Category Archives: Essays

Lines of Labour

 

For two decades, Raduan Man has perfected the art of woodcut since completing his undergraduate studies majoring in printmaking at MARA University of Technology (UiTM) in 2001.

The journey has been laborious, one that is inculcated by the rigours of technical discipline essential to the printmaking process. In printmaking, the basic method entails creating a design on a flat surface such as wood, metal, or glass known as matrix, which is then inked to transmit the image on the desired surface. This is followed by printing from the matrix that requires the application of controlled pressure such as a printing press for the mirror image of the design to be transferred onto paper or fabric.

In 2003, Raduan presented his first solo exhibition titled Fresh Markings, which consisted of works in woodcut technique on paper as well as oil and acrylic on canvas. The collection took two years to complete.

At the time, he had already experimented with transposing the carved image onto canvas instead of conventional paper and applying more than one colour, demonstrating his early attempt at modernising the woodcut medium.

Raduan’s position as a young artist then had influenced the narrative of Fresh Markings through the “assimilation of art traditions and cultural sensibilities in his work”.[i] He displayed a natural aptitude for creating innovative works early on, embedding metaphorical subject matters that are personal to him.

In 2016, a new series of abstract paintings was introduced for his 8th solo exhibition titled Raduan Man: Ascension to Abstraction that marked his first foray into pure abstraction. A prequel titled Kayangan was presented in 2021 and subsequently his most recent abstract series titled Khayalan in 2022.

As a progressive artist, Raduan also ventured into NFT art in early 2022, producing 20 artworks titled The Iconic Series and Superheroes Series. His artworks have entered the one-of-a-kind trading of non-fungible tokens, the crypto-media trend that brings ownership to the cyberspace.

 

Domestic interiors

Fast forward to 2022, Post-Contemporary Woodcut: Lines of Labour by Raduan Man is his 10th solo exhibition that celebrates the evolution of his artistic practice in woodcut technique. In honour of the modest medium, Raduan has embraced the process by creating 21 complex and sophisticated woodcut paintings in oil on canvas illustrating domestic interiors inspired by a period of isolation during the pandemic.

“In this series, my aim is to elevate the status of woodcut by eliminating the concept of editions and to create unique major artworks in the form of woodcut print and oil on canvas”, said Raduan.

Traditionally, original prints on paper are produced in the count of a limited edition with an artist’s proof. Raduan has found an ingenious solution to break the mould of conventional ways in artmaking and spearheading the unpaved path to the success of this strenuous technique.

The result is a body of mesmerising work depicting still life objects in a domestic setting, in dazzling colours and harmonious lines that create spatial perspective and tactile quality due to the repetitive relief print method. This process demonstrates the absence of direct paintbrush marks on canvas making the artworks distinctively Raduan’s.

“The soul of my work is in the matrix. It is the first point of contact for my ideas to be expressed. A regular painting can be forged but it would be complicated to replicate this body of work due to its technical demands,” explained Raduan.

In Meja Bonda, Raduan illustrates a red dining table with an array of tableware, fruits, and vegetables as well as potted plants spread across the composition. The blue background creates a soothing ambience in the painting.

“The images are based on my recollection of my mother’s house that features various household objects and its arrangements in the kitchen and dining table. I never noticed them before, but these observations become more visible during the Movement Control Order,” described Raduan.

“Meja Bonda”, Woodcut print and oil on canvas, 2018, 152cm x 152cm

 

The subject matter of domestic interiors that embraces episodes of daily lives is popular among European artists particularly Dutch painters in the 17th century such as Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675).

Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) created three oil paintings titled Bedroom in Arles depicting his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles, France where he resided for a short period of time. In a letter to his brother and art dealer Theo, he mentioned that the interior is deliberately “flattened and left out the shadows so that his picture would resemble a Japanese print.”[ii]

Raduan’s post-contemporary woodcut paintings mirror the characteristics of post-impressionism paintings through its bold lines, distorted forms, and vivid colours.

 

Democratising art

Woodcut is the ancient relief printing technique of printmaking, which originated in China from the Han dynasty that was later brought to Europe and is known to be the oldest technique to produce old master prints in the 13th century. The European woodcut technique found its way back to China and Japan in the 1930s propelling the movement’s popularisation.    

In the Asian context, woodcut is known to be a “democratic” medium as it is an effective and economical way to convey propaganda messages for political and social movements such as the dissemination of information for

independence from colonial rule, democratisation against the dictatorship, reformation of labour situation, and to campaign against environmental pollution.[iii]

Historically, “woodcut has contributed to such activisms by conveying the hardship of people, disclosing problems of societies, seeking the solidarity with other communities, and mobilising actions for better societies.”

As a medium that symbolises freedom, the history of woodcut in Asia does not only “represent agony, struggle, or propaganda — it is a history of liberation in the subjective expression of oppressed people.”[iv]

The early introduction of woodblock prints to Singapore’s art scene is attributed to the early “Wenman Gie” publications or The World of Culture and Cartoons by Dai Yunlang in 1936 as a Sunday art feature on Nanyang Siang Pau. The knowledge of woodblock print was shared with the educators of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts when it was established in 1938.[v]

In Malaysia, veteran artist Dr. Choong Kam Kow was appointed the Head of Fine Art Department at UiTM in 1970 and introduced “printmaking as a core subject like painting and sculpture in year two and year three and as a Minor area of study in final year’s syllabuses of the fine art department.”[vi]

He wrote: “…as far as I can remember, those artists who have been invited to do part-time teaching in printmaking during the initial years were Latiff Mohidin, Long Thien Shih, Carol Rotsiger and Ghafar Ibrahim. They all have made considerable contributions to the implementation of the printmaking curriculum at ITM.”

In observing the appreciation for printmaking in Malaysia, Dr. Choong described: “Over the last five decades, we have witnessed the gradual increase of groups and solos printmaking exhibitions held both in public and private art galleries with the aims to promote appreciation and recognition of modern fine prints as a unique art form. However, in the art market today, private collectors, corporations and public institutions are still very much lacking of enthusiasm in acquiring fine prints for collection. Many of them are still having the misconception that printmaking is reproduction due to its multiple editions, hence lower in value. The value appreciation rate is slow and limited as compared to painting and sculpture.”

In 2018, Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery presented a major exhibition highlighting the significance of the printmaking medium and narrative in Malaysian art titled Seni Cetakan: Sepanjang Zaman (The Art of Printmaking: Lasting Impressions). Raduan created a colossal work that was featured in the show. Titled Banjaran, the woodcut and oil on canvas work measures 8ft by 20ft (2m by 6m) and is the artist’s largest interpretation of the forest in Banjaran Titiwangsa created exclusively in woodcut technique.  

For Raduan, he aims to make an impact through his artistic endeavours. “I am constantly setting the bar high to challenge myself to create impactful works. I have arrived at a stage where I make art for my personal fulfilment. The healing nature of the process is what I enjoy most,” said Raduan.

 

References

[i] www.artfacts.net/exhibition/solo-exhibition-by-mohd-raduan-man/11780

[ii] Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom, www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0047v1962

[iii] Blaze Carved in Darkness: Woodcut Movements is Asia 1930s – 2010s, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 2019, www.asiawoodcut2.wordpress.com

[iv] Ibid

[v] Woodcut Prints: Artistic Significance of Woodcut Prints – Heritage of Singapore Traditional Art, Ng Woon Lam, www.composition.com.sg/woodcut-prints/

[vi] Development of Malaysian Modern Printmaking Through ITM Academic Programme, Dr. Choong Kam Kow, September 22, 2021, www.malaysianprintmaking.com/post/development-of-malaysian-modern-printmaking-through-itm-academic-programme

 

Detail of “Tasik Bunian”, Woodcut print and oil on canvas, 2018, 267cm x 214cm
“Dinding Merah Jambu”, 2022, Woodcut print and oil on canvas, 61cm x 61cm
“Arnab dan Buku”, 2022, Woodcut print and oil on canvas, 152cm x 152cm
“Bunga untuk Kekasih”, 2022, Woodcut print and oil on canvas, 91.5cm x 91.5cm
Installation shot of “Post-Contemporary Woodcut: Lines of Labour by Raduan Man”
Installation shot of “Post-Contemporary Woodcut: Lines of Labour by Raduan Man”
At the opening of “Post-Contemporary Woodcut: Lines of Labour by Raduan Man” on 2 July 2022

 

 

The Garden of Perpetual Existence 

 

“The artistic capability of reinforced concrete is so fantastic — that is the way to go.” — Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), Brazilian modernist architect 

 

The concept of Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri was conceived during Syed Fakaruddin’s six-month residency at Rimbun Dahan in Kuang, Selangor, from September 2020 until March 2021. The vibrant colour palette that dominated his preceding series of paintings, titled Tindih — displayed in a major solo exhibition that concluded his residency held at Rimbun Dahan’s underground gallery in April 2021 — is a striking contrast to his latest interpretation of nature. 

For Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri, Syed has constructed a site-specific art installation from scratch to replicate the blossoming and thriving horticulture industry that is dotted along the busy main highway of Jalan Sungai Buloh-Subang. A destination for people with green fingers, landscapers and urban planners due to the array of new flower varieties and competitive prices, the nurseries piqued Syed’s curiosity while travelling to and from Kuang.  

Sungai Buloh as the green belt for the horticulture industry, known as the Selangor Green Lane, has been established for decades. This significant agricultural legacy was developed as one of the core economic activities that shaped the identity of the historic Sungai Buloh Leprosarium.   

In this work, Syed aims to explore the stark contrast between the lush greenery of the nurseries sprawling along the Green Lane and the rapid urban development in the vicinity, particularly the construction of the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway (DASH), a mega infrastructure development to complete the Klang Valley ring of highways.   

“I was drawn to an area specifically in Sungai Buloh, where a great number of on-going construction sites and nursery plantations can be seen when one passes through. 

“Based on my observation, I see a good marriage between the two to convey my message in visualising a dystopia that could or could not take place in the near future. Either way, Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri is just a playful prediction of a new environment,” said Syed.  

Concrete nursery 

Located at Syed’s Studio Sarang Batu, on the second floor of a commercial unit at Dataran Ara Damansara in Selangor, Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri occupies approximately 1,320 sq ft (122 sq m) of space, transformed into a “brutalist concrete nursery” as the abbreviation in the title implies. 

Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri marks the first edition of Syed’s full-scale bespoke installation that features abstract plant sculptures; display units and finishing; composed of concrete, metal, wire, steel and rocks. The flooring is decorated with landscaping rocks that surround the concrete slabs that act as a walkway.   

As visitors enter the space, they are greeted by a towering six-foot by four-foot (1.8m by 1.2m) concrete sign that reads “BRU-KON-01 NURSERI” propped against the wall, that also functions as a backdrop for photo ops. The welcome area is demarcated by an existing sliding door that opens to an intimate space where a pair of customised steel benches are purposefully positioned on each side of the wall, acting as a social space for respite.   

The raw nursery is presented in a steel cage that resembles an ultramodern hothouse with agricultural technology, except that Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri does not cultivate real flowers and vegetables using hydroponic or a vertical farming system, but instead serves as a memorial based on Syed’s predicted environment of the future — much like the purpose of displaying taxidermy in a museum.  

Among the selection of 20 plant sculptures displayed in Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri are Pasak; Terompet Malaikat; Lelabah; Tetulang; Janda Bolong; Sambau; Kabong; Renek; Lidah Jin; Meranti; Rhu; Sungkai; Mata Lembu; Gerutu Pasir; Tunggul; Bangun-bangun; Akar Beluru; Tualang; Tapak Hantu; and Mawar.  

The abstract plant sculptures accentuate each plant’s elemental design. For example, Lidah Jin, or Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata), is composed of a concrete base and its sword-like stiff leaves are represented by flat steel bars.  

Similarly, the Lelabah, or Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum), has deformed steel bars bent and twisted to replicate the evergreen perennial flowering plant.  

Tapak hantu, or Ghost’s Foot (Trevesia burckii), features the downward-growing inflorescence moulded in uniform pods of concrete with curved thick metal wire.  

The vernacular names are embossed on small metal sheets alongside the retail price attached to each sculpture. The metal sheet labels emulate military dog tags that serve as a form of identification.   

Syed carefully selected the unique plant species, named in Malay, as a way to preserve them in the form of relics. The idea of romanticising these plants as artefacts when greenery ceases to exist in the future world because of today’s environmental threats and irreversible ecological damage may offer comfort to the fictitious dystopian society. 

The plant sculptures are available for sale in Syed’s invented currency called the “Xcoin”. Its currency exchange rate is equivalent to RM15 per one Xcoin, or as low and/or as high as Syed determines it to be. Terompet Malaikat is priced at Xcoin 15 (RM225) while Tunggul is valued at Xcoin 10 (RM150).  

Appropriating cryptocurrency and the non-fungible token (NFT) culture, Syed’s Xcoin is self-regulated and presents itself as a tongue-in-cheek comment on the current realities of fintech and digital assets.  

A well-made steel structure displaying an eclectic assortment of “gardening apparatus and accessories” such as metal chains, wire coils, steel rods and miniature gabion sacks are neatly arranged near the entrance.  

As visitors peruse the display shelves to “shop” for plant and gardening sculptures, their senses are intensified by the sound of a construction site — drilling, hammering, sawing and welding — played on a loop in the background as well as the warm temperature of the room. The feeling of discomfort gradually increases as visitors circling the concrete nursery eventually break out in a sweat — an experience deliberately designed by Syed to further emphasise nature’s dangerous decline. The steel cage formation also gives the impression of being confined in an enclosure. 

The immersive experience defies any definitive description of Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri, except that it conveys a vital message in a thought-provoking manner. Visitors leave the space with a new perspective on the environment and at the same time feel remorseful and culpable for not caring enough for the earth.  

Bakat Muda Sezaman 2021 

Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri is a site-specific art installation by Syed in response to the Bakat Muda Sezaman (BMS) (Young Contemporaries) 2021 competition’s theme “Seni di Lokasi” (Art on Site).  Organised by Balai Seni Negara Malaysia for young Malaysian artists below the age of 35, BMS 21 invites artists to undertake the challenges of “art making in the new norm”; and “creating physical works in any suitable local site located anywhere in Malaysia” or “on-site at the National Art Gallery and its surroundings”.  

Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri is Syed’s second submission for BMS. He was a finalist in BMS 2019 with his frosted mirror installation titled Dari Mata, Turun ke Hati.   

Through Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri, Syed has cemented his role as a brilliant multi-disciplinary artist who continues to push the limitless boundaries of art-making through the innovative use of form and material.  

The public is welcome to visit Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri by appointment at Sarang Batu Studio, Ara Damansara until March this year. For more information visit Syed Fakaruddin’s Instagram account @brukon01.nurseri . 

Sarah Abu Bakar 

4 January 2022 

Bru-Kon-01 Nurseri’s six-foot by four-foot (1.8m by 1.2m) concrete sign
The bespoke installation by Syed Fakaruddin for Bakat Muda Sezaman 2021
Syed Fakaruddin’s rendition of a raw concrete nursery
“Tunggul” is priced at Xcoin 10 in Syed Fakaruddin’s invented currency, which is equivalent to RM150
Terompet Malaikat (above) and Lelabah (below)
Tualang
Mata Lembu
Gerutu Pasir
Bangun-bangun
Rhu
Tapak Hantu
Lidah Jin
Janda Bolong
Sambau
Kabong
Renek
Mawar
An eclectic assortment of gardening apparatus and accessories
Terompet Malaikat

Segaris Art Center 10th Anniversary Exhibition (2011-2021)

Delineating Progress

As Segaris Art Center marks its 10th anniversary, a special exhibition featuring over 90 Malaysian artists takes place from October 4 until 17, 2021 at Whitebox, MAP@Publika, Kuala Lumpur.

To celebrate this milestone, art enthusiasts are welcome to revel in over 100 artworks on display by artists from all segments: young and emerging, mid-career, senior and established – illustrative of Segaris Art Center’s position as a commercial gallery in the industry.

Among the artists featured in “Segaris Art Center 10th Anniversary Show (2011 – 2021)” include Agnes Lau; Ain Rahman; Hug Yin Wan; Faiz Mahdon; Kide Baharudin; Al-Khuzairie Ali; Edroger Rosili; Faisal Suhif; Jamil Mat Isa; Juhari Said; Jalaini Abu Hassan; Amron Omar; and Dato’ Tajuddin Ismail, to name but a few. 

Beginnings

Established in 2011, Segaris Art Center is a subsidiary company by UiTM Holdings Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned investment holding company of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

Conceived as “the gap-bridging entity mandated to fulfil the wealth creation for UiTM”, Segaris Art Center has evolved from featuring artworks by UiTM students and graduates to expanding its database of artists to the wider art fraternity.

Artist and academician Jalaini Abu Hassan, also known as Jai, served as a pioneering member of the board of directors until 2017 – alongside Ramlan Abdullah and Professor Dr. Ruslan Abdul Rahim, dean of faculty of art and design, UiTM who is also part of the early team that formed Segaris Art Center from concept till the actual formation (2009 to 2016).

“Segaris Art Center has a great potential for success. The gallery has the longest list of alumni-artists from many generations. I can see Segaris expanding beyond the gallery function. It is a centre (based on original purpose) of excellence in art and design. Collaborations with universities will give Segaris the advantage to be the bridge between academia and industry,” said Jai.

Professor Dr. Ruslan Abdul Rahim added: “Segaris Art Center has faced many challenges throughout its existence. The past track record can only show the promise and potential Segaris has to go the distance. There is so much more new talent to be shared with everyone and I am confident that Segaris is the entity to achieve that.”

Dato’ Maznah binti Abdul Jalil, former member of the board for UiTM (1996 to 2016) said: “It was a trying moment when Segaris Art Center was founded because as an academic institution, we were never exposed to the commercial side or industry linkages but today, I am happy to see the progress that Segaris Art Center has made.”  

The space

Anchored in Publika Shopping Gallery – “the country’s first creative retail centre integrating arts and culture with urban shopping and dining” since 2011 – Segaris Art Center is the only art gallery to stand test of time. When Publika was unveiled by Sunrise Bhd in 2010, “the art and culture theme for the project is Making Art Public or MAP”.

“Segaris Art Center plays a vital catalytic role and is a prime mover in the nascence of Publika. Segaris was the first art gallery-tenant when Publika opened as a creative hub. About 16 other art galleries followed suit but not all of them are still around today,” said Nani Kahar, social architect/ placemaking consultant and director of labDNA.  

Tucked in the corner of G4 in the “blue zone”, the gallery’s exterior attracts curious visitors with its industrial aesthetics – the gallery signage is a metal laser cut plate with a rust patina that reads “Segaris Art Center” – visibly displayed perpendicular on the expanded metal mesh at the entrance.

Upon entry, its unconventional set-up is warm and welcoming – contrary to the traditional impression of an art gallery: sterile, cold and intimidating.

The space is centred around a raw concrete structure that acts as an “open office” and above it is a mezzanine floor originally designed as a reading nook.   

Architect and art collector Ar Mohamad Pital bin Maarof of Arkitekpital / Sow & Allan Sdn. Bhd said: “The design planning of the 297sq meter space had already begun in 2010. The design brief was straightforward – to create a commercial gallery space and an art centre for discourse and learning. Hence, the theme of an ‘art foundry’ was conceived to incorporate the look of a warehouse.”

“The configuration of the space is anchored by an axis that acts as a meeting point. The discussion table is the heart of the gallery and the gallery space is split between the right wing and the front wing. The mezzanine floor offers a bird’s eye perspective of the entire space. It is intended for an intimate learning area or a resource centre but currently practicality overcomes the intention and thus the learning space is not being maximised. Over time, the function changes to suit demand.”

Segaris Art Center was featured in an architecture magazine “D+A: design and architecture” in an article called “Extrapolating A Line” by Kenneth Cheong in 2012.  

Present Day

The enthusiastic team of four behind Segaris Art Center is currently led by Mohd Nizam Rahmat, chief executive officer of UiTM Art & Design Sdn Bhd (Segaris Art Center) since 2016. With over 25 years of experience in the field of art and design, Nizam Rahmat is an award-winning graphic designer and is also a practicing artist. Prior to joining Segaris Art Center, he was the head of art management at Galeri Petronas.

Nizam Rahmat said: “Many young artists have showcased their talents, ideas and creativity through exhibitions organised by Segaris Art Center. It is an honour for us to nurture their talents and witness their career development. They are the future of Malaysian art and we encourage them to flourish in the international art scene.”

Discerning art patron, Zain Azahari, known as Pak Zain said: “An especially memorable artwork I acquired from Segaris was one by Anisa Abdullah called ‘Ketika Berdoa’. It was exhibited in 2019 at their ‘Mihrab’ group exhibition themed on mosques. Anisa’s works were already familiar to me by then. Her talent, skill and diligence are obvious and clearly evident in her artworks. ‘Ketika Berdoa’ was no different. 

“It depicts two adult female figures at a mosque, sitting next to each other in prayer, clothed in telekung, with their backs to the viewer. A small child, also in telekung, leans on one of the adults, presumably her mother. The child’s face is visible to the viewer as she stares at the mosque’s patterned carpet. In the meantime, there is an empty chair next to the child. 

“The entire scene struck a nerve for me, as it reminded me of my faith and family, especially my wife, mother, grandmother and the granddaughters my wife and I have been blessed with. All of them have played immense roles in my life.”

To date, Segaris Art Center has produced 95 art exhibitions consisting of group and solo shows as well as participations in local and international art fairs namely Art Expo Malaysia; Art Moments and Art Jakarta in Jakarta, Indonesia; and Singapore Contemporary, Singapore. Over 500 artists have displayed their artworks in exhibitions organised by Segaris Art Center throughout the years.

Pak Zain added: “I am truly impressed by the work Segaris Art Center has done especially in the last five years. They have introduced new talents and helped to showcase the artworks of young artists, many of whom have gone on to exhibit in other local galleries and internationally as well. 

“I also notice new audiences becoming interested in our local art, whenever I visit Segaris Art Center. I have no doubt Segaris Art Center’s ‘no pressure’ and unpretentious feel has something to do with it. I must congratulate Nizam and his team for the way they have managed and shaped Segaris Art Center.”

“Segaris Art Center acts as a springboard that propel the career of promising art stars. It’s through one of the group exhibitions that I discovered talents like Fadilah Karim and Syed Fakaruddin,” said Noor Mahnun Mohamed, artist and part-time lecturer in art curatorship for degree course at the Faculty of Art and Design, UiTM.

In December 2020, Segaris Art Center organised a retrospective exhibition for Fadilah Karim to commemorate a decade of her art practice called “Fadilah Karim: A Decade (2010 – 2020)”. A 180-page monograph was published in conjunction with the exhibition. 

Fadilah Karim said: “Segaris Art Center is of one of the galleries that has helped me build a career in my early days as an artist. With the support Segaris, as a young artist I was able to exhibit my work. Speaking from experience, fresh graduate artists find it difficult to exhibit in galleries because it is often by-invitation basis. Segaris Art Center is one of the galleries that introduce postgraduate artists by providing the opportunity to exhibit as a starting point to forge the path for young postgraduate artists to continue their journey in the professional art scene.”

According to Ar Mohamad Pital bin Maarof, Segaris Art Center made the “right move” by highlighting Fadilah Karim in a major exhibition. “The exhibition establishes Segaris Art Center’s role not as a ‘student gallery’ but championing visual arts in a professional and commercial manner. Fadilah Karim is popular among collectors and she is a fine example of success: from an alumnus emerging artist to being a highly sought-after name in the scene.”

For artist Syed Fakaruddin, the opportunity to exhibit his first solo exhibition in 2018 at Segaris Art Center has left an indelible mark: “The excitement of my first solo exhibition, ‘Bumi Asing’ is an unforgettable experience because Segaris Art Center is willing to give me the opportunity and confidence to produce solo works after 6 years of working in the art industry at the time.”

“In my opinion, Segaris Art Center has achieved a very proud accomplishment after 10 years of advocating the art industry and giving a new perspective to the community on modern and contemporary art in Malaysia”, added Syed Fakaruddin.

In addition to young artists, Segaris Art Center has also produced significant solo exhibitions for senior artists namely: “Dari Iraga ke Payarama by Awang Damit Ahmad” (2014); “Picturing Painting by Jalaini Abu Hassan” (2015); “Small Work by Hamir Soib” (2015); “Hidup by Daud Rahim” (2016); “Song of Eucalyptus by Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir” (2017); “Sculptures and Drawings: Between Form and Object by Ramlan Abdullah” (2017); “Ambiguity by Dato’ Tajuddin Ismail” (2018); “Monuments by Ahmad Shukri Mohamed” (2019), and more.       

“The active participation of established and senior artists in our art programmes affirm our role in connecting with the art community holistically,” said Nizam Rahmat.

Pak Zain vividly recalls an exhibition: “I particularly enjoyed opening Sharifah Fatimah’s ‘Song of Eucalyptus’ exhibition in 2017. It stood out for me for several reasons. To begin with, it was a great honour to be asked to open an exhibition by a senior artist who I greatly respect and deservedly commands a gravitas that only comes with experience, wisdom and achievement. She is also an artist possessing of a unique connection with Segaris, having graduated as the finest student from MARA’s art school pioneering group in the late 1960s. So the exhibition was a homecoming of sorts. The opening was made more delightful for me as several of my grandchildren attended it as well.”

Future

There are a handful of Malaysian art galleries that have surpassed the 10-year-old mark. Among them are Taksu Gallery that was founded in 1989; Shalini Ganendra Art Advisory was established in 1998; Wei-Ling Gallery in 2002; Richard Koh Fine Art in 2005; HOM Art Trans in 2007; G13 Gallery in 2010; and Core Design Gallery in 2011.

So, what does the future hold for Segaris Art Center? With the unyielding support from artists, stakeholders, patrons and art enthusiasts alike, the hope is for Segaris Art Center to endure the next ten to twenty years with resilience.

“I hope that Segaris will continue to support young artists to exhibit, and also hold more exhibitions and residency programs in foreign countries so that there are more ways for artists to build careers and for the gallery grow simultaneously,” said Fadilah Karim.

Syed Fakaruddin said: “I hope Segaris Art Center continues to produce quality and extraordinary exhibitions to maintain its momentum or existence as a respected gallery.”

“We hope to see Segaris Art Center grow into a museum art centre of its own. The idea to explore other departments such as conservation and art services unit; curatorial and art consultancy with more collaborations with others locally and internationally,” said Nizam Rahmat.

Dato’ Maznah binti Abdul Jalil said: “From commercialisation perspective, there is still room for improvement now that Segaris Art Center has set the benchmark. Firstly, an expansion to a premium shopping mall such as Pavilion Kuala Lumpur to create presence for the desired impact on the market.”

“Secondly, collaborations with financial institutions are advantageous. For example, Segaris Art Center’s participation in the upcoming Artober festival organised by CIMB Bank is the way forward. We have also learnt during the pandemic that we cannot operate as usual and there needs to be a change in the entire system.”

“There is much potential for Segaris Art Center to move with the times and I really hope that it will sustain its true objective at all times,” said Professor Dr. Ruslan Abdul Rahim.

“I hope Segaris continues their excellent work in surfacing new talents and educating audiences on Malaysian art. Even 86-year old experienced collectors such as myself enjoy making new discoveries! I am optimistic Segaris will grow in strength and carve itself a suitably permanent role in developing Malaysia’s art scene,” said Pak Zain.

Congratulations to Segaris Art Center on this milestone achievement.

 

Sarah Abu Bakar

3 October 2021

 

This essay was published in print as part of the Segaris Art Center 10th Anniversary Exhibition catalogue.

 

Ahmad Shukri Mohamed – In Love We Trust, Acrylic, Ink, watercolour, Soft pastel, wallpaper, old photo, salvage wood, canvas collage, printage, wood and canvas, 160cm x 112cm x 4.5cm, 2021
Aizakmal Rashid – In the rain, Oil & acrylic on canvas, Variable size, 2021
Fendy Zakri – Bluesy moon, Acrylic on canvas, 152cm x 152cm, 2021
Firdaus Ismail – Dari sudut kecil sebuah kamar, Acrylic on canvas, 78cm x 68cm, 2021
Exhibition shot
Exhibition shot
Umibaizurah Mahir@Ismail –
The Garden Room I, Ceramic, acrylic and texture gel on canvas and wooden frame, 18cm x 54cm x 8cm, 2021
Fuad Arif – Love hurts, Mixed media on board, 153cm x 153cm, 2021

Constructed Realities in the Landscape Paintings of Syed Fakaruddin

 

“Only in our imagination do we live in more than two dimensions, and with its help we attempt to enliven the flatness of our image with depth. All of a sudden it may dawn on us how foolish we are, we faddists of the two-dimensional picture with our constant urge to achieve unobtainable depth.” – M.C. Escher, 1947[i]

 

“Tindih” is Syed Fakaruddin’s second solo exhibition, featuring stunning landscape paintings inspired by a trip to Pulau Kapas — a pristine island off the coast of Terengganu. Syed Fakaruddin depicts the island’s vibrant scenery using conventional techniques to create a sense of depth, imbued with his signature fuzzy effect and a sophisticated appliqué of dried oil paint – a newly acquired technique.

The 32-year-old multidisciplinary artist — known for his large-scale abstract topography paintings — will showcase his latest expressions at the underground gallery of Rimbun Dahan in Kuang, Selangor, from March 27 to April 11 to mark the completion of his six-month residency. A series of work stimulated during this period is also part of “Tindih”.

Tajuk ‘Tindih’ sesuai dengan konsep dan idea yang saya ingin tonjolkan dalam solo saya kali ini.  Eksplorasi tiga lapisan dalam lukisan: background, middle ground and foreground,” says Syed Fakaruddin. (“The title ‘Tindih’ (Overlap) is in accordance with the concepts and ideas that I want to highlight in my solo exhibition this time. The exploration of three layers of painting: background, middle ground and foreground.”)

The main leitmotif featuring the kaleidoscopic coral reefs of Pulau Kapas is illustrated in the foreground of the landscape, enticing viewers to examine the painting more closely. Syed Fakaruddin experiments with the impasto technique as a discrete “colour study” before applying the dried paint to the canvas to form the tactile quality of coral reefs.

The vast ocean illustrated in the middle ground of the panorama is in his distinctive ‘out-of-focus’ style — a technique he developed in his first solo show titled Bumi Asing (2018) — while the sky in the background is depicted using a classic wash technique.

As a result, each overlapping layer, with varying temperatures of colour, clarity and consistency adds an illusionary perspective to the seascape.

Pulau Kapas

“I visited Pulau Kapas with friends some days prior to commencing my residency programme at Rimbun Dahan. I took photographs and collected data to work on this new series. So, the memory of the trip was still fresh in my mind when I arrived here,” says Syed Fakaruddin.

Throughout the Movement Control Order period, while he was in Rimbun Dahan, the artist focused his energy on inventiveness and being productive, which has yielded a remarkable outcome. Works such as “Kapas: Terasing”, “Kapas: Sekawan” and “Kapas: Tebing Tajam”, which measure 1.5m by 2.4m, burst with arresting colour palettes and bold lines that highlight the majestic underwater marine life on an epic scale.

“The idea of this series is to reinterpret what I experienced during my time on Pulau Kapas, such as snorkelling and admiring the corals. One day, while sitting on the beach looking out into the ocean and enjoying the sea breeze, my view was interrupted by a large rock. As I observed the frame, I realised that I was looking at three things in the distance: the rock, the sea and the sky,” says Syed Fakaruddin.

Residency

By accepting the invitation to be a resident artist at Rimbun Dahan, Syed Fakaruddin joins an extensive list of local and international visual artists, writers and choreographers who have lived and worked at the private arts centre owned by architect Hijjas Kasturi and his wife, Angela. Rimbun Dahan has been welcoming artists in many disciplines since 1994.

During his residency from September last year until March, Syed Fakaruddin immersed himself in the lush tropical landscape of the sprawling of the 14-acre garden of the art space. The serene setting could not have been more conducive to work for a landscape painter.

“When I first entered the gates of Rimbun Dahan, I felt a surge of excitement. The idea of isolation with no disturbances and distractions motivated me,” says Syed Fakaruddin.

About 20 paintings pay homage to Rimbun Dahan in the exhibition. “Rimbun: Pagar Sangka” portrays the main entrance to the property, as the viewer is greeted by a dog and a wild boar — a gesture to eternalise the resident animals on the property — among other wildlife in this natural habitat.

“Rimbun: Malam Berkelipan” is inspired by an event that took place one night in the studio. A stray firefly was seen hovering around his paintings. The following night, Syed Fakaruddin explored the forest within Rimbun Dahan in search of more fireflies. There, he was amazed by the sight of the twinkling fireflies in the dark, sparking a fresh sense of wonder to create this work.

In an artwork titled “Rimbun: Kolam”, Syed Fakaruddin explains: “Landskap kolam ini tercetus apabila saya dan artis residensi yang lain beberapa kali minum petang bersama tuan rumah iaitu Pak Hijjas, Angela dan anaknya Bilqis. Di kawasan minum petang itu sangat menenangkan kerana terdapat kolam air hujan semulajadi yang unik dan cantik dipenuhi dengan bunga-bunga teratai, daun-daun yang besar dan panjang. Lukisan bertajuk ‘Rimbun: Kolam’ itu ialah salah satu memori penting di residensi Rimbun Dahan kerana disitulah tempat kami berkumpul dan berkongsi pelbagai cerita.” (“The pond landscape is based on several afternoon tea sessions

with the host, Pak Hijjas, Angela and their daughter, Bilqis. The afternoon tea area is very calming because there is a unique and beautiful natural rainwater pond filled with lotus flowers, the leaves are large and long. The painting titled ‘Rimbun: Kolam’ is one of the important memories in Rimbun Dahan residency because that is where we gather and share stories.”)

The main house that features the said water garden is described in Rimbun Dahan’s website: “The main house and guest house are linked by a covered loggia that overlooks the water garden and cascade to one side. The 500 square meter gallery is underground on the other side, beneath the entrance plaza. The gallery is enclosed and dehumidified, and can be air conditioned when necessary. The rest of the house relies on through ventilation and ceiling fans.”[ii]

Perspective

I was given a virtual tour of Syed Fakaruddin’s work space at Rimbun Dahan during our video call. He occupied two studios – one to accommodate his tools, materials and canvases.

During our hour-long conversation, I was struck by the orderliness of the space, with the neatly stacked paintings against the walls ready to be exhibited, months ahead of the scheduled time. This indicates Syed Fakaruddin’s qualities as an artist: earnest, meticulous and strategic.   

He walked me through every corner of his work space while explaining in detail his methods, materials and progress. Hundreds of tubes of oil paint, neatly organised on rows of shelves, had been emptied to produce a substantial number of paintings.

We talked about his artistic practice since graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in fine art from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor, in 2012.

While he has been taking part in local group shows since 2009, his “ADA Show (Ara Damansara Artists)”, an exhibition at Segaris Art Center, Publika, Kuala Lumpur, in 2015 caught the interest of the art world and introduced him to the wider public.  

Syed Fakaruddin majored in sculpture but the challenges in pursuing it full-time due to costly machinery and space constraints encouraged him to explore painting.

He has exhibited several installations and sculptures in the past, including “Dari Mata, Turun ke Hati”, an installation that made him a finalist in the Bakat Muda Sezaman 2019 competition, organised by Balai Seni Negara, Kuala Lumpur.

Recently, his video titled “Apa Sudah Jadi” was one of 80 submitted by local and international artists in response to the Covid-19 pandemic for a video art exhibition titled “Stay Art Home: One Minute Video”, organised by Kapallorek Art Space in Seri Iskandar, Perak, from Feb 5 until March 18. The same frosted mirror in “Dari Mata, Turun ke Hati” is highlighted in this short 40-second video.

In January 2022, he will have a third solo exhibition as one of the five winners of the Malaysia Emerging Artist Award 2019 (MEAA2019) organised by Galeri Chandan and HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur, in 2019. Apart from a cash prize and a travel grant, winners of MEAA2019 get to present a one-man show of their work.

Our conversation touches on influences. Syed Fakaruddin tells me that his work is influenced by personal experiences, memories and environment that relate to earth and nature. His approaches may vary depending on the visual narratives and expressions.

“I am influenced by Damien Hirst’s multidisciplinary practice. He has different concepts for each work while staying true to his themes of art, life and death,” says Syed Fakaruddin.

“Similarly, I have ideas to create different types of work when I reach certain phases in my life, like working towards a five-year plan.”

When Syed Fakaruddin conveys the concept of “Tindih”, he references Redza Piyadasa’s “The Great Malaysian Landscape” from 1972. The award-winning conceptual artwork illustrates how to create the ideal landscape painting — complete with text explaining the essential elements that a painting should represent. The artwork features three images in a step-by-step format of a specimen landscape work in progress and the end product.

As I thought about diverse adaptations in the contemporary art world concerning perspective, Ai Wei Wei’s “Study of Perspective” — a photographic series produced between 1995 and 2017 by the Chinese contemporary artist and activist — instantly comes to mind.

“Tindih by Syed Fakaruddin” is a celebration of his natural advancement from his multidisciplinary oeuvre, from installation art such as “Under Construction Series” (2012) and “Feel Series” (2013); to landscape painting in “Outline Series” (2015), “Soulful Series” (2016) and “Blur Painting Series” (2019). His participation in the residency programme at Rimbun Dahan has proved to be a critical chapter in his development and progression as an artist and, from the current outlook, he could be destined for greatness.

 

Sarah Abu Bakar

February 28, 2021

 

[i] #4 Graphic Artists of the Netherlands Speak of Their Work, Phoenix, Jaargang 2, Juni 1947.

[ii] Rimbun Dahan, The Main House, www.rimbundahan.org/architecture/the-main-house

 

Kapas: Ombak Badai, 2020, oil on canvas, 183cm x 183cm
Kapas: Selaman, 2020, oil on canvas, 183cm x 183cm
Kapas: Terasing, 2020, oil on canvas, 152.5cm x 244cm
Kapas: Sekawan, 2020, oil on canvas, 152.5cm x 244cm
Kapas: Tebing Tajam, 2020, oil on canvas, 152.5cm x 244cm
Detail (Rimbun: Taman Angela, 2021, oil on canvas, 122cm x 183cm)
Detail (Rimbun: Malam Berkelipan, 2021, oil on canvas, 183cm x 244cm)
Detail (Kapas: Luka Luka Kecil, 2020, oil on canvas, 152.5cm x 152.5cm)

 

 

Silent Enchantment in the Paintings of Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah

 

“The nights have always been my friend. Even as a child I had difficulty in falling asleep. I was never afraid of the dark. I would sit outside watching the stars and fireflies. I have never been afraid of being alone and never felt lonely, for God’s ministering angels are with me.” – Sharifah Fatimah[i]

 

“Tales of Solace” is Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir Barakbah’s latest visual chronicle, inspired by her past travels to the Middle East and the Balkans. Her personal stories of solace and solitude are expressed in the purest form: elegant patterns of streaks and markings of the palette knife on the canvas, spread over and across mesmerising voids in a harmonious mélange of colours.

The regal 73-year-old Grande Dame of Malaysian abstract art, who traced her ancestry to Imam Ali al-Uraidhi ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq, the brother of Imam Musa ibn Ja’far al-Kadhim during a visit to Baghdad, Iraq in 1988, has enjoyed a prolific career with many formidable accomplishments that spans five decades.

Through her extensive oeuvre, the viewer is often transported to a tranquil universe that elevates one’s spiritual being. A sense of order is restored amid the worldly chaos. The stillness of air is contained within the compositions illustrated in the colours of nature.

Fifteen artworks – created since July last year – will be on display at G13 Gallery in Kelana Square, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, from March 1 until 20, 2021. The exhibition features her distinctive celebratory-style paintings with tactile surfaces. The unique “Pattern of Dream”, for example, uses acrylic, modelling paste and eucalyptus bark, with a sensational prism of colours.

Unconventional materials

Sharifah Fatimah’s preference for media such as acrylic, modelling paste and fibre (papyrus) on canvas as a conduit to her innermost being has been established since “Risalah Dari Malaysia: An Exhibition of Paintings by Five Malaysian Artists” at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan, and the “Touch the Earth” series from her solo show at Balai Seni Menara Maybank, Kuala Lumpur, both in 1992.

Her exploration of unconventional materials and techniques continued in her exhibition “Garden of the Heart”, at NN Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, in 2007. Sharifah Fatimah incorporated collages of traditional textiles and crafts, such as woven mengkuang mats embellished with embroidery and gold leaf, to create exquisite artworks that convey an intimate narrative.

The idea of integrating eucalyptus bark into her paintings was sparked by a trip to Guangzhou, China, in 2014. She introduced the peeling bark in a series of works that was featured in an exhibition titled “Recent Works by Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah” at The Edge Galerie, Kuala Lumpur, in 2015 and later “Song of Eucalyptus”, in celebration of her golden jubilee as an artist at Segaris Art Center, Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

Self-contemplation

Sharifah Fatimah says she was taught “patience, the value of silence and solitude” by her great-grandmother, Sharifah Kamaliah al-Qadri. She describes her as “an ancient figure, astute, quiet, silence the absolute poise, balance of body mind and spirit, so calm, unshaken, dignified, reverence. She was a Sufi.”[ii]

Her great-grandmother often performed the Islamic devotional acts of zikir (remembrance of God) – repetitive utterances of short phrases glorifying God. To Sufis, “zikir is seen as a way to gain spiritual enlightenment and achieve union or annihilation in God”.

An example of fikir (contemplation) in Islam is when one reflects on the creation of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. How everything is arranged in this universe is a spectacular thought. The planets of the earth and others, countless stars, all revolve around their respective places we cannot count.

Both spiritual terms are reflected in Sharifah Fatimah’s work, which visually elucidates the notion of self-contemplation and solace that she attempts to convey.

The matriarchs in her family – grandmother, great-aunt, mother and aunt – were skilled artisans in the traditional craft of kain telepuk and tenun textile weaving.

Her mother, Rokiah Hassan, trained in tenun weaving at a palace near the Balai Besar in Alor Setar, Kedah, in the mid-1930s, while her grandmother and a great-aunt made and sold kain telepuk as a trade. Regrettably, none of their handmade telepuk was retained as a family heirloom.

“My aunt, Sharifah Sham Barakbah, made a pillow cover using the traditional technique of tekat benang emas (gold embroidery) and it is the only tekat inheritance I have. I do not have any telepuk as all works by my great-aunt and aunt were sold. It was their only source of income and my great-aunt was a single mother. They stopped producing telepuk during World War II and did not continue after [the war] due to a lack of money and patronage. I never got to know my great-aunt as I was just a child when she passed away in the early Fifties,” recalls Sharifah Fatimah.

Kain telepuk is an endangered traditional craft that was revived by woodcarving master artisan Adiguru Norhaiza Noordin in 2014. Small wooden blocks are used to stamp gold foil on textiles in floral motifs – akin to the patterns found on songket such as pucuk rebung and bunga tabur.[i]

Globetrotting

Unperturbed by the Movement Control Orders imposed to halt the spread of Covid-19, Sharifah Fatimah has been practising “work-from-home” for most of her career and is reaping the benefits in productive ways.

“The pandemic does not affect me nor my work much as I have always worked alone and do not go out much. But it has disrupted plans for overseas travel with my family and I miss the scene. So, I create a lot of recollection works of the places that I have been to, such as landscapes and the texture of the earth and caves especially,” she says.

“Faces of Postojna” depicts Postojna Cave in Slovenia, the world’s longest publicly accessible cave, which also serves as a concert hall. The cave trail is 5.3km long. “My trip to the Balkan states with family was in August 2018.”

There are three versions of “Faces of Postojna”. Two have found a permanent place in a collector’s home after being shown at Pipal Fine Art, Janda Baik, Pahang, last year.

Another distinctive series of paintings, inspired by the iridescent colours of the Rose City’s eroded quartzose sandstones and the glorious archaeological wonder of Petra – include “Floating”, “Solace”, “Standing Forms”, “Link”, “Solitude” and “Redscape”.

“My first trip to Jordan was in the autumn of 1990 to attend my friend Laila Shawa’s exhibition at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman. There, I met HRH Princess Wijdan Ali, President of the Royal Society of Fine Arts Jordan. She suggested I coordinate an exhibition of Malaysian art there. She selected five artists: Ahmad Khalid Yusof, Khalil Ibrahim, Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam, Ismail Latiff and myself.

“We named the exhibition “Risalah Dari Malaysia”. It was held two years later in 1992. I have visited Petra twice, in 1990 and 1992. I started painting the Petra series in 1991. Princess Wijdan is familiar with Malaysian art and included it in a major show called “Contemporary Art from the Islamic World” at the Barbican Centre, London, in 1989, organised by the Royal Society of Fine Arts,” says Sharifah Fatimah.

As a young adult, Sharifah Fatimah was actively involved in international art exchanges, organising art exhibitions of Malaysian artworks abroad in her capacity as a curator at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (1982 to 1989) and later as an art consultant, at the same time pursuing a career as an artist.

“Starting in 1990, I have coordinated several shows in Indonesia, Seychelles, Jordan, France, Germany (three shows) as well as several in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia (coordinated with Ilse Noor). I also organised “Gerak Rasa” held at the National Museum, Kuala Lumpur, in 2002. In 2006, I coordinated an exhibition called “Muhibah Seni Rupa Malaysia-Jordan” held at Galeri Shah Alam,” she says.

As part of her intense passion for genealogy and learning about her forefathers, Sharifah Fatimah discovered that her ancestors had fled Hadhramaut in present-day eastern Yemen and settled in Indonesia in the 18th century.

“Before making trips to Europe and the Middle East, my family regularly travelled to Indonesia, mostly to visit relatives and friends in Palembang, Jambi, Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Malang, Madura and Bali,” she says.

Between September 2019 and January last year, Sharifah Fatimah had a health scare. She was admitted to hospital several times and finally underwent surgery. “After my collapse in September 2019, I do not paint large-scale works. I am not as strong as before. I get exhausted easily and cannot lift heavy canvases. Hence, I am making smaller artworks now,” she says.

But that does not mean she is slowing down, soon after her recovery she was seen attending an art fair, gallery hopping and has been producing artworks, which are on show in this exhibition.

 

Sarah Abu Bakar

12 February 2021

 

[i] “Siri Khas Bengkel Online Telepuk: Workshop 2 with Norhaiza Noordin”, Langkasuka Movement, December 5, 2020, https://www.schoolandcollegelistings.com/MY/Petaling-Jaya/1082634901839447/Langkasuka-Movement.

[i] “Chasm of Light: Works of Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir”, exhibition catalogue, Artfolio Singapore, 1996, page 21.

[ii] Ibid, page 20-21.

 

Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir, Link XX, 2020, 90cm x 80cm, mixed media on canvas
Link XX in detail
Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir – Redscape I, 2020, 76cm x 61cm, mixed media on canvas

Floating Thoughts

Floating Thoughts

 

Propelled by floating thoughts, Fadhli Ariffin – also known as Pali – produces a series of dynamic abstract paintings titled “Peristiwa Di Awangan” (Occurrences in Space) for his second solo show.

Held at Rissim Contemporary, Kuala Lumpur from January 11, 2021 until January 25, 2021, the exhibition features 11 large scale oil on canvas paintings measuring between 4 ft by 4 ft and 4 ft by 8 ft.

“This body of work draws inspiration from the movement of the clouds. But contextually, it is an attempt to capture the waves of change in life,” says Pali.

While 2020 has been a year of introspection for many including Pali, his thoughts linger on the idea of ambiguity surrounding the patterns of life. “Am I afraid of change or will I be shaped to change like the wind moulds the waves?”, questions Pali.

As a consequent, Pali responds to his innermost thoughts through instinctive expressions that allow him to be in the moment. Stylistically, his paintings resemble the printmaking technique – a medium Pali is too familiar with – majoring in that subject during his fine art degree course at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor and graduating in 2013.

Pali aims to illustrate the equanimity and forcefulness of oceanic waves by rendering “Peristiwa Di Awangan” in varying lines and brushstrokes, and in monochromatic palette to capture the motion of life in a painterly manner.

Life’s philosophy

In his statement, Pali writes: “Ombak satu bentuk gelombang. Adamasanya pertukaran bentuk atau corak yang berubah tetapi ianya tetap ombak, iaitu air laut yang masin. Diilhamkan oleh seniman sebagai satu pengalaman seperti contohnya ‘makan garam’. Gelombang atau ombak besar dilihatkan sebagai satu bentuk pergerakan anak muda pada masa kini yang tumbuh seperti cendawan dan yang bergerak seperti ombak atau gelombang besar untuk satu perkara dalam konteks masyarakat pada masa kini. Ianya termasuk lah dalam bentuk budaya mahupun dalam pelbagai aspek bidang seperti bidang kerja seni, filem, ekonomi dan sebagainya. Jika dilihat dari konteks umum, gelombang-gelombang ini (pergerakan anak muda) berkembang dari masa lima tahun sebelumnya sehingga sekarang. Boleh dikatakan gelombang-gelombang ini pada masa sekarang secara tidak langsung telah memonopoli satu bentuk sosiologi yang baru terutamanya dapat dilihat dari perkembangan negara-negara Asia. Adakah ianya kebangkitan Asia yang telah berlaku pada masa sekarang?”

(“Tides are waveform. Oftentimes the variation of current shape or pattern may change but it is still a wave composing of salty sea water. Inspired by one’s experiences such as ‘makan garam’ (a Malay idiom that means having a lot of experience in life), large waves are seen as a form of movement in today’s youth culture rapidly growing like mushrooms and moves like waves in the current society. It includes cultural and various aspects such as in the field of art, film, economics and so on. Judging from the general context, these waves (the movement of young people) developed from the previous five years until now. It can be said that these waves nowadays have indirectly monopolised a new form of sociology especially seen from the development of Asian countries. Is it the rise of Asia that has taken place in the present?”)

Pali, who is turning 32, believes that he belongs to the current generation that has blossomed from its seed. A moment of retrospection to where Pali was five years ago – when he inaugurated his first solo show titled “(P)residen” – a culmination of a six-month residency programme called Adopted Residency (A-RES) at HOM Art Trans that offered mixed media work such as paintings and installation pregnant with meanings and symbolisms.

Today, Pali’s proclivity towards expressing his innermost instincts through mark-making speak volumes of his place as an artist. He manifests himself in a gestural language that conveys rhythmic energy.

Through non-representational paintings such as “Jeladeri”; “Badai”; “Selat I”; “Selat II”; “Gejolak”; “Gelombang Samudera”; “Pusaran Jerlus”’; “Gelora”; “Wajah”, “Kaspia”; and “Segara”, Pali captures the spirit of uncertainty in a self-assured manner.

Wind of change

“Peristiwa di Awangan” is a prequel to an earlier series titled “Perkara di Awangan”, which has not yet been released. The series comprises over twenty multichromatic abstract paintings using tree branch and bamboo stick as a device to transmit oil paint onto the canvas surface.

When asked why did he decide to showcase the sequel to the public first? Pali answers: “I feel that it is appropriate to display ‘Peristiwa di Awangan’ first before ‘Perkara di Awangan’ as the timing is right.”

As an artist, Pali’s working momentum relies on the wind of change in every aspect of his life. “The mood takes me here to paint this large theme of work and I pursued it,” says Pali.

The theme has been tackled by several senior and established artists before that one cannot disregard the fact when observing Pali’s work.

National treasure, Latiff Mohidin, has produced a significant number of works surrounding the theme of waves such as “Gelombang” that was exhibited in his solo show titled “Gelombang: Latiff Mohidin in Penang 1990” at the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery in 1990 and “Seascape” from his solo show titled “Latiff Mohidin, Seascape, Recent Paintings” at The Opera Gallery in Singapore and The Edge Galerie in Kuala Lumpur in 2014.

Abstract artist Yusof Ghani has also produced a series titled “Ombak” that was showcased in a solo exhibition called “Ombak: Breath of Life” at Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery Sasana Kijang, Kuala Lumpur in 2014.

“From a historical perspective, the Japanese 17th century ukiyo-e woodblock print artist Hokusai created ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ circa 1829–1833. Old Masters from Renaissance to Romanticism have also depicted waves. Contextually, my work represents the current generation of the 21st century that conveys a different narrative from the past,” explains Pali.

Indeed, guided by the Malay proverb “tak lapuk dek hujan, tak lekang dek panas”, which means ‘unchanging customs, something that remains intact’, Pali is determined to make artworks despite the wind of change. Circumstances may alter plans but his robust willpower to produce remains undiminished.

Sarah Abu Bakar January 6, 2021

Link to Floating Thoughts‘ catalogue

Digitalising woodcarving motifs in the works of Tomi Heri

Digitalising woodcarving motifs in the works of Tomi Heri

An abbreviation for Sungai, or river, SG. – gesturing to a return to roots – metaphorically represents life. Tomi Heri’s inaugural solo exhibition is a celebration of homecoming: All rivers have a starting point where water begins its flow. For Tomi Heri, the ribbon-like journey begins here and now.

Flows / Aliran

A multidisciplinary artist Tomi Heri, explores socio-cultural contexts by documenting events, objects, spaces, people and circumstances – the encounters in his daily life environment.

These critical observations on the quotidian become the fodder upon which Tomi Heri builds into digital media, sculpture and installation visual narratives. There is an enduring fascination with iconography, motifs, and patterns: geometric symbolic patterns are carved out acetate sheets, stencilled onto wooden panels, manipulated into digital media.

In the artist’s hands, heritage coalesces with technology, form and representation are employed in distinct fashions to represent episodes of his life.

Tomi Heri’s digital approach in creating patterns in his way of paying homage to the generations before him who have skillfully handcrafted these motifs. Traditionally, these motifs were influenced by nature such as flora and fauna. Tomi Heri’s interpretation of symbols and patterns are based on urban living. He designs his “kamus hidup” or dictionary of life that reads like a visual manuscript; this is a project of building a visual lexicon that bends the strictures of form and time.

SG. Data features a digital projection of cleverly designed logos projected onto white fabric constructed on totem-like pillars with bubu-inspired bases on each side – handmade by Tomi Heri – using giant bamboo or buloh betong collected from Sungai Dusun.

The installation flirts with the idea of “material”, “authenticity” and origin” by manipulating natural materials while removing them from the cultural backdrops that provide context. By placing the locally sourced materials in a new environment, the piece engages with the politics and aesthetics of ‘locality’.

Every detail forms part of this engagement. Even in weighing down the projection cloth, teardrop dropshot weights traditionally used as fishing tackle equipment are used to embellish the fabric. Meanwhile, digital media illustrates moving images of the characters in SG. accompanied by an endless static sound, or the sound of rainfall. Other stylised motifs are rendered in wooden panel cut-outs that feature amphibian, biomorphic shapes, silhouettes also featured in the video projection.

What is created is a tapestry that blends the old and new, fracturing the tightly segregated categories of heritage versus modern life, and provides the roots upon which many of the other works grow. The moving image in the video is made manifest; the digital pushed into the realm of the tangible. There is K-11, the wooden cut-out painted in black which features the motif of the protagonist. Then there is M X P an acronym for motif and pattern featuring a wooden frame measuring 33cm in diameter and a canvas cut-out that suspends beneath it. Inspired by Matisse’s cut-outs, it is an illustration of the patterning of the flora and fauna.

A stencil on wood tiled M.I.A., depicts the disappearances, big and small, that we go through in life; those which are lost to us, missing in action. Another motif eternalised from ‘life’ is a wooden cut-out wall sculpture titled Layang, which is an amalgamation of a kite and an amphibian. Measuring 131cm by 75cm, this is unique wall sculpture in this show rendered in stark black and white.

Latent in this travel of the images from daily life, to journal, to digital media, to physical art, and back to daily life is the grand cycle with which Tomi Heri is preoccupied with – the circular economy of life. To re-cycle, to flow, to go forth and to return. His medium, regardless of digital or physical, is the symbol, the icon, the sign – that most potent distillation of history, idea, memory into a singular image.

The Back Room at The Zhongshan Building invites you to contemplate SG. From December 12, 2020 until January 10, 2021. Developed during his stint as a beneficiary of the third cohort for the Khazanah Nasional Associate Artist Residency Programme at Acme Studio in London in 2019, SG. is a culmination of Tomi Heri’s five-year milestone as a professional artist and a moment of introspection. Yet, as with how water must flow, so we honour the roots of the artist.

Sources / Sumber

Born on September 28, 1991, Tomi Heri spent his childhood in Sungai Dusun, Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor. Raised by his maternal grandmother, his carefree days as a young boy were spent outdoors filled with fun activities such as fishing or playing by the river.

One of his earliest memories of a school art project was a campaign to keep the Malaysian rivers clean. Initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Water (Jabatan Perairan dan Saliran) in 1993, “Cintailah Sungai Kita” (Love Our River) is nationwide campaign to cultivate the interest of the local community towards loving the river.

“I had participated in art competitions in primary school to illustrate the ideal poster of a clean river,” says Tomi Heri.

The pre-university examination for the Malaysian Higher School Certificate prepared Tomi Heri for his tertiary studies at the Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) in Bachok, Kelantan for a degree course in Creative Technology and Heritage from 2011 to 2014.

The course offered “knowledge of heritage, culture, humanity, thinking, lifestyle, community art, management and more learning that focuses on the culture and heritage of the local community.”1

Tomi Heri’s background in creative technology combined with heritage studies found to be essential in the development of his practice as a young artist since graduating in 2015.

It was in university that Tomi Heri’s interest in traditional Malay woodcarving and ornamental motifs was sparked. Pursuing a course in Creative Technology and Heritage at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, his education foreshadowed his engagement with the worlds of artisans and digital designers. Brimming with history as part of the ancient Langkasuka Malay kingdom, Kelantan becomes Tomi Heri’s historical learning ground.

“I began poring over books written on Master craftsmen and traditional woodcarving specialists like Adiguru Norhaiza Nordin’s Menelusuri Karya Seni Norhaiza; heritage researcher Azzaha Ibrahim’s essays on Langkasuka; historian and cultural researcher Farish A. Noor and Eddin Khoo’s Spirit of Wood: The Art of Malay Woodcarving: Works by Master Carvers from Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pattani; to name a few.”

“I had not realised it then but when I was residing at Acme Studios in London, the only book I had brought with me was Abdul Halim Nasir’s Ukiran Kayu Melayu Tradisi,” recalls Tomi Heri.

He became so intrigued by the abstract motifs and philosophical meanings behind traditional Malay patterns that upon returning home from London, he decided to return to Kelantan to meet with various traditional woodcarving master craftsmen.

The appropriation of traditional craft motif is evident is Tomi Heri’s creative oeuvre. A fine example is a digital media work titled E-tik Pulang Petang dated 2020, featuring a series of monochromatic stylised duck icons moving in a single file from left to right in an ornamental panoramic frame accompanied by “sci-fi” sound effect.

“The duck motif originates from the traditional woodcarving and weaving motif called ‘itik pulang petang’ (ducks returning home in the afternoon). The philosophy and meaning behind the motif are the duty to obey the leader in matters of knowledge,” says Tomi Heri.

The work was a fine demonstration of the artist’s sensibilities: a nod towards the precarity of the electronic, a collapse between the digital and traditional, and a re-orientation of age-old symbology into sometimes jarring, provocative contexts. And always, the idea of return.

Current / Arus

Between September and December 2019, Tomi Heri participated in his first residency programme outside of Asia at Acme Studios in London supported by Khazanah Nasional.

“It was an exhilarating experience and the idea for SG. was conceived there. There was so much to take in from their way of life, history to food and culture. Everything is documented from the day I arrived until my last day in my journal, which I have named SG. Data,” says Tomi Heri.

Coincidentally, his studio was located close to River Thames, where he would cycle around the city everyday to absorb the city’s fast-paced vibe and cityscape aesthetics.

“Being near a river in London reminded me of home. For this show, I have created a new digital media work with my interpretation of the river and to incorporate traditional motifs to symbolise life of human being,” says Tomi Heri.

As a digital media artist, Tomi Heri was elated to have had the opportunity to witness visionary artist, Nam June Paik’s (1932–2006) major retrospective exhibition that featured over 200 works spanning a career of five decade at Tate Modern in London.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me that could not have happened at a very opportune moment. I have always admired Nam June Paik’s work in new technology and video art. The exhibition allowed me to conduct my research on his timeline,” says Tomi Heri.

When asked about Tomi Heri’s hopes for this debut solo exhibition, he answers: “My hope is that for my ideas and creations will continue to flow like water from river to river.”

Indeed, the beginning of a river can often flow rapidly into a waterfall – slowing down into the middle course and meandering along a winding path then finally ending its journey at the mouth – a journey that emulates life, which in turn imitates art.

Sarah Abu Bakar

Link to Digitalising woodcarving motifs in the works of Tomi Heri‘s catalogue

Of Painting People and Memories

Of Painting People and Memories

A decade of painting is a momentous occasion to celebrate for 33-year-old Fadilah Karim. It marks her emotional and cerebral voyage that has culminated in pictorial wisdom, eternalising her realities and fictions.

Defying gender stereotypes, Fadilah has made a name for herself in the male-dominated arena of figurative painting with her exceptional technical ability and perseverance, not to mention the relentless support of family, friends, art dealers, galleries as well as the loyal patronage of influential collectors.

Fadilah is shy by nature but her introversion manifests itself through the equivocal meanings of her tenebrous compositions that are portraitures of the people she knows – as representations of significant chapters in her life.

The depiction of self becomes pronounced as Fadilah enters womanhood – a defining moment in her life – and at the arrival of her daughter Aira, who has become a lifelong muse in her large-scale paintings.

Now is an opportune time to unravel the narrative behind Fadilah’s artistic oeuvre. It tells an intimate story of her private life, the people around her, the dynamics of space and emotionally charged environments that draws us into her world.

Beginnings

Born in Batu Pahat, Johor, in 1987 to Abdul Karim Abdullah and Hamnah Othman, Fadilah Karim is the second of four daughters. “Growing up, I was encouraged to explore every form of creativity. Drawing, colouring and painting were all-natural to me as my parents nurtured my interest early on,” recalls Fadilah.

In 1998, she won her first main prize in an art competition organised by Didik – an educational pullout by national daily Berita Harian – sponsored by Faber Castell.

Held in the Kuala Lumpur Tower, the contest required its young participants to produce drawings in situ within a certain period of time. Fadilah, then 11, was able to conceptualise and render an aerial view of the newly inaugurated building – the pride of the nation – by fulfilling the competition’s theme, a Malaysian Ideal: “Imagine Vision 2020”.

The young artist’s participation in the event was greatly influenced by her parents. In fact, driving more than 400km with her family from their hometown in southern Peninsular Malaysia to the capital city and back remains one of Fadilah’s fondest childhood memories.

“I was so elated to win the contest and to be awarded a range of Faber Castell products. But the true champions will always be my parents for encouraging my sisters and me to enter art competitions at such a young age. It became a family activity,” she remarks.

Fadilah expresses a daughter’s first love in an age progression diptych portraying her father at ages 33 and 53 in oil pastel on boxboard. Dated 2011, the artwork that measures 104cm by 74cm has been in the private collection of prominent art patron, Pakhruddin Sulaiman, since it was exhibited in a group show called “Kami” in 2011.

Pakhruddin regularly updates his social media with photos of artworks from his vast collection and his daily activities. On June 23 this year, he published a photo of Fadilah’s artwork in conjunction with Father’s Day on his post.

His caption reads: “Happy Belated Father’s Day! In Malaysia this year it was celebrated on Sunday, 21 June 2020 … N/B: Ayah 33 & Ayah 53 by Fadilah Karim (both dated 2011) were the very first 2 works by the artist which I had acquired & quite possibly her first two works sold through a commercial gallery! They were bought in 2011 at a group show at the now-defunct Arti Gallery in Desa Melawati. At the time, Fadilah had just graduated from UiTM & was apprenticing with the well-known figurative artist, Amron Omar, whose studio was located one floor above Arti…”

“I first met Amron Omar – an established figurative artist – during practical class for my degree course in 2019. Mr. Farid Raihan Ahmad, a lecturer at UiTM has suggested that I ask Amron if he would be my mentor because at the time, Amron has not taught for a while, let alone mentoring practical students.

I asked Amron and unexpectedly, he agrees without much question. For a month, I commuted from Shah Alam to Amron’s home and living room studio in Taman Melawati.

I was taught basic drawing using charcoal and oil pastel. Getting to know Amron is one of the stepping stones in the art world for me even though I was taught a small fraction of his vast knowledge.

‘Know yourself first’ is among the words of advice from Amron when I was still finding ways and ideas to produce an artwork. The method practiced by Amron is rather complicated as he has a deeper understanding of the figurative elements, so our directions differ. My desire to learn oil painting with Amron was not achieved as I chose to continue with my own understanding and self-direction,” explains Fadilah.

Education

Fadilah’s father, a crane operator in the oil and gas industry, and her mother, a devoted homemaker, raised their daughters with education as their highest priority.

Realising Fadilah’s innate artistic nature and her ability to excel in the arts, her parents enrolled her in Michael Academy of Art in Batu Pahat as an extracurricular activity.

In 2001, she completed her courses in pencil sketching, watercolour, poster colour, designs and oil painting at the academy and was awarded a certificate of achievement.

“I was just 8 at the time. My sisters and I went to art classes after school hours and during weekends together. That opportunity gave me a head start in charting my career path,” says Fadilah.

She stayed the course while two of her sisters found different careers – in oil and gas, and shipping respectively. Her youngest sister is currently pursuing tertiary education in information technology.

Upon obtaining her fine art degree from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor – one of Malaysia’s finest universities, Fadilah began accepting commissions from private collectors to paint portraits.

Like for most artists fresh out of university, self-sustenance in the gig economy proved daunting for Fadilah. She attempted to seek permanent employment in art galleries but to no avail.

In 2010, there were only a handful of commercial galleries apart from the few established art institutions in the city. With little or no vacancies in arts management, her focus on securing work in Kuala Lumpur had to be realigned.

“My mother gave me an ultimatum – she said that if I was not able to find a job within six months, I should either return home to Johor or enrol myself in a postgraduate course so that I could become a lecturer,” recalls Fadilah.

Following her mother’s advice, Fadilah pursued her Master’s degree in fine art at UiTM from 2011 to 2013. Her tutor, Prof. Jalaini Abu Hassan, who is an accomplished artist himself, had this to say about the young painter: “Fadilah was quite timid and reserved in class. However, she was already equipped with technical skills as a student. But due to her timidity, she rarely conversed her ideas and opinions during studio session discussions. As a student, her work was largely traditional realistic figurative.”

Using her strengths to overcome her shortcomings, Fadilah produced several self-portraits over the years. In her perceptive way of expressing confidence, Fadilah illustrates herself in a large painting wearing a dark long-sleeved cardigan over a striped maxi dress, sitting at a desk with her laptop open while sipping a cup of coffee – painted in her discernible style of depicting movement.

This particular work personifies Fadilah as an independent young woman embracing “me time”. Though entitled “Timidity”, the oil on canvas dated 2014 says otherwise – the almost life-size dimension of 122cm by 122cm, in fact, indicates her self-confidence.

Fadilah’s self-portraits also show her utilitarian sense of style – a relaxed aesthetic that represents her easy-going nature. She has been depicted wearing classic Breton stripes, cotton T-shirts, short sleeve blouses paired with A-line skirts, slim fit denim, high-rise trousers and “mom” jeans.

Charting her path

While still doing her postgraduate studies, Fadilah prepared herself for her first solo exhibition entitled Vague that was held at Pace Gallery in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, in 2012. This series features one of her closest friends, Alicecia Tan, whom she had met during postgraduate studies, portrayed in a fleeting moment, capturing time in slow motion.

Works such as “In Vague”, “Lonely Hands”, “Have You Seen My Scars?”, “Strangers, Again” from this inaugural show introduced Fadilah as a bright figurative painter whose raw yet distinctive style emanates the influences of mavericks such as Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.

Yet, her gentle approach to her subject matter generates a unique translucent quality that is distant from Bacon’s use of corduroy1 fabric to modulate paint in his double-representation self-portrait2 and/or the soft colour palette with thick paint layers of Freud’s inimitable self-portraits.

Fadilah’s solitary and warped figures executed in neutral and warm palette evoke a sense of self-consciousness. The intersecting effects in her compositions symbolise the feeling of confusion often experienced by youths like herself at the time.

“At 25, I was experiencing all sorts of emotions. I was feeling homesick, excited, confused, happy and sad. My vision of life looked clear as crystal yet blurry at the same time. I was also going through a break-up then,” she explains.

In 2013, Fadilah painted Mei Cher – a high-school friend who attended Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Convent Batu Pahat with her – in a series of paintings rendered in “bullet time” – a type of visual effect that freezes the subject’s motions.

These works – “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”, “Restless Heart”, “What Lies Within” and “Mysterious Faces” – encapsulate the passing and stopping of time while paying homage to a dear old friend.

Reading between the lines

In these works, composed of several quintessential elements, Fadilah choreographs her subject matter in a casual setting: the sitter is either alone or seen with emblematic objects and/or animals to set the ambience. She then captures several photographs using a digital single-lens reflex camera, commonly known as DSLR, before illustrating the best composition on canvas either by portraying each subject at close-range or in its entirety.

Adapting to the digital age, Fadilah’s method of portrait-painting is somewhat similar to past techniques such as the employment of optics used by Renaissance old masters like Rembrandt3. The evolution of optics to DSLR has allowed Fadilah’s photographs to be viewed on laptop as a reference point – an instrumental device that aids her painting process.

In 2014, Fadilah produced a series of paintings that featured Liyana Fizi – who was at the height of her singing career as an independent singer-songwriter and the former lead vocalist of Malaysian jazz and bossa nova indie band, Estrella.

“I met Liyana Fizi through a friend (Nawwar) and I just asked her if she wanted to become a model for my work,” says Fadilah, recalling the beginning of their friendship.

The “Liyana Fizi” portraits embody another heartbreak in her life. Fresh out of a year-long relationship with a fellow contemporary artist, Fadilah confronts her sorrow by illustrating massive portraits of Liyana Fizi that measure over 6ft by 6ft.

“Dear John”, dated 2014, depicts her subject sitting on a chair in darkness, smoking a cigarette while holding an ashtray in the other hand. The pictorial moroseness that epitomises a sense of closure was indeed Fadilah’s version of writing a Dear John letter – closing an old chapter and opening a new one.

“I would describe 2014 and 2015 as the awful years yet I am thankful at the same time. I was going through a period of depression after a break-up and it took me two months to recover emotionally.

“I realised that I needed to move on and felt a sense of relief that the relationship has ended. That episode taught me independence and allowed me to believe that I can stand on my own two feet as a woman artist. And it gave me something to paint about,” Fadilah elucidates.

Studio

A working studio is an essential space for an artist. It is where imagination morphs into productive energy: a place for contemplation and self-affirmation. Thus, knowing where and in what circumstances Fadilah’s paintings were conceived is crucial to understanding her thought-process and gaining a deeper appreciation of her work.

While still a student in 2011, Fadilah rented a small room at Pusat Komersial Seksyen 7, Shah Alam, Selangor. It was no larger than 100 sq ft but she was able to create substantial paintings that measured between 5ft and 6ft in it.

“That was a tough time for me. I’m grateful to have had good friends who helped me move the canvases up and down the stairs,” she says.

Soon after, Fadilah began working from Studio Batu Belah in Klang, a space shared with artists Anisa Abdullah, Mohd Khairul Izham, Najib Bamadhaj, Arikwibowo Amril, Khairul Arshad and Azizi Latif, until 2012.

Then, she worked from a space owned by Azrin Mohd, an artist and gallery manager at Segaris Art Center. Fadilah spent two years there, producing several iconic artworks that were shown at various group exhibitions including a specially commissioned artwork titled “Beautiful Tangle” dated 2013 for the inaugural edition of Young Guns Award 2013 themed “Nyala” (“Flames”) – a by-invitation-only award for upcoming artists organised by HOM Art Trans.

Fadilah was one of the selected thirteen artists to be conferred this triennial award for “consistency, perseverance and high quality in her creations”. As “a form of recognition and an accolade to salute the selected young artists for persevering; for being committed to their practice and for toughing it out so far”4 – according to HOM Art Trans’ director, cultural strategist and an accomplished artist, Bayu Utomo Radjikin – the Young Guns Award 2013 enabled its recipients to partake in a multi-city exhibition: Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Singapore under this initiative.

“Beautiful Tangle” was displayed at WhiteBox, Publika, Kuala Lumpur from November 20 until December 1, 2013 and then travelled to Whiteaways Arcade Gallery, George Town, Penang from December 7, 2013 until January 5, 2014.

The artwork is currently in the permanent collection of the National Art Gallery of Malaysia (NAG). It has also been exhibited in “Di Mana (Where Are) Young” that featured 101 works by Malaysian contemporary women artists at NAG in 2017.

“Beautiful Tangle is a meaningful work to me. It is about my grief, hardship, the ups-and-downs in life and journey as a young woman artist at the time. Just like the act of rope skipping, once you’re in rhythm, the jumps can be smooth and at times you get tangled up and stumble. It depicts my life in a playful and innocent way,” explains Fadilah.

For the Singapore edition, Chan Hampe Galleries (rebranded as Chan + Hori Contemporary since 2017) hosted the Young Guns awardees from February 20 until March 9, 2014. Fadilah created a new work titled “Sleepless Night #2” to be displayed here.

Between 2014 and 2018, she set up her workspace at the Ara Damansara studio enclave with a group of contemporary artists, including Saiful Razman, Najib Bamadhaj, Fazrin Abdul Rahman, Shafiq Nordin, Hisyamuddin Abdullah, Syed Fakaruddin and Sabihis Md Pandi.

Some of her most significant works were produced here, such as a series of paintings that featured Saiful Razman as a sitter. Eight of these paintings were displayed in a duo exhibition called “Myst{eo}ry” at HOM Art Trans alongside those of Filipino artist Guinevere Decena.

Works entitled “Man and His Guilt”, “Man and His Alter Ego”, “Man and His Dilemma”, among others, explore the mysterious nature of masculinity and male social dominance based on Fadilah’s encounters.

“It has been six years since I produced that series. I still and always will have unanswered questions about manhood and manliness,” she says.

Saiful Razman recounts how he became Fadilah’s sitter: “Studio kami bersebelahan di tahun itu. Dia bertemu saya dan bertanya jika saya berminat untuk menjadi subjek untuk siri karya di HOM 2014. Dan saya setuju tanpa ragu.” (“Our studios were next to each other that year. She met me and asked if I was interested to become her subject for a series of work for HOM Art Trans in 2014. I agreed without hesitation.”)

The dynamism of a group of artists working on the same premises creates a drive to subconsciously produce a chain of artworks that connects them. Such organic initiatives to work independently as a collective do culminate in group exhibitions, in this case the aptly entitled Ara Damansara Artists Show (ADA Show) at Segaris Art Center, Publika, Kuala Lumpur, in 2015.

Exhibited in this show was Azrin Mohd’s mixed-media artwork measuring 93.5cm by 124cm by 12cm, featuring a miniature sculpture of the interior of Fadilah’s studio – replicating her workspace at the time in precise and minute detail on canvas.

The work depicts a minuscule illustration of “Beautiful Tangle” dated 2013 resting on an easel and Liyana Fizi’s portrait “Behind Fringe and Grin” hanging on the whitewashed brick wall alongside Fadilah’s painting apparatus: oil paint tubes and brushes scattered on three-tiered trolleys and the floor.

Rolls of unprimed canvas lean against the wall in a corner; “Sleepless Night #2” tucked in between stretcher bars and a paint cart; an analogue wall clock with its hands at 10 minutes to two and Fadilah’s four cats are bric-a-brac and personal possessions that tell us about Fadilah’s life as meticulously as a Neapolitan Crèche.

Azrin’s work, entitled “The Lonesome Painter’s Studio”, is an eloquent visual testament to Fadilah’s then working environment. In a preview of the exhibition, a media article quotes Azrin as saying: “I think she’s an amazing painter, a really gifted artist. Her figurative works convey such strong emotions, you can feel what she feels when you look at them.”

Fadilah explains, “Azrin’s work (‘The Lonesome Painter’s Studio’) is about me as a painter and a close friend of his. The text to his work indicates the tittles of the paintings I produced at the time. On the left is a miniature rendition of my messy studio.”

Fadilah herself has depicted her studio in various paintings like “The Lonesome Painter” (2015), “Apparition” (2016) and “Routine #1 and #2” (2020).

Executed on an epic scale of 221cm by 290cm, “The Lonesome Painter” shows the artist slumped on a bergère armchair with her body positioned sideways and her legs hanging over one of the armrests, her face hidden from view.

In the background are a couple of easels with paintings in progress and tubes of oil paint strewn on the floor. A cat is seen resting underneath her chair.

Dr Steve Wong, one of Malaysia’s seasoned and esteemed art collectors, owns this gargantuan work, having followed Fadilah’s journey since her graduation. He says, “When she first graduated from UiTM, her figures were more abstract in the sense that she would paint multiple blurred images of the same person in a painting, perhaps to invoke movement.

“This is also apparent in her first 2012 solo. As she progressed, the figures became more defined and singular. Some works were made surreal, mysterious. I am quite impressed that she could handle larger canvases, with many 5ft or 6ft in size. I happen to own probably her largest work, ‘The Lonesome Painter’, which measures 8ft by 10ft.

“Recently, her figures have become sharper and well defined, almost approaching hyper-realism. However, the background maintains the rather hazy, relaxed appearance, which is her distinctive, easily recognisable style.”

Marriage and motherhood

In 2014, Fadilah met Ahmad Syafiq, a sound engineer and her husband-to-be. He was featured in her painting “The Golden Bow And Arrow – After Marina Abramović The Other: Rest Energy (1980)”, which was exhibited in her second solo exhibition, “Secret Lies”, which was held at Taksu Kuala Lumpur in 2016.

Visually, “The Golden Bow And Arrow” does not reveal much but contextually, it paints a symbolic picture of Fadilah falling head over heels in love with Syafiq and their blossoming relationship. In May 2017, the couple tied the knot and were blessed with a daughter, Aira, a year later.

A profound appropriation, “Rest Energy” is a performance art piece by performance artist duo Marina Abramović and Ulay (1943 – 2020) that explores Abramović’s state of vulnerability.

In a statement, Abramović explained the work in detail: “In ‘Rest Energy’, we actually hold one arrow on the weight of our bodies and the arrow is pointing at my heart. We have two small, little microphones on our hearts where we can hear the sounds of the heart beating. As our performance is progressing, the heartbeats become more and more intense and it’s just four minutes and 10 seconds. For me it was, I tell you, it was forever. So, it was really a performance about complete and total trust.”5

“Secret Lies is about the private feelings that I felt towards my lover, who is now my husband. I felt that he was my lifesaver – a secret feeling – that I felt at the time”, explains Fadilah.

From 2016 onwards, Fadilah begins to depict her subjects in pairs – either with a pet rabbit as seen in “At the End of the Perfect Day” or with another individual like in “Reality Bites” and “The Beat Goes On”, featuring fashion model Evon T and fashion stylist Alan (Yii Ooi) – to symbolise her partnership with Syafiq.

“Metaphorically, the representation of a white rabbit is an invitation to step out of an ordinary time. In Western culture, it is said that by uttering the words ‘white rabbits’ would protect oneself from harm and danger,” says Fadilah.

In an artwork titled “Fragile Spine” dated 2015, which depicts a female character lying on the ground with a rabbit resting on her chest expresses the artist’s hope for an eternal partner as the rabbit has served as her guardian angel before the beginning of another new chapter of her life.

“The Beat Goes On” was exhibited in a group show organised by Singapore-based Yavuz Gallery at the region’s premium international art fair, Art Basel Hong Kong in 2017, which is also the year that Fadilah and Syafiq tied the knot.

“I met Evon T and Alan through a fashion photographer friend, Jane (Zhong Lin), who used my studio for a photoshoot. I took the opportunity to ask them to become my subjects and they agreed,” she explains.

By this time, Fadilah had illustrated various personalities from the arts, music and fashion industries. Other sitters include writer and stylist Liz Bautista; performance artist-curator Intan Rafiza and her daughter Sarah Cinta; Jasara Awang and her daughter Lora; and artist friends such as Arikwibowo Amril, Najib Bamadhaj, Azizi Latif, Din Dirann and Azrin Mohd, whom she illustrated in her “smoking series” for her inaugural solo show in 2012.

In 2018, she painted “Womb #1 and #2” with Alan and Evon T as the subjects to suggest the early stages of her pregnancy. As her pregnancy progressed, Fadilah embraced the changes to her body as an expectant mother and produced several paintings of herself during this time, namely “Self-Portrait – Flower in A Womb” and “Bubble Gum #1 and #2”.

“The biggest transformation in my life is my body during pregnancy. I am not used to drastic changes and during pregnancy, I had to adjust my work routine due to physical limitations.

“My husband has been very supportive in encouraging me to take regular breaks from painting and not to exhaust myself. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I made a sad decision to move out of the Ara Damansara studio as I was not physically capable of producing artworks in preparation of labour. It was a sad time but I believe that sometimes you need to let go to grow,” she says.

After Aira’s birth, Fadilah returned to her home-studio in Shah Alam to produce a painting that featured her child for the first time. Entitled “Teduh Rasa”, the oil on linen work depicts new parent Fadilah stretched out on a sofa with baby Aira resting on her stomach. This work was exhibited in a group show entitled “XIX-Nineteen” at Segaris Art Center in 2019.

She produced three still-life paintings illustrating Aira’s “Jellycat” bunny soft toy in various configurations with other belongings such as her pacifier, stroller fan, storybooks, bath toy and milk bottle. Entitled “Cure”, “Breeze” and “Bliss”, these works were exhibited in a group show at Art Busan 2019 in South Korea, represented by G13 Gallery. “Cure” graced the cover of the gallery’s exhibition catalogue for the international art fair.

G13 Gallery director Kenny Teng says, “I have been following Fadilah Karim’s career since she graduated from art school. Supporting her career by collecting as well as promoting her works locally and internationally, I realised that she has a charm that is reflected in her works.

“Her works have always received great reviews locally or abroad. She is mainly known for her figurative oeuvre and  I remember that in Art Busan 2019, despite the theme being still life, a figurative essence was still evident in her works, as if her subjects had souls or were somewhat ‘alive’. This is why I thought Fadilah is unique in her way of making art and is still well defined in most of her work today.”

Fadilah’s international participation includes a group show in Art Jakarta 2019 entitled “Independence” alongside Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Rafiee Ghani and Hanif Khairi, represented by Segaris Art Center.

In this show, Fadilah exhibited two large-scale paintings whose stylistic maturity evoked a sense of contentment and affection not seen in her early works.

“Volatile Love” depicts Fadilah reading a book, lounging comfortably in the corner of a long bench. Her relaxed posture – one hand holding the book and the other resting in her lap, the tip of one foot touching the ground and the other raised midway off the ground – suggests downtime. Positioned in the opposite corner of the painting is Aira who is seated on a rocking horse and gazing outwards.

Fadilah’s predetermined configuration was inspired by French modernist painter, Balthus, whose brilliant pictorial compositions, as seen in “The Living Room” (1942), became her primary stimulus. In this Balthus piece, 19th century Rococo Revival furniture plays an integral role, as equally important as the two young girls depicted. But in Fadilah’s adaptation, her minimalist interior allows her viewers to focus on the mother-and-daughter bond.

Appropriating Balthus’ “Girl at the Window” (1955), Fadilah illustrates a self-portrait in the same manner in “Greener Pastures” with the addition of Aira, standing on her toes against the stool on which Fadilah is resting her knee while leaning against the window sill. In this painting, both mother and daughter explore their curiosity together.6

Global pandemic

The launch of Fadilah’s monograph in celebration of her 10th anniversary as a professional artist was initially scheduled for the highly anticipated Art Jakarta 2020 from Aug 28 to 30. But the show has been postponed to Aug 27 to 29 next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the local Movement Control Order (MCO) that was imposed from March 18 to June 9 this year, Malaysians stayed home, adapting to the new normal. Businesses were severely affected and jobs were lost.

In a survey by the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA) conducted online from March 19 to April 9 to measure the impact of COVID-19 on artists, 93% of the 519 respondents said they were negatively impacted while 70% said they had lost all or most of their income.7

To “pivot” and be agile during these trying times, several art galleries moved into the digital realm. G13 Gallery, for example, took advantage of its Viewing Room, which was launched in 2018 to provide a virtual exhibition experience for online visitors.

Fadilah, alongside Shafiq Nordin and Filipino artist Winner Jumalon, participated in a virtual exhibition by G13 Gallery entitled “Unseen Conn3xion” that was held from May 6 to 20.

The works displayed were “Isolation #1” and “Isolation #2” that feature Fadilah looking through a pair of binoculars. “The ‘Isolation’ series is about the global pandemic. I painted them during the MCO. The idea is to capture the ‘stay-at-home’ experience, metaphorically observing life through a pair of binoculars from a distance. And the feeling of helplessness for not being able to do anything, in the hopes that everyone is well,” explains Fadilah.

Another work entitled “Thick and Thin” depicts the artist caressing a goose. “The protective and loyal nature of the geese intrigues me. I can relate to that now that I have a family and a daughter. My utmost priority is to protect my family,” says Fadilah.

At the time of writing, she was working on two new paintings for her upcoming solo exhibition organised by Segaris Art Center. “Invading Territory” depicts Fadilah working in her studio while Aira plays with rolls of tissue paper. The second painting titled “Terrible Two”, illustrates Fadilah slumped in an armchair with tissue paper strewn all over her while Aira is being playful with the tissue paper. Both artworks measure 183cm by 152cm.

As Aira turned two in June, Fadilah is facing her terrible-twos development stage that wearies her, as depicted in the second work. Indeed, her latest work encapsulates her journey through parenthood, raising Aira.

“Motherhood has taught me a great deal like maintaining calmness, multitasking, and how to behave in front of my child. Time seems to fly by really fast.

“My work routine has also changed since becoming a parent. I paint when Aira is asleep between midnight and at dawn. Even though it is tough and slow process, I persevere because of painting is my passion,” expresses Fadilah.

Secondary art market

Over the years, about 15 of Fadilah’s paintings have gone under the hammer at auctions and 80% of her paintings have found new owners, indicating strong demand for her work.

The first painting that entered the secondary art market was an early work entitled “Happiness” dated 2010 through Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers on April 13, 2014. It was sold for a conservative RM8,960 (estimates RM6,000 to RM8,000).

A record-breaking price for Fadilah’s paintings at auction was for “Light Inside These Dreams” dated 2012. The price of the 198cm by 229cm oil on canvas was estimated at between RM28,000 and RM45,000 and was sold for RM53,7608 at Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers Malaysian and Southeast Asian auction on April 29, 2018.

Kenny Teng, a firm believer of Fadilah’s talent and her contribution to the contemporary Malaysian figurative art scene, says, “Although the figurative painters in our country are largely male, I see Fadilah holding her own in the field. Her work offers deep insights into her life and in this way, she intrinsically represents the standpoint of a female artist on the contemporary Malaysian art scene.”

Dr Steve Wong shares the view. “Although Fadilah is young, she is now one of the most-sought-after artists in Malaysia, literally selling out at every show, with many collectors having to be put their names on the long waiting list. I believe foreign collectors are also showing great interest. She has broken into the male-dominated Malaysian art scene, advancing the female cause. Her images, brushstrokes and colours are unique and she is a breath of fresh air in contemporary figurative painting. She has influenced and inspired younger artists, mostly female, to take up figurativism as the subject matter,” he says.

A joy to behold

As we look to the future to be immersed in Fadilah’s visual journal, the uncertainty of time influences the new narratives that illustrate her past joys and predicaments.

In retrospect, looking at the 100 over paintings that Fadilah has produced, her style of painting has certainly become more refined in recent years with a brighter colour palette and intriguing interiors supplemented by personal effects that started to appear from 2019 onwards.

Saiful Razman comments on Fadilah’s series of work: “Melihat karya-karya Fadilah membuatkan saya rasa senang hati. Kebanyakan lukisan (yang pernah saya lihat) yang dihasilkan oleh beliau memaparkan apa yang di sekeliling beliau. Beliau berada di ruang selesa. Sejujurnya saya sering tertanya jika Fadilah keluar dari zon itu dan mencabar imaginasinya tanpa terlalu bergantung pada realisma photography sebagai rujukan.” (“Seeing Fadilah’s works makes me happy. Most of her paintings (that I have seen) display her surroundings. She is in a comfortable space. Honestly, I often wonder if Fadilah came out of that zone and challenged her imagination without relying too much on realism photography as a reference.”)

Fadilah remains steadfast in documenting her personal memories and encounters with the people around her. “Perhaps in the future, I will explore other means of expression beyond painting people and portraits. But I will continue to be loyal to the painting medium,” she comments.

So, what are Fadilah’s hopes and dreams for the future? She says, “I hope that my work will continue to be accepted by viewers not only in this region but also beyond. One of my dreams is to be recognised as one of the best artists in Malaysia, regionally and internationally.”

Sarah Abu Bakar August 8, 2020

What Real Reasonable Women Think

WRWT: What Real/Reasonable/Rational/ Women Think

13 – 28 March 2020

Have we acknowledged women enough?

For centuries, men tried to figure her out, but Oscar Wilde once said, “Women are made to be loved, not understood.”. Does this mean her works of art too? At Segaris Art Center, we acknowledge, love and display artworks produced by women, but we leave it to be understood to the aisthetes and the art-gazers.

In conjunction with International Women’s Day 2020, WRWT exhibition gathers 22 women artists from various seniority levels to showcase in a specially dedicated all about and by eve show. This space for WRWT is Segaris Art Center’s recognition and appreciation of women in visual arts, a fraction if not all. However, for this celebratory month our homage extends to even beyond women in arts but to the important women in our everyday lives; mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, grandaunts and friends.

For may we love them enough.

“The best of you are those who are best to their women” – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Collective Individualism

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

As women around the world embark on the mission for equality, this year’s International Women’s Day – celebrated on March 8 is a yearlong campaign to promote “Collective Individualism” – which draws on the theme: “an equal world is an enabled world”.

Since its first occurrence in 1911, Women’s Day is now “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality”1.

In Malaysia, women empowerment has taken shape over the years with remarkable women leaders setting the scene and an increasing number of educated women entering the workforce2.

Luminaries like Tan Sri P.G. Lim (1915 – 2013), Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Dato’ Sri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail are such gleaming examples.

Tan Sri P.G. Lim was one of the first Malaysian women to have obtained her Masters in law from Cambridge University. As the first Malaysian woman appointed to the United Nations in the 1970s, Tan Sri P.G. Lim also served as the first Malaysian woman envoy.

A patron of the arts, Tan Sri P.G. Lim became the first chairman of the exhibitions committee and deputy chairman of the board of trustees of the National Art Gallery from 1963 to 1971 and was reappointed to the board from 1985 to 1991.

Economist Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz is the first woman serving as the seventh governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, Malaysia’s central bank from 2000 to 2016. An ardent art lover, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz occasionally attends art openings and art auctions in her personal capacity.

Currently, the ninth governor, Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus is the second woman to be appointed this position.

Between May 2018 and February 2020, Dato’ Sri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail became the first ever woman to hold the position of Malaysia’s 12th deputy prime minister.

WRWT: WHAT REAL/REASONABLE/ RATIONAL WOMEN THINK?

In an effort to highlight contemporary women artists and their artworks, Segaris Art Center presents a group exhibition featuring 22 women artists from different generations from March 13 to 29, 2020. Entitled WRWT: What Real/Reasonable/ Rational Women Think?, the abbreviation is initially derived from the Malay word “wirawati” meaning heroine. Merriam- Webster defines heroine as “a woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities”3.

What do these real, reasonable and rational women artists think about life and how do they celebrate womanhood?

In the Malaysian visual arts landscape, women artists have expressed their artistic expressions in multifaceted form from painting, sculpture, photography, installation to performance art and more. By no means that this exhibition encompasses the women artists’ fraternity in its entirety but rather a small gathering of artists from various stages of their career to convey intellectual and conceptual contemporary expressions.

At the pinnacle of her career, Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir is one of Malaysia’s pioneering women abstract artists. She was conferred the Darjah Dato’ Setia DiRaja Kedah in 2007 — the first woman to be awarded for her contributions to visual arts. In 2014, she received the Women of Excellence Award Malaysia for outstanding achievements in Arts, Culture and Entertainment.

Entitled “Sunshine on My Shoulder” and “Joyous Light 2”, Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir’s mesmerising “lyrical abstraction” paintings in her signature colour palette of vivid blue, red, yellow and green evoke a sense of tranquillity.

A scholar, academician and an artist, Dr. Ruzaika Omar Basaree obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with her thesis entitled “Art, Mathematics and Philosophy: Geometrical and Cosmological Principles in Traditional Malay Art and Design” from the University of Malaya in 2003.

Her artwork entitled “Homage to Rumi: We are beyond words, let us be one in silence”, comprises an assemblage of antique woodcarving cuts. In honour of the unsung heroes and/or heroines – the woodcarvers – Dr. Ruzaika “extends the continuity between the past and current transformations that exist in a work of art” . By including the traditional 4 woodcarvings in her contemporary artwork, it is her way of paying homage to the artisans by preserving the beauty of the curves and reconfiguring them to form a new design.

Her statement reads: “This assemblage piece is to be observed from both front and back views. One side shows the extended multiple levels of planes, while the other side displays a totally flat surface. The main purpose of such an execution is to reflect the treasures of wisdom in the unity of reality and the desirous world of opposites that exist in everyday life. My ultimate aim is to seek the impulses hidden within the heart and soul of my spiritual journey so that His Very Essence could be expressed through me as an artist.”

Dr. Roslina Ismail also known as Lyne Ismail has a PhD in Engineering (Nanotechnology) and Master of Engineering Science in Advanced Materials from the faculty of engineering, University of Malaya. Her first degree is in Chemistry from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. She also obtained an MFA in Fine Arts and Technology majoring in Painting from UiTM, Shah Alam in 2017.

She is the founder for Sphaera Incubation Program©, “a four-phase initiative under University of Malaya that offers a platform for artists and scientists to collectively prospect what are principle questions and methods that can lead to imaginative research”5. She has just completed a month-long residency programme at Slade School of Fine Art, London.

Her series of abstract paintings entitled “Inner Sanctum Series” comprising “Hume’s Theory”, “Archimedes on Balance”, “Archimedes on Floating” and “Archimedes: Eureka!” represent “the dual conceptions of art and science and how they influence one another”. She produces works of art that enable creative articulation that provides “a safe space for experimentation and exploration over new possibilities” . Her career in science and 6 life experiences are essential for her to highlight the points of correspondence between her intuition and logic through abstract paintings.

A senior lecturer in the faculty of creative multimedia at Multimedia University (MMU), Mastura Abdul Rahman is also a practicing artist whose paintings illustrate traditional Malay objects and motif as well as kampung house architectural elements.

Entitled “Apabila sampan sudah belayar, Ombak datang pasti ditempuh; Apabila iman sudah mengakar, Cubaan datang hatinya teguh”, the triptych mixed media painting measures four feet by ten feet.

Sculptor Anniketyni Madian is courageous to go against the grain with her choice of artistic expression. Working primarily with wood, Anniketyni’s “Begarasi #5” depicts an undulating spherical form made out of precision-cut wood. Translated from the Iban Laut dialect as “Solid Attitude”, Begarasi represents the characteristics of women today – graceful yet robust in dealing with life challenges. Conceived as part of a series, this brilliantly designed wood sculpture demands technical proficiency and an immaculate treatment of material.

Anna Azzreena’s unconventional style comprises image transfer, threads, found objects, ink, technical drawing, acrylic and archived bus tickets on canvas for her artwork entitled “It’s So Common Yet So Uncommon”.

Figurative artists Ain Rahman, Anasuha Suhairi, Ashreen Ridzhuan, Haz Yusup, Izwa Ahmad, Lina Tan, Sarah Radzi, Tan Lu Man (Trixie) and Zarina Abdullah create works on canvas that embody identity and social commentary.

Artworks by Adeline Alyssa Tan, Aimi Atiqah, Alicia Lau, Hannah Nazamil and Thenmoly epresent abstraction and expressionist styles that autonomously contemplate of identity, nature and life. Atiqah Khairul Anuar explores trompe l’oeil style of painting with “Bounded” – an oil on linen painting illustrating an ornamental frame adhered to the reverse of a canvas stretcher. A pink transparent plastic sheet is partially attached to the surface with strips of masking-tape.

Kimberley Boudville’s body of work entitled “Her I” and “Her II” features the flamingo as her central motif alongside tropical flora such as hibiscus and lotus flower. A price tag of RM10,000 is attached to the canvas as part of her work of art.

Her deliberate use of the colour pink vibrantly screams for attention – highlighting the three main concerns on gender inequality – “Pink Tax, Child Marriage and Access To Education – issues that still run rampant in this country and the world”.

This exhibition represents the essence of “collective individualism” – women artists coming together to showcase their unique strengths through a kaleidoscope of visual language. The definition of perseverance is demonstrated by the senior and established women artists through their lifetime of work. Their accomplishments and qualities serve as aspirations and examples for the young women artists. And together, let us strive for an enabled world.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Sarah Abu Bakar March 10, 2020

Link to What Real Reasonable Women Think‘s catalogue

Kickstart 366

Kickstart 366

21 Jan – 9 Feb 2020

To welcome a brand-new leap year, Segaris Art Center presents Kickstart 366, an exhibition featuring 25 contemporary Malaysian artists. A total of 33 artworks from established and award-winning artists to young artists with promising careers as well as talented undergraduates will spur the first show of 2020. Be ready to immerse in an array of exciting new works, steady and go!

Artists include Asikin Roslan, Azliza Ayob, Atiqah Khairul Anuar, Ahmar Annur, Azizi Latif, Dhia Afiq, Fakhriq Zulkifli, Fawwaz Sukri, Fazrin Abd Rahman, Fendy Zakri, Firdaus Ismail, Fuji Anggara, Haz Yusup, Haziq Syawal, Hirzaq Harris, Isa Ishak, Khairi Fakhri, Kide Baharudin, Lina Tan, Mahadzir Ibrahim, Izwa Ahmad, Raden Hisbullah, Stephen Menon, Syahmi Jamaluddin and Wong Ming Hao.

A Stimulating Start

In the spirit of celebrating the new year of 2020, Segaris Art Center presents an exhibition featuring 33 artworks by 25 contemporary Malaysian artists. The exhibition titled Kickstart 366 – highlights the number of days in a leap year – a special extra day that occurs every quadrennial to synchronise the seasons with the astronomical year.

To kickstart the first exhibition of the year, art enthusiasts will rejoice with exciting works by Asikin Roslan, Azliza Ayob, Atiqah Khairul Anuar, Azizi Latif, Dhia Afiq, Fakhriq Zulkifli, Fawwaz Sukri, Fazrin Abd Rahman, Fendy Zakri, Firdaus Ismail, Fuji Anggara, Haz Yusup, Haziq Syawal, Hirzaq Harris, Isa Ishak, Khairi Fakhri, Kide Baharudin, Lina Tan, Mahadzir Ibrahim, Ahmar Annur, Izwa Ahmad, Raden Hisbullah, Stephen Menon, Syahmi Jamaluddin and Wong Ming Hao.

Asikin Roslan’s “Bunga Moyang I” depicts a large circular shape containing repetitive geometric marks in black ink over salmon-hued background. Framed within a white square canvas, the spherical abstract image entices viewers to examine the patterns up-close.

Rimbun Dahan’s 2016 resident artist Azliza Ayob creates a mixed media painting that represents a “medal-cum- bouquet of flowers made from free printed fliers, discarded irresponsibly” entitled “Higher: Medal of Honour” to celebrate “all Mothers, actual or selected as a symbol of encouragement, motivation and self-respect that serves as a reminder that as a Mother, you are never alone and always appreciated.” Produced on a square canvas, the artwork is presented in a diamond orientation to elevate the viewing pleasure of this special medal of honour.

Azliza Ayob’s statement reads:

A Mother, an amazing creature, who qualifies as superheroes and magicians. She deserves an invisible cape, a wand or a sexy suit, something to remind Her of who She is whilst ‘entertaining’ life at full speed. We often take our Mothers for granted. We think that She will be with us forever, to comfort, forgive and rejoice. We thought She will be our safety and salve. Then we grew up and we somehow forgot, until WE become Mothers, and then we see reruns of our childhood memories, as we strive to outsmart, negotiate, pacify, solve and fix everything for everyone but ourselves.

Azizi Latif’s strength in portraiture is exemplified through his imaginative paper roll technique. “Hud’s Journey” portrays his son, Hud, adorning a black songkok and blue Baju Melayu. Represented as a jigsaw-puzzle, Hud’s adorable face is made incomplete by the demarcation of two empty puzzle pieces.

“Routine – Red” by Fazrin Abd Rahman depicts an abstract imagery resembling a thick foliage or the sky at sunset. Upon closer inspection, Fazrin employs his distinctive aluminium strips weave technique with the stencilled image of rice grains scattered across the woven background. Using spray paint of aluminium strips, Fazrin’s work pushes the boundaries of contemporary paintings with his choice of materials and technique.

Firdaus Ismail’s “Munajat Kasih” illustrates a deconstructed image of figures such as an outlined rendition of perhaps Venus and cupid as well as an elusive man without a face. Other identifiable images in his painting include a table with still-life objects that contains a skull; a potted plant on the far-left corner, and a decorative carpet on the ground depicted in the centre of the painting.

Manchester School of Art’s fine art graduate Haz Yusup portrays a female nude sitting on the floor sideways with her left palm touching the ground and her right arm crossed over her body, her right fingers lightly touching her left fingers in “Cermin”. The sitter’s bare thighs expose a delicate posture with her legs and toes hidden from view. Masked in a reflective foil, the sitter’s face and head is covered to symbolise obscurity – a trademark in Haz’s artistic expressions.

Khairi Fakhri’s “Penunggu Bawahan” depicts a large lobster in bitumen and acrylic on canvas.
Appropriated to represent the lower income communities and their social issues, the lobster’s unique physical properties and its ability to disguise behind its rich nature are anything but small. Thus, Khairi uses the lobster as a metaphor for “Ahlong”. Invisible to prying eyes, its ability to hide in crevices or in burrows under rocks makes its nature analogous to loan sharks. They exist but are hidden between the blocks of buildings and layers of societies.

A finalist for the 2017 Vans Asia Custom Culture Competition, Kide Baharudin’s witty illustrations offer a glimpse of nostalgic daily life. Set on the local urban streets, Kide’s imaginative and comical approach to his subject matters create vibrant and buzzing paintings that encapsulate the local culture.

Current fine art undergraduate students Ahmar Annur and Izwa Ahmad present large-scale paintings that complement one another through their dissimilarities.

Ahmar’s “From the Small ‘Eye’” produced with acrylic, starch, powder pigment, glue, industrial paint on canvas depicts a blooming image in various shades of blue that resemble a coral reef. The bouquet of undulating shapes and biomorphs form a large sphere that is composed within the rectangular canvas structure.

Izwa Ahmad’s illustrative figures in “I Don’t Wanna Go” depict an overweight character in various martial art poses. Wearing white Judo uniform, the figures represent Izwa’s way of responding to different circumstances through “provocative postures by distorted figures”. An Arabic inscription that reads “syarikat judo” or Judo company is seen in the painting alongside a White Rabbit Creamy Candy wrapping paper.

“Chaos of Tranquillity” by Wong Ming Hao depicts a solitary man reclined against a wall. Composed of multiple layers of dried acrylic paint-skins in black and white, this inventive approach to painting generates visual balance and form through its heightened textural quality unlike a standard, flat two-dimensional artwork. Wong Ming Hao completed a six-month residency programme A-Residency by HOM Art Trans in 2018 upon which, he presented a body of work in a duo-exhibition with Joy Ng entitled Distant Emotion.

Sarah Abu Bakar

Link to Kickstart 366‘s catalogue