Category Archives: Essays

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

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

An Act of Faith

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

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

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

Say grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Line of symmetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running high

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

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

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

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

Bidayuh culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

__

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

 

[ii] Ibid.

 

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

The Painted Rhapsody of Soh Boon Kiong

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

Symphony of life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Abu Bakar, November 2019

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

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

Aftermath – Art Expo

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

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

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

Hisyamuddin Abdullah

Projek akal umbi
Acrylic & oil on canvas
183 cm x 153 cm
2019

Letusan bawah tanah
Acrylic & oil on canvas
183 cm x 91 cm
2019

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

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

Ismail Awi

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

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

Covenant
Oil & acrylic on canvas
152 cm x 122 cm
2019

Constitute
Oil & acrylic on canvas
213 cm x 152 cm
2019

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

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

Zulkifli Yusoff

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

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

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

Jolok
Mix-media installation
20’ x 10’ x 9’
Variable dimension
2019

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

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

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

Hamir Soib

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

Kera dapat bunga
Acrylic & bitumen on canvas
185cmx142cm
2019

The Circle
Acrylic & bitumen on canvas
152cmx244cm
2019

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

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

Edroger Rosili

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

Hang Qabil & Hang Habil (after Jaafar Taib)
Acrylic on canvas
152 cm x 183 cm
2019

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

Rasa Kuasa (after Jacques-Louis David)
Acrylic on canvas
224 cm x 183 cm
2019

Mr. Cain & Mr. Abel (after Quentin Tarantino)
Acrylic on canvas
152 cm x 183 cm
2019

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

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

Haslin Ismail

Intimacy is not purely physical
Acrylic on canvas
122 cm x 122 cm
2019

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

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

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

Khairi Fakhri

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

Berjiwa
Bitumen on canvas
183 cm x 91 cm
2019

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

Berupa
Bitumen on canvas
183 cm x 91 cm
2019

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

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

Ilham Fadhli

Fugitive Hotel (scenery)
Acrylic & collage on canvas
153 cm x 306 cm (diptych)
2019

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

Fugitive Hotel I to X (activities)
Acrylic on canvas
30.5 cm x 30.5 cm
2019

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

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

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

Link to pdf

Ceritera Gembala (The Story of a Shepherd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independence – Art Jakarta

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

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

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

Ahmad Zakii Anwar b. 1955, Johor, Malaysia

This Day in History
Acrylic on linen
144 cm x 297 cm
2019
USD 40,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafiee Ghani b. 1962 Kedah, Malaysia

Rose Hill
Oil on canvas
122 cm x 91 cm
2016
USD 10,000

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

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

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

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

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

Hanif Khairi b. 1972, Perak, Malaysia

Kepiting Busuk
Recycled plastic & recycled wood
68 cm x 55 cm x 24 cm
2019
USD 2,000

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

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

Rumah Kepiting
Recycled plastic & recycled wood
60 cm x 28 cm x 20 cm
2019
USD 2,000

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

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

Fadilah Karim b. 1987, Johor, Malaysia

Volatile Love
Oil on linen
152 cmx152 cm
2019
USD 6,800

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

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

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

Greener Pastures
Oil on linen
152 cm x 122 cm
2019
USD 5,600

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

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

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