeri Chandan, Publika, Kuala Lumpur from 4 until October 23, 2016, the selling exhibition presents 20 sculptures made from clay alongside mixed media works.

Working towards a common theme of “seed”, the trio reflect on the idea of birth, fertility and nature, while taking the opportunity to gain knowledge through each other’s artistic practices and at the same time strengthening cultural bonds.
The significance of clay in Breathe is not only in the obvious choice of material, but it is also a representation of humanity.

In many beliefs particularly in Islam, it is said that Man is made from Earth. A verse in the Holy Quran stated that: “We created man (Adam) from an extract of clay (water and earth)” (Surah AlMumenoon, 23:12).

When the human body is examined today, it may be discovered that many elements presented on earth are also found in the body. Living tissues contain 95% carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur, with a total of 26 different elements.

“The theme for this show is inspired by the idea of ‘breathing together’ in the same space. For instance, the idea of three artists producing artworks from the same material, firing in the same kiln yet diverse in techniques and styles, is intriguing,” says Umibaizurah.

“Satoko’s work is feminine, its form is fine and delicate, the colours are originally pastel and sweet, like the accessories and jewelleries that she makes but it changes over time. While Khuzairie’s hybrid form comes from his imagination and science fiction in creating something exciting. My work in Breathe consists of experiential expressions and new experimental techniques.”

Patisatustudio Cultural Exchange Residency
Organised by Patisatustudio, the artists-initiative programme is fully funded by founders and hosts Umibaizurah Mahir @ Ismail and Ahmad Shukri Mohamed.

Located in a quiet suburb in Puncak Alam, Selangor, Patisatustudio was established in 2007 by the artist-couple to facilitate their soaring artistic practices and to create a platform for cultural exchange programmes for the arts community.

Patisatu, which means “uniting essence” not only serves as a studio for the couple but also as an invitational creative space for visiting artists. The non-profit initiative aims to build a network for international artists working in ceramic.

“We have been organising international artists exchange programmes since Patisatustudio’s inception. For almost a decade now, we have welcomed friends from Indonesia, Japan and Europe,” says Umibaizurah about the self-funded programme.

Through the couple’s aspiration for global presence, Umibaizurah and Ahmad Shukri have been actively attending workshops and participating in exhibitions abroad since the late 90’s.

In 2004, Umibaizurah attended a ceramic workshop organised by the International Workshop of Ceramic Art (IWCAT) in Tokoname Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

In 2009, Patisatustudio welcomed Japanese duo, Chikako Yoshikawa and Kazuko Uga for a “residency production in Patisatustudio, Malaysia” and showcased their ceramic sculptures in an exhibition entitled Tanah Timur (Eastern Soil) at Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur.

Umibaizurah, Chikako Yoshikawa and Kazuko Uga held a group show at Azabujuban Gallery, Minato, Tokyo in 2010 following a residency programme in Tokoname, Japan. This experience ignited Patisatustudio’s residency exchange programmes in the years to come.

In 2014, Patisatustudio hosted Dutch ceramic artist Lei Hannen after Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, Umibaizurah and Al-Khuzairie Ali visited the Netherlands the year before. The residency programme concluded with an exhibition entitled Route 19 held at Pace Gallery, Petaling Jaya.

While in the Netherlands, the quartet held an exhibition entitled 5 Seasons at Norbert Dabekauussen Kunst Gallery Sittard.

Focusing on “experiential gains”, the programme is also aimed at personal attainment in an environment away for home. In July2015, the trio held an exhibition entitled Kita in Tokyo after spending some time working in Satoko’s studio named Doronco Studio in Yokohama, Japan.

In a reciprocal act, Umibaizurah welcomes Satoko to Malaysia for the first time, having met each other in a ceramic residency hosted by Chikako Yoshikawa and Kazuko Uga in Tokoname in 2010. During her two-month stay here, Satoko adapts to the way of life in Malaysia from culture, custom, food, and artistic production.

Satoko Ootsuki
A former architecture student, Satoko Ootsuki has been producing ceramic art since 2009. Satoko’s sculptures are delicate and feminine, mirroring the maker herself. The intricacy of Satoko’s work echoes her passion for jewellery-making.

Created using a mixture of bone china and porcelain, Satoko’s intricate sculptures of hybrid sea life with fruits and vegetables possesses crisp and glossy qualities.

Passing #1 and Passing #2 depicts a pair of fish coated in an assortment of vegetables, floral and seashells, a recurring motif in her body of work. Diminutive dots like ornaments are applied to create texture and as an indication of passing time.

“The dots suggest the rain. It also signifies the cycle of life like counting down the days for an egg to hatch or the birth of a new life,” explains Satoko.

“It could also indicate the repetitive cycle with regards to ceramic art making like the firing process or time taken to complete a piece of work.”

Drive features a sweet corn amalgamated with a protruding onion adorned with floral motifs and seashells.

When I first visited Patisatustudio three weeks prior and view the artists’ progress, Satoko showed me some of her works made in Doronco Studio that was brought to Malaysia. They are mainly oblong-shaped – either a representation of an egg or a bell pepper – to signify life.

The aesthetics progress of Satoko’s works have immensely evolved ever since. For instance, Someday consists of a four tiered sculpture varying in form. Its circular base is embellished with seashell-shaped ceramics; a hybrid fish and a bird placed above it is also embellished in the same manner; a smaller globular form is positioned on top of the cross-breed creature; followed by an egg-shaped form placed at the top to complete the composition.

Without a doubt, the residency has made an impact in Satoko’s production particularly with her use of pigments that are seen to be more intense as compared to her “sweet” pastel sculptures made in Doronco Studio.

Mohd Al-Khuzairie Ali
Emerging artist and sculptor Al-Khuzairie has been residing in Patisatustudio since 2008 to acquire the tricks of the trade from mentor Umibaizurah.

Though Khuzairie works in the same workshop as Umibaizurah, he has developed a hallmark style through his sculptures.

Mainly inspired by Japanese pop culture, Khuzairie creates works that incorporate local fruits and vegetables with traditional culture like wayang kulit in an attempt to preserve declining heritage values.

Having participated in an exchange programme in Japan with Umibaizurah and Satoko in 2015, Khuzairie gathers his experiences and creates multicultural and cosmopolitan opuses for Breathe.

“In Blue Samurai, I have formed a character based on my imagination. It depicts an anime-inspired warrior wearing a Viking helmet and a face mask with body armour to project power and strength,” explains Khuzairie.

The work is accompanied with a mixed media work on five panels, one of them, which illustrates the best of both cultures: the Geisha and wayang kulit with an ornamental motif found in traditional kampong houses alongside repetitive images of Mount Fuji in the background.

“For Breathe, I am inspired by the ‘look east policy’ initiated by the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad in 1982 hence the inter-national references.”

“Japan is rich culturally, historically and economically. Their traditions are highly preserved yet made relevant in current times. Even the manga culture is celebrated globally. In Malaysia, we are also blessed with an abundance of different traditions and customs. But they are regrettably unpreserved or no longer practiced like mak yong, kuda kepang or wayang kulit,” says Khuzairie.

In Semangat Timur, Khuzairie creates five panels painted in various backgrounds to convey cultural assimilation with manga mug shots made of ceramic adhered onto each panel.

Also on display is a selection of fruits and vegetables like banana, pear, pineapple and bitter gourd moulded with skulls and human hearts to suggest life.
Parasite is an exemplary of such infusion. In one of the seven wall sculptures, Khuzairie imaginatively substitutes a banana flesh with a human skeleton with its peel split open.

Contemporary yet conventional in approach, he embraces both popular and traditional cultures as an appreciation for Eastern values.

Umibaizurah Mahir @ Ismail
As one of the initiators of the residency programme, Umibaizurah multi-tasks her daily life as a ceramic artist, host, wife and a mother of two. Having recently showcased her solo exhibition entitled Fragile by Umibaizurah: Recent Works 2015 – 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, the diligent artist achieves boundless experiences at home and abroad since participating in her first group exhibition in 1997 and an international workshop in 2004.

Known as one of the most remarkable female ceramic sculptors in the Malaysian art fraternity, Umibaizurah constantly pushes the envelope by creating a coterie of figurines matched with idiosyncratic accessories for her quixotic installation works.

Umibaizurah constructs a dog sculpture carrying a bunch of bananas on its back secured by a bandage soaked in clay. The sculpture is placed on a couple of elevated steel discs.

Besides depicting hard work and perseverance, the work – aptly titled Heavyweight – also contains cultural elements that are relevant to the residency programme.
According to Umibaizurah, in Japan, dogs are common pets, like the infamous Hachiko.

“When Satoko first arrived in Puncak Alam, she was curious as to why there were no dogs in sight. I told her that due to religious beliefs, Muslims are not allowed to keep dogs as pets. Although there are dogs in Malaysia, I just thought that this is a fascinating cultural difference,” enthuses Umibaizurah.

In a similar vein, Pout Frowny depicts a swine with a pile of bitter gourd tied on its back.

Camouflage features a group of infused creatures and vegetables: the body of a fish with aubergine as its beak and a bird’s wings placed on a raised-up metal disc.

The Surrogate illustrates a bird wrapped in an oversized cauliflower attached on metal bar with a steel disc as base.

Umibaizurah’s work encompasses issues of consumerism, environment and nature. Meal consists of a variety of crossbreed fruits and vegetables to represent the wealth of natural resources in Malaysia, displayed on a steel structure.

“This exhibition is a celebration of multiculturalism and we hope to continue this residency programme by inviting artist-friends from other countries in the future, perhaps Singapore, Thailand or Korea?” says Umibaizurah.

Link to pdf

Exhibition: Raduan Man: Ascension to Abstraction

Exhibition: Raduan Man: Ascension to Abstraction

Artist(s): Raduan Man

Gallery: Whitebox, Publika Shopping Gallery

Year: 2016

An Act of Freedom

Raduan Man’s arrival at abstract expressionism is neither an act of impulse nor coincidental. For an artist who has built a name for a certain “style” and to “abruptly” go off course may sometimes be met with criticism.

The ultimate question most people want an answer to is “why?”

I, too, ruefully was one of the curious cynics.

To comprehend Raduan’s decision, however absurd or brilliant – I go for the latter – it is crucial to dig deep to the very core.

What do we know about the art of Raduan Man thus far?

The Malaysian art fraternity is familiar with Raduan’s woodcut and printmaking technique on canvas since his first solo exhibition entitled Fresh Markings held at NN Gallery in Kuala Lumpur in 2003.

With a master’s degree in both painting and printmaking, Raduan ingeniously incorporates both styles to create artworks with attractive subject matters from cats, dragons and roosters to airplanes and motor vehicles.

Woodcut and printmaking require discipline, patience and technical expertise. With years of experience repeating these tedious processes, it is no surprise that Raduan yearns for another form of expression beyond the constraints of relief print and layers of screen printing.
Raduan endured a melancholic period after his father’s demise in 2008. During this time, he journeyed to the holy land of Mecca in search of peace within himself.

On his return, Raduan approached the canvas with healing verses from the Holy Quran and created five unique works based on his pilgrimage. One of the works entitled Ayat Kursi is derived from verse 255 of the second chapter, Surah al-Baqarah (The Chapter of the Cow).

After thirteen years of practicing art professionally, Raduan presents his latest solo exhibition with a fresher than ever perspective.

Journeying to the Zenith
Raduan Man: Ascension to Abstraction is the artist’s eighth solo exhibition featuring a new body of work created in the form of “action painting”.1

A fresh endeavour for Raduan Man, who is a master in printmaking – literally and academically – the exhibition showcases over twenty abstract paintings and one colossal work consisting of nine panels measuring eight foot by eighteen foot entitled Sky Fighters from his War series, created between 2011 and 2015.

Raduan’s arrival at abstract expressionism is the result of an emotional and cerebral

“I needed to break away from my comfort zone,” says Raduan.

For him, the meaning of “comfort zone” refers to the daily grind of preparing stencils, carving images into the surface of a block of wood, transferring screen prints on canvas, layering, mark-making, painting and cleaning his tools.

“I am grateful to have chosen printmaking as a major subject as an undergraduate. It taught me discipline and patience.

“But after years of undergoing rigid processes, I am ready to rise up to the challenge and to be free from the routine,” adds Raduan.

Since 2003, Raduan has produced sought-after series namely Animal, Signature, War and Dragon encompassing mixed media techniques. The transition to abstract expressionism in its purest began in 2015.

In a particular work entitled Sky Guard dated 2015, Raduan expressively paints the canvas in multiple hues of blue, red and green with white gestures dominating the background and warplanes in opaque green and black floating on the foreground.

Now, try visualising the subject matter being reduced, and then absent altogether from the canvas, resulting in the viewer being confronted with a large-scale abstract work on canvas. This is precisely how Raduan’s new works are being presented, devoid of any object and imagery.

Hailing from Kampung Lengkong in Pahang – a village approximately 30 kilometres from Bentong town – Raduan, who now resides in Selangor, regularly visits his hometown to partake in agricultural activities and to relish in his personal interests like fishing, hunting and hiking in the forest.

Thus, it is only fitting that this body of work is inspired by his days and nights spent in the wilderness.

“Being with nature is very therapeutic. I find solace in harvesting bananas and durians, and reaping the fruits of my labour,” says Raduan who has taken up farming in the countryside during his spare time.

It is through this experience that Raduan rediscovers the magnificence of Mother Nature and feels the urge to convey them in a way that he knows best. Hence, the start of a new artistic journey.

“I have always admired the works of Willem de Kooning and Jean-Michel Basquiat,” confesses Raduan.

Sharing the same viewpoint as de Kooning in relations to art making, Raduan’s inquisitive spirit allows him to go above and beyond the constraints of a “mature signature style” such as that already developed by Raduan.

He challenges his own facility by exploring new styles and methods in an attempt to rebel against adherence to any form of orthodoxy.

Raduan’s gestural works require physical endurance as much as creativity. Evident in every composition is the dynamism of his brushstrokes and rhythmic mark-making.

For instance, Gong Rimba exhibits the qualities of a spirited action painter: full of energy and enthusiasm.

Presented in a diptych, the pulsating artwork combines formalistic merits of colour, form, line and space. Raduan’s choice of colour palette includes a mixture of cadmium yellow with lemon yellow, prussian blue, cerulean blue and cyan, titanium white as well as ivory black.

The vibrancy of the artwork is achieved through deliberate engagements with the canvas and intuitive movements for colour application.

Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978), an American art critic and an advocate of American abstract expressionism wrote in an essay entitled The American Action Painters in 1952:2

“At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act— rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze or “express” an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.

The painter no longer approached his easel with an image in his mind; he went up to it with material in his hand to do something to that other piece of material in front of him. The image would be the result of this encounter.”

He later described:

“A painting that is an act is inseparable from the biography of the artist. The painting itself is a “moment” in the adulterated mixture of his life—whether “moment” means, in one case, the actual minutes taken up with spotting the canvas or, in another, the entire duration of a lucid drama conducted in sign language. The act-painting is of the same metaphysical substance as the artist’s existence. The new painting has broken down every distinction between art and life.”

And Rosenberg continued by indicating the significance of “gesture” that proves relevant till today beyond the borders of America.

“The big moment came when it was decided to paint…. Just TO PAINT. The gesture on the canvas was a gesture of liberation, from Value—political, aesthetic, moral.”

After more than six decades of writing, action painting has become increasingly alive as attested by Raduan’s body of work.

Tools of the Trade
Disciplined and organised, Raduan’s virtues are reflected in his workspace. The light and airy ground floor studio is spacious with plenty of room to work on large canvases.

Oil bars and tubes of paints, turpentine, linseed oil, brushes and other materials are neatly organised on the floor within arm’s reach, ready to be used wherever the mood takes him.

Raduan’s meticulousness is apparent right down to selecting the right type of tools for his expressions. High quality Windsor & Newton’s oil paints are used lavishly in Raduan’s composition. His unconventional utensils comprise brushes of all sizes, nylon broom bristles and his bare hands.

In order to achieve the heavily textured base of his paintings, Raduan prepares a palette full of dried oil paint, as thick as the dense forest. Then, he emotively applies them on the canvas before vigorously layering more paint over it.

A classic example is also seen in The Unbeaten Path, illustrated in different shades of green, blue, yellow with hints of white and red, and scrawls of thick black lines adding to the textured composition.

The outcome of this emotional experience is beyond the notion of existentialism that portrays “an act of necessary self-assertion, an expression of freedom and authenticity”.3

For Raduan, expressing himself in this manner is liberating and fulfilling. This may just be the start of a lifelong experimental journey. In a bright foreseeable future, could we anticipate sculptures and other forms of art by Raduan Man?

“The possibility is endless with art,” declares an optimistic Raduan.

Past, Present and Future
In the context of abstract art in Malaysia, its young history was first etched by a handful of artists from the mid-fifties to 1960s.

These remarkable talents include Tay Hooi Keat (1910 – 1989), Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal (1929 – 2011), Datuk Ibrahim Hussein (1936 – 2009), Yeoh Jin Leng, 87, Cheong Lai Tong, 84, Khalil Ibrahim, 82, Khoo Sui Hoe, 77 and Abdul Latiff Mohidin, 75.

Mainly graduates of art schools in United Kingdom, the United States of America and even Germany, they committed themselves to being either art educators, cultural advocates, full-time artists, or altogether upon returning to Malaysia.

These ‘pioneers’ of Malaysian abstract art have paved the way for generations of abstract artists to come, resulting in an ever bourgeoning and vibrant scene until today.4

In a pluralistic landscape, abstract art has become accessible to many due to its organic and non-representational characteristics. Colour, line, form and space are the main elements that determine its aesthetic value albeit subjectively.

Art collectors have become well-informed in the development of Malaysian art with the rise of primary and secondary markets in Malaysia within the past six years, thus becoming more sophisticated in their collecting method.5

Appreciation in Malaysian art is also extended to private corporations and public institutions. As a universal visual vocabulary since World War two, the demand for abstract art has amplified globally.6

The growing prevalence of the abstract in modern art has resulted in a socio-historical explanation associated to Theodor W. Adorno (1903 – 1969), a German philosopher, sociologist, and composer known for his critical theory of society Adorno believed that such abstraction is a response to, and a reflection of, the growing abstraction of social relations in the industrial society.

“The abstractness of the new is bound up with the commodity character of art … The absolute artwork converges with the absolute commodity. The modern pays tribute to this in the vestige of the abstract in its concept.” 7

Progressive artists are constantly experimenting with new ideas and throughout art history; an artist is never bound to a single medium.8

Documenting Raduan’s early formation in expressionism at present is a stimulating venture, as this is the start of an exhilarating journey for the artist and his audience. History is currently in the making.

Link to pdf

Exhibition: The Nanyang Show

Exhibition: The Nanyang Show

Artist(s): Chen Wen Hsi, Chia Hui Chian, Chia Yu Chian, Chong Hip Seng, Fung Yow Chork, Heng Eow Lin, Ho Kay Beng, Khaw Sia, Khoo Sui Hoe, Kuo Ju Ping, Le Chek Wen, Lee Cheng Yong, Lee Joo For, Ong Kim Seng, Seah Kim Joo, Tan Choon Ghee, Tew Nai Tong, Tsai Horng Chung, Yong Mun Seng

Gallery: Visual Arts Centre, Singapore

Year: 2016

Interpreting Nanyang Art: The 10 Essentials

The theme Nanyang is distinctive of Southeast Asian history particularly in the study of cultural identity and Chinese diaspora that is significant in the development of art in alternative modernism.1

This essay is an accompaniment to The Nanyang Show from 9 to 12 June 2016 at the Visual Arts Centre in Singapore, showcasing 47 artworks by selected artists who have created paintings centered on the Nanyang theme, either the artists had lived during the time when the call for “local color” was at its peak or as a continuity of an artistic approach still apparent today.2

Featuring works by Chen Wen Hsi, Chia Hui Chian, Chia Yu Chian, Chong Hip Seng, Fung Yow Chork, Heng Eow Lin, Ho Khay Beng, Khaw Sia, Khoo Sui Hoe, Kuo Ju Ping, Le Chek Wen, Lee Cheng Yong, Lee Joo For, Ong Kim Seng, Seah Kim Joo, Tan Choon Ghee, Tew Nai Tong, Tsai Horng Chung and Yong Mun Sen dated since the 1930s, the artworks not only offer visual aesthetics, but also historical narratives in Malaya, Malaysia and Singapore.

Much has been written about the Nanyang Style and its artists. In this text, ten essential points about Nanyang Art covering its origins, advocates, purposes, period, context, viewpoints, stylistic method, geographic importance, influences, and its present relevance are gathered. With reference to the artworks on offer, viewers are able to observe various interpretations of a newfound land at its essence.

Though this exhibition may only feature a fraction of a more extensive premise – focusing mainly on artists from Malaysia – it must be noted that some of the more important Nanyang artists comprising of names like Liu Kang, Lim Hak Tai, Lim Yew Kuan, Georgette Chen, Chua Mia Tee, Cheong Soo Pieng, Tan Tee Chie, See Cheen Tee, Yeh Chi Wei, Lim Mu Hue, Lai Foong Moi, Chuah Thean Teng, Chong Pai Mu, Chen Chong Swee, Lim Tze Peng, to name a few, produce remarkable works that also express the spirit of the Southern Seas.

1. Defining Nanyang
Nanyang or ‘Southern Seas’ is a term originally coined in the late 1920s by literary intelligentsia to indicate contemporary Chinese narratives written based on local subjects.3

Prominent historian and scholar Wang Gungwu explains its geographic meaning: “the word ‘Nanyang’, the ‘Southern Ocean’, is used as an equivalent of the more recent coinage, ‘South-east Asia’. But there is an important difference. There is implied in the word ‘Nanyang’ territories which have been reached by sea, by the South China Sea, and consequently, the areas which specially concern the Nanyang Chinese have been the key coastal strips of mainland Southeast Asia.”4

In this exhibition, viewers are able to examine the amalgamation of Eastern and Western painting techniques in illustrations that depict a particular time and space.

For instance, Tan Choon Ghee’s use of Chinese ink with calligraphy brush and watercolour on rice paper to depict Singapore River landscape dated 1977 and Chia Hui Chian’s rendition of the Morning Market, which illustrates a group of multi-ethnic figures adorning vibrant attires in a market setting executed in Post-Impressionism manner. Both pictures are geographically domestic in context achieved in a combination of methods.

Another observable example is Yong Mun Sen’s depiction of local farmers planting paddy in the field executed in oil on canvas laid on board. Created in 1946, Paddy Planting illustrates four agriculturalists – three figures are bending over in chorus to plant the rice seedlings into a muddy bed of soil, while the other figure is watching over them holding a bunch of rice plants in her hand – painted in a Western manner.

2. The Making of Nanyang Style
There are various social and political occurrences that have instigated the need for a cultural revolution in China – the opening up of treaty ports in China in the nineteenth century, the acceptance of Western artistic ideas and materials, the inculcation of Western and Chinese ideals in Chinese education by Cai Yuanpei (1868 – 1940), which leads to the New Culture and May Fourth movements, the increasing number of Overseas Chinese in Malaya and Singapore, imperialism and communism, SinoJapanese wars – any of which may have influenced the change either directly or indirectly as recounted by historians.5

Publications also played a critical role in promoting the Cultural Revolution in Malaya (including Singapore). A number of essays discussing the issue of Nanyang literature were produced by Singapore’s writers between 1927 and 1933 with titles like “Singapore Artists, Awake,” “Literary Culture and the Overseas Chinese,” and “Literature and Local Color” were published in Huang Dao, Ye Lin, Wenyi Zhoukan, and Fan Xing.6

Zeng Shengti (1901 – 1982), editor of Wenyi Zhoukan wrote in an essay for the 1929 inaugural edition: “Singapore artists, awake! The old world has melted under the fierce heat of the sun. Let us hang our flag upon the towering coconut tree. The immense and cloudless sky affirms our openness. The elephant symbolizes our resoluteness. The long green leaves declare our freshness. The sea rings out our triumph cry. Our fresh environment provides us with unlimited material. Come, let us blow by blow and layer by layer construct our artistic, iron tower.”7

Around the same time in Penang, versatile artist Lee Cheng Yong displayed a strong expression of regionalism through his work. Created circa 1930s, Fertile Soil features a pastoral landscape by the coast, consisting of a few huts that could perhaps suggest an agricultural area amidst a seascape background. His warm and earthy colour palette of Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna with hints of blue and green illustrates “the fierce heat of the sun”.

The New Culture Movement in Singapore was aimed to promote nation building and enlightenment in cultural change. With vernacularisation as the intellectual’s first quest by using Mandarin as the “national language” and to approach their writings in “local color” by making Southeast Asia as their canvas and calling this new culture “Nanyang” or “huaqiao” or Overseas Chinese culture.8

Chen Wen Hsi’s Gibbons not only retains elements of Chinese culture, firstly in its medium and format, secondly in its subject matter – Chen was first inspired by a painting by the 13th century Southern Song Dynasty Chinese artist Mu Xi titled White Robed Guanyin, Crane and Gibbon while he was still in China – but it also demonstrates his commitment in artistic endeavours when he purchased a white-faced gibbon for $300 at a pet shop shortly after arriving in Singapore in the late 1940s and nurturing it in his garden to study the postures and characteristics of the primate.

3. Subject Matter and Technique
In the quest for finding new pictorial language that reflects the tropical milieu, “the Nanyang artists adopted an experimental approach, using styles and techniques derived from two sources: Chinese pictorial traditions, and the School of Paris” as described by T. K. Sabapathy in the 1979 Pameran Retrospektif Pelukis-Pelukis
Nanyang (Nanyang Artists Retrospective Exhibition) catalogue.9

Evident in the work of Tsai Horng Chung titled Young Tribal Lady Playing Gong, the artist has incorporated his surroundings into his paintings. Born in 1916 in China, Tsai graduated from Shanghai Art Academy and was one of the pioneer Nanyang artists who migrated to Sarawak to teach art in 1943. Trained in traditional Chinese painting, he skillfully illustrates a native playing a traditional music instrument in a stylised manner using ink and colour on rice paper mounted on scroll.

Kevin Chua, in his essay titled Painting the Nanyang’s Public: Notes Toward A Reassessment elucidates another accurate description of the Nanyang Style from the 1950s:

“What marks so many Nanyang paintings of the early 1950s is the sense that subjects were available, and close at hand: a prahu or fishing boat, cows grazing, even something as prosaic as a rubbish dump. Thrown back into the world, painting was confronted with the everyday, the ordinary. The story of Malayan painting of the 1950s was the struggle to represent and thus speak to the public, to find that imaginary exterior point that could capture both inside and outside.”10

The descriptive subject matter is evident in the works of Kuo Ju Ping (Boat Construction, Reaching Home, Rice Mill, The Hut by the Back Alley, Unloading Cargo), Fung Yow Chork (By the Jetty at Pulau Ketam), Ho Khay Beng (Stilt Houses) and Yong Mun Sen (A Hut Near Water, Singapore Riverside Scene, Still Life with Pots). Based on these images, the artists have captured the realities of a specific place at a particular time.

4. Western Influence Eastern Context
From a formalistic perspective, paintings created by the Nanyang artists that is being referred to as Nanyang Style encompasses “a combination of techniques and approaches from the School of Paris, Chinese traditional ink painting from the literati tradition, as well as the Shanghai School.”11

The three distinctive categories of artistic solutions are the fusion of Eastern and Western techniques, the adaptation of new subject matter into traditional Chinese painting, and the depiction of local context through a distinctive Western art movement.

Khaw Sia’s watercolour treatment of the exterior of a Buddhist temple, Lee Cheng Yong’s Cubist-style Four Ladies, Lee Joo For’s vibrant expressions on canvas, and Fung Yow Chork’s impression of the Pongal celebration either fit one or all of the criteria. This innovative approach reflects Lim Hak Tai’s vision for the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), as stated in his manifesto.12

Good Time by Tew Nai Tong dated 1974 illustrates organic forms in blue and pale yellow and Khoo Sui Hoe’s painting titled Cloud with Reflection dated 1978 – which features a circular form dominating a square canvas in sky blue with a single white cloud perched above a flowing grey pole and the cloud’s organic-shaped reflection illustrated beneath – indicate that experimentation in various techniques contribute to the “development of the spirit of science and trends of modern thinking”. Such Western-influenced representations demonstrate the magnitude of the Nanyang Style.

5. Painting the Southern Seas
A historic painting excursion to Bali by four Singapore pioneer artists Chen Wen Hsi, Chen Chong Swee, Cheong Soo Pieng and Liu Kang in 1952 aimed to seek “new pictorial structures and expressions to reflect the tropical environment, the multicultural aspects of Nanyang and cultural themes rooted within the region.”13

The following year, an exhibition titled Four Artists to Bali showcasing fresh visual vocabulary created during the sojourn was held at the British Council. Art historian T. K. Sabapathy noted the significance of this group show “particularly in relation to the depiction of the human figure resulted in the creation of figure types which are indelibly linked with the Nanyang artists, and which proved to be influential for other artists” in his essay titled Modern Art in Singapore: Pioneers and Premises.14

Khoo Sui Hoe’s interpretation of Bali dated 1968 manifests the effects of both the exotic island as a source of artistic inspiration, and the use of “figure types” in most of his paintings. In this piece, the artist illustrates the demon character Rangda from the mythical traditional Barong dance alongside his signature figure. Again, in 2009, Khoo Sui Hoe revisits the subject matter with a painting titled Dancer from Bali.

6. Educators as Artists
The establishment of NAFA in Singapore in 1938 by Lim Hak Tai was driven by the quiescent presence of the British in the art scene. Consisted of only fourteen students in its first year of opening, the school had three full time teachers, Kao Fei Tse who taught drawing and Chang Meng Tse who taught design including Lim who taught watercolour and oil painting.15

While the categorisation of “Nanyang artists” deriving exclusively from NAFA is debatable, I am in agreement with Emelia Ong in referring to Nanyang artists as “to those who taught at NAFA, those who graduated from the academy and those who shared close relationships with them and played important roles in the shaping of an eclectic approach to art-making.”16

There are a number of art educators who simultaneously pursue their artistic practice namely Chen Wen Hsi (South China College, Shantou, China 1946 – 1947, The Chinese High School, Singapore 1949 – 1968, NAFA 1951 – 1959, Singapore), Lee Cheng Yong (Chung Ling High School, Penang), Kuo Ju Ping (Chung Ling High School, Union High School, Li Tek School, Han Chiang High School, Penang), Khaw Sia (Chung Ling High School, Penang 1949 – 1958, Penang Chinese Girls High School, 1958), Lee Joo For (Penang Free School, Head of the Art Department, Malaysian Teacher’s College, Johor Bahru, lecturer in Creative Arts, Catholic University, Victoria, Australia) and Ho Khay Beng (Han Chiang High School, Penang 1958).17

The next generation of Nanyang artists who was trained by pioneer artists is Tan Choon Ghee (attended NAFA from 1949 – 1951 with the influence of his mentor Kuo Ju Ping), Chia Yu Chian (who took personal art trainings with Chen Wen Hsi) and Khoo Sui Hoe (attended NAFA and was trained by Georgette Chen and Cheong Soo Pieng).

Self-taught artists comprise of Yong Mun Sen (who played a seminal role in forming the Penang Chinese Art Club and Singapore Society of Chinese Artists as well as the establishment of NAFA) and Fung Yow Chork (founder member of Thursday Art Group, member of Wednesday Art Group, Selangor Art Society, Singapore Art Society and Malaysian Artists Association).

The involvement of these artists in spreading art knowledge is just as important as the need to create new modes of visual expressions thus making them key contributors in the Nanyang Style.

7. Writings and Exhibitions
In 1979, prolific artist, educator and cultural thinker Redza Piyadasa presented an important exhibition titled Pameran Retrospektif Pelukis-Pelukis Nanyang at Muzium Seni Negara, Kuala Lumpur, which featured 40 artists over the period 1938 to 1965. In the exhibition catalogue, Piyadasa recounts the atmosphere at NAFA as conveyed by students who studied there:

“Ho Khay Beng recalls that the influence of Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi was especially strong on the students, such that nearly all the senior students would end up imitating one or the other of the two ‘masters’. In Western painting, Cheong Soo Pieng’s influence was nothing less than mesmerising. Lim Mu Hue (class 1953 -55) has described the conditions at the academy during the 50s as being symbolised by the overwhelming presence of three studio teachers – Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee and Chen Wen Hsi. According to him, Cheong Soo Pieng’s influence was most powerful on his students, and that his influence was determined in no small way by his approach to easel painting considerations. Cheong Soo Pieng was perhaps singularly responsible for establishing several of the styles that were imitated by the students of the academy, and which subsequently came to be associated with that institution.”18

In conjunction with the fourth Singapore Biennale in 2013, the National Museum of Singapore presented an exhibition titled A Changed World: Singapore Art 1950s – 1970s, which showcased key pieces to highlight social, political and economic responses to post-war development of art in Singapore. The exhibition catalogue consists of a dialogue between curators Szan Tan and Daniel Tham in which they noted that – with reference to Cheong Soo Pieng’s untitled work depicting the Singapore River scene – as “symbolic”. Daniel Tham elaborates in his discussion:

“Perhaps it’s symbolic for them. Even though they probably didn’t arrive at the Singapore River when they first came to Singapore, yet the River symbolised this entry point to Singapore. In addition, it was the commercial heart of activity in Singapore as a port and in terms of its entreport trade. So for the artists, perhaps as new immigrants settling in Singapore, the Singapore River represented that new beginning and their entry into this new world. We are, after all, concerned with the artists’ attempts at capturing the new worlds they were settling in, and the Singapore River is emblematic of that, as you point out.”19

In this show, there are depictions of the Singapore River by Yong Mun Sen, Kuo Ju Ping and Tan Choon Ghee created between 1946 and 1977, demonstrating the significance of the river particularly to the Nanyang artists.

Another pivotal exhibition titled Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore Since the 19th Century, which uses six broad themes – Tropical Tapestry; Nanyang Reverie; Real Concerns; New Languages; Tradition Unfettered; and Shifting Grounds – document significant moments of art development and is currently on display at the newly opened National Gallery Singapore.

8. Perspectives
Cultural observer Kwok Kian Chow explained that the term Nanyang was initially used to describe literary theme:

“The term was a generic one which was used to characterise the subject matter of such writings, Nanyang Style did not denote a specific aesthetic paradigm as did notions of linguistic vernacularism (as in the May Fourth Movement), Social Realism or aestheticism. In the late1920s and 1930s, some proponents of the Nanyang Style associated writing with the articulation of a Nanyang/Overseas Chinese identity and took the literary discourse even further to deal with the larger social issue of a Nanyang regionalist culture.”20

In Kevin Chua’s writing, he highlights the progress of Nanyang Art in the generation after 1950s whereby members of the Equator Art Society criticised the works of their predecessors:

“In raising the banner of social realism, the painters of the Equator Art Society rejected the so called “Western” post-Impressionist abstraction of the generation that preceded them.”21

9. Beyond Malaysia and Singapore
The regional dynamism of cultural transformation extends beyond the borders of Malaysia and Singapore. Though these artists may not have attended NAFA or are not directly associated with Nanyang artists, they are either settlers or children of Chinese migrants who have made the Southern Seas their home and have adapted to the social conditions.

Among some of these artists include Lee Man Fong (Singapore) – curator and advisor to President Soekarno’s art collection from 1961 to 1965 – and Lim Wasim who are both Palace Artists and are responsible for the compilation of a five-volume edition of the presidential art collection, resided in Indonesia. In the Philippines, Ang Kiukok painted the realities of an oppressed time – people living in squalor, domesticated animals such as dogs and roosters while confronting these desolations through his faith in Christianity in Cubist and Surrealist manner – a distinctive style of painting termed figurative expressionism by many. In Myanmar, U Aung Twin is a prolific artist, educator and a traditional dance choreographer whose paintings and sculptures of Buddha images and Ramayana figures gained him prominence. In Vietnam, Doi Ngoan Quan is known for his calligraphy besides watercolour, seal and microcarvings.

10. Nanyang Art Today
The spirit of Nanyang aestheticism still prevails today in the works of Khoo Sui Hoe, Seah Kim Joo and Ong Kim Seng as presented in this exhibition. Other artists who are actively creating in this style include Lim Ah Cheng, Lee Long Looi, Keng Seng Choo, Tay Mo Leong, Eng Tay, Tay Chee Toh, to name a few. Artists who were born after the Malayan independence and continue to paint local landscapes in Western manner are the likes of Chang Fee Ming, Peter Liew and Lui Cheng Thak, although they may not exclusively label their artistic approach as “Nanyang Style”, which leads us to ponder the future and relevance of the Nanyang Style today especially after the 1980s when younger artists’ concerns have shifted to challenge the idea of identity in their works.

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