Galeri Puteh presents a group exhibition showcasing artworks by 41 artists and friends from the Ara Damansara art enclave. Representing some contemporary artists who work from studios in Ara Damansara, Selangor, “ADA Kawan-Kawan” embodies the alliance and camaraderie within the artist’s community cultivated by the Universiti Teknologi Mara fraternity and beyond.
An expansion from the 2015 “ADA Show” that featured 17 artists, “ADA Kawan-Kawan”, establishes the evolution and growth of an artistic emplacement – its geographical setting and accessibility that attracts new generations of artists to inhabit and make art within proximity.
This show highlights young and senior artists’ diversity in artmaking and creative pursuits, ranging from drawings, paintings, sculptures, and installations. Sharing the theme of progression, the Ara Damansara artists strive for success in their endeavours, with many starting as apprentices before becoming professional artists and some working day jobs as art administrators, photographers, graphic designers and art dealers.
Among the Ara Damansara artists who explore the panache of abstraction as visual representation are Adli Nazrin, Ahmad Fuad Osman, Akif Azmi, Amirul Roslan, Fadzril Fakaruddin, Faris Ridzwan, Fazrin Abd Rahman, Hidayat Arshad, Izzuddin Basiron, Khairul Arshad, Nadzrin Haziq, Nazhan Fikri, Rashid Nor, Shaufi Yatim and Syed Fakaruddin.
Ahmad Fuad Osman produces sketches and drawings in ink on loose paper – some with streaks of colours – in between his activities as a “warm up” or “let go” process in his art studio. In 2010, he shared a working studio with Nizam Rahmat in Ara Damansara. The suite of drawings on display serves as an alibi or reference for his visual diaries from a specific memory, place, and time.
For example, in 2007, Ahmad Fuad Osman was based in Rimbun Dahan, Kuang, for a year-long residency programme. He then worked from Ara Damansara in 2010, moved to a studio in Sungai Buloh, and concurrently worked from Bali. In 2021, he started producing artwork from a studio in Klang.
Akif Azmi’s “Tumbuh Berpunca” features a collage of fabric, polyester thread, and acrylic paint on fabric. Monochromatic tones of mainly black with grey and white undertones and streaks of orange that form the motifs from the textured fabric create an alternative perception of abstraction. Through this work, he conveys a positive message of striving for the best in life.
He explained: “The usage of various types of fabrics from different clothing serves as a metaphor for life’s journey. At times, we experience happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, and anger, but it is essential to embrace this journey while continuously improving ourselves for the better. We should firmly believe that we are ‘Tumbuh Berpunca’ signifying that everything that unfolds in life has its own purpose and rationale.”
“Kawasan Sehaluan” by Amirul Roslan depicts multicoloured bold dots, streaks and lines forming organic bulbous shapes evocating marine organisms or underwater coral reefs in pastel colours.
His work highlights the importance of one’s environment that will determine life’s success. He described: “If the landscape is beautiful and well maintained, it makes us positive even though life has obstacles and challenges.”
Fadzril Fakaruddin creates an abstract landscape in a conjoined square canvas in varying sizes – giving the viewer an impression of a window frame perspective of a breathtaking view of a dynamic landscape in bright neon colours.
“My investigation has resulted in this extensive painting with my personal interpretation of physical and emotional mindscape. In my artmaking process, I have recreated the form and structure from nature using brush strokes suggesting a sense of inspired immediacy in capturing the moment. I express my inner world using linear texture with elements of striking colour palette,” he said.
For Faris Ridzwan, the tactile quality of his visually stunning paintings creates an illusionary depth through the layers of shape-shifting form in a vibrant colour palette. His “Masonry” series explores “identity, history, and the symbiotic relationship between human-made structures and the natural world.”
Fascinated by “the ability of bricks and stones to hold stories, memories, and cultural significance within their very essence, he seeks to capture the serene beauty of Indonesia’s landscape, inspired by the rhythmic arrangement of steppingstones found throughout the country.”
In “Cross a Stream”, Faris Ridzwan illustrates rows of multicoloured diamond-shaped tiles to reflect the diversity of Indonesia’s geological formations. He further explained: “Smooth river pebbles, worn by the passage of time, offer a gentle and comforting tread, while rough-hewn stones evoke the ruggedness of volcanic landscapes. Each stone brings unique shape and texture, invites contemplation and connection with the environment, allowing him to fully absorb the tranquillity and beauty of their surroundings.”
“Decorated with Sedentary Life Forms” features oval forms that differ in size, colour, and composition to represent the process of human creation based on Surah Al-‘Alaq verses one and two from the Holy Quran: “Read, ‘O Prophet’, in the Name of your Lord Who created— created humans from a clinging clot.”
Faris Ridzwan said: “I found this story to be inspirational, leading me to produce artworks where blood cells were adopted as my subject matter. This metaphor of life or the birth of something new is present throughout my artwork and my journey as an artist. Hence, the idea of this artwork, being reborn, and blood cells are very much connected and intertwined with each other.”
Fazrin Abd Rahman‘s “Fragrance” depicts a silver geometric floral motif weaved using aluminium strips that takes inspiration from a traditional Malaysian embroidery named “Sulaman Bunga Ator” after the fragrant flower Melodorum samensis, a family of Ylang-Ylang, which typically blooms in home gardens.
According to the artist: “This artwork gives space for change and transitions from something old into new through the conversion of traditional materials to modern materials. Although the terminology of the original material language has been changed, it still retains the original identity.”
Izzuddin Basiron produces “Medan Perang”, or battlefield, to replicate his studio wall on canvas. His artistic process, which includes all the materials used to create his paintings apparent – strips of masking tape painted over in bright colours and residues of spray paint epitomise “behind-the-scenes” evidence or the imprints of his crisp geometric lines and flat surfaced cityscape series of paintings.
“Arena” by Khairul Arshad features intricate lines that illustrate the characteristics of plants with thorns, spines and prickles, such as durian and cacti, among other botanical plants, as life’s metaphors. In his signature painting style, Khairul Arshad adorns his canvas with linear shapes of varying dimensions to create stencilled and woodcut effects. The elaborate process entails layers of interconnected lines built upon the detailed background.
In his artistic statement, he references the Malay proverb “Kalau tidak dipecahkan ruyung, manakan dapat sagunya”, which means success will not be achieved without effort to describe the visual interpretation based on his observations about life. He uses a variety of subjects, such as nature, as a metaphor to form an imaginary space to convey their symbolic meanings.
Nadzrin Haziq’s rich autumnal colour palette, consisting of orange, tangerine, yellow, brown, red and pink, evokes a sense of comfort and warmth. Titled “Into the Wood”, this abstract painting continues his series from the “Essence” solo exhibition in 2022. Working intuitively without preliminary sketches, Nadzrin Haziq considers incidental marks as engaging in a fluid dialogue with a blank canvas.
He said: “Into the Woods” denotes happy ever after. I want to celebrate the process and progress in life even when there are mistakes that I need to learn. The method of making this artwork involves decision and progress.”
Nazhan Fikri‘s “Rainfall” features a monochromatic image that suggests the repetitive formation of plant roots. Presented in landscape orientation, the black and white composition that likens the tie-dye technique dominates three-quarters of the canvas, while the lower section is black.
The artist explained: “My work often embraces dualities such as inside and outside, lightness and heaviness, calm and chaos, illusion and reality. My work is familiar and mysterious, enigmatically between the abstract and figurative. The emotional intensity I convey in my work results from a sustained exploration of my response to the natural environment.
My works hover between abstraction and figuration, create a window onto the outside world, and can be interpreted as details of organic forms such as nature formations.”
Syed Fakaruddin’s visual perspective conveys an intimate story that chronicles his health and well-being, a subject rarely discussed that he has bravely expressed through a new body of work from his “Painkiller” series.
Titled “Painkiller: Isolasi di Gaster”, the composition illustrates a long red, narrow tube that coils in a winding and looping manner against a murky and cold landscape indicated by the colour palette. The series continues from the “Soulful” series featured in his first solo exhibition, “Bumi Asing”, in 2018.
He explained that the “Painkiller” series represents an imagined landscape’s physical and human emotions. It highlights pain and damage to internal organs in a quiet setting.
“This work is about my experience suffering severe gastric. I produce the intestine as a subject that spirals over the quiet landscape for the audience’s view of my expression.”
Representing the figurative theme that encompasses human figures, portraits, cartoon characters, images of flora and fauna are Aiman Aisamuddin, Aimman Hafizal, Alysha Fahmi, Aswad Ameir, Cinta Ayuandrea, Fawwaz Sukri, Fudhail Said, Hamizan Yusof (Mije), Lina Tan, Najib Bamadhaj, Sabihis Md Pandi, Sudin Lappo, Shafiq Nordin, Sofia Haron, and Syukur Rani.
“Clash of Clans” by Aimman Hafizal features an aerial view of a minuscule scenery with playful characters engaging in various outdoor activities in the lush landscape of “Komodo Land”. Aimman Hafizal creates a charming, whimsical visual escapade using a cool colour palette of blue and purple.
He stated: “In my creative journey, I have always found inspiration in using well-known characters from movies and animations as a playful way to tell stories in my artwork. This time, I decided to take a different approach and create my own original character, inspired by animals as a means of developing my own identity as an artist. This ‘process’ allows me to explore the realm of possibility without questioning the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the story within my artwork, granting me the freedom to construct my very own universe.”
Aswad Ameir is a multidisciplinary artist whose early paintings subscribe to the abstract expressionism genre. For “ADA Kawan-Kawan”, he presents figurative paintings in the form of portraits and allegorical representational.
“Adagio (Black Series)” features an anonymous pair of feet standing on the ground. Its legs and upper body are covered in a balloon-like form. According to Aswad Ameir, “Adagio conveys the life of the artist emerging from the darkest part of his life. The life that is full of agony, unspoken words, and issues that were left unresolved. The artist is now out to embrace his past, learning to be the person he is destined to be and living the life that is ordained for him. This piece is particularly inspired by the book ‘Killing Commendatore’ by Haruki Murakami.”
An excerpt from his poem titled “Black Series (Absurd Reality)” reads:
“Black exudes a space without time and place,
its purity transcends the mind into the unknown.
It greets the mind with darkness, apprehensive,
It breathes life one cannot have,
love one cannot embrace
and darkness that cannot be touched.”
Fawwaz Sukri creates “Fortune Teller” and “Girl’s Love” as part of his “Life is Wonderful” series, where he uses human emotions as his central theme. He said that “love is an emotion filled with hope and happiness. When you love someone, times go as fast as depicted in ‘Girl’s Love’. The background, which is created by complex layering of transfer images and acrylic talks about the obstacles when you love someone whether it is hurtful, joyful, or wonderful. It is a human desire to be loved and to love someone as it is part of the human nature.”
Fudhail Said creates a larger-than-life self-portrait in a greyscale colour scheme. His eyes are closed, and his facial expression indicates calmness. He explained: “’Goodbye, My Past’ contemplates the continuity and progress of a person. It symbolises a person’s belief in a particular phase or stage in life that realigns with who he is evolving into and where he might become in the future. The artwork emerges from the subject with a gradient tone of black and white, somehow reflecting the ageing process and the passage of time. As a result, it allows us to pause, connect, and reflect upon memories and our present lives.”
“The Surveyor Surveyed the Servant” by Hamizan Yusof depicts a red Donald Duck head gazing away from the viewer – sporting a red Polo T, yellow jacket, blue trousers, and a pair of black boots – sitting on a wooden chair. The vibrant painting references cartoon characters, landscapes, street graffiti, and the artwork title inscribed in mirror writing.
According to the artist’s statement, the artwork evokes a longing and nostalgia for Hamizan Yusof, who has pursued another career. He said: “Based on my previous life as a full-time artist, I created a series of Mickey Mouse icons as my subject. I began studying iconic characters and was later attracted to animals as prominent personalities.
As time changed, I reached a point when I stopped creating art. It sparked in me that I am no longer in the same field. My surroundings change every year. However, I am still trapped in this art world and tried to find a moment that I could keep on creating artwork. Imagining some ideas to create new art is challenging because of the ever-changing surroundings.
I am placing myself as Donald Duck sitting on that thinking chair, wondering how to run away from this art world to work as ordinary people do. But now, I always miss the lovely life of being an artist.”
“Did I Do Something Wrong” by Shafiq Nordin illustrates the cultural icon Pinocchio, reimagined with a fantastical mushroom cap, neon green wings, flamboyant pink bowtie, and a long nose that ejaculates. Shafiq Nordin said, “If all human deceptions could be seen physically just like Pinocchio whose nose would become long if he lied, people would be afraid to commit fraud, and the world would be more peaceful.”
Sofia Haron‘s ” Mother “is a titillating work on a triangular canvas. Nude figures in embracing postures drift liberally around the canvas. Diamond grids of colour blocks in shades of pink create a delicate movement that reaches for the apex.
She stated: “As a woman and an artist, I have always believed that colours connect intimately with our emotions, and I approach my art through this unique perspective. My art celebrates a vibrant and multifaceted world of emotions as experienced through the lens of femininity. The view towards women has been ever-changing throughout the years, and it is always a fascinating topic for me to observe and consume.
In my artistic process, I draw inspiration from the diverse array of emotions that women encounter daily, such as joy, love, sorrow, anger, hope, and everything in between. The visual narrative speaks of the courage, vulnerability, and empowerment of embracing one’s emotional journey.
In a world that often seeks to constrain and categorise, I believe in the power of colours and emotions to break free from those limitations. I want to create a space where women can connect with their emotions and find solace in the understanding that they are not alone in their feelings. It is like colours on a palette meant to be embraced, celebrated, and shared.”
Suddin Lappo is among the pioneering Ara Damansara artists alongside his collective, Dikalajingga, formed in 2000 and worked from a studio they shared together. “Beruk dapat Kerusi” is a satire about the parliamentary seat in the Malaysian political landscape, which depicts an ape sitting on a yellow chair similar to that of the Yang Di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat (The Speaker of the House of Representatives).
“The Monster” and “The Giant” are Syukur Rani’s rendition of his imaginative characters executed in a vibrant, illustrative manner. Deriving from his new “Pop” series that celebrates pop and subcultures in Malaysia, these colourful paintings represent street art style.
He reminisced: “This idea emphasises the memories of when I was a child often imagining about creatures such as aliens and monsters.”
Filled with symbolic meanings, still-life paintings produced by Ara Damansara artists offer a renewed viewpoint on simple objects that become the focus of their subject matter. Artworks by Alice Tan, Alya Bieha, Atiqah Khairul Anuar, and Dinn Diran represent this genre.
Atiqah Khairul Anuar’s “Tetingkap Merah” features an array of receipts, bills, and polaroid pictures, among other scraps of images taped on a red window as the title suggests in trompe-l’œil technique.
“Iron Ranger” by Dinn Diran depicts the iconic American Red Wing work boots built initially for iron miners in the 1930s. Its characteristics of the toe cap, speed hooks, and Vibram®’s outsole make this legendary leather boot a classic.
Among the Ara Damansara artists who create sculptures as their mode of expression include Azizi Latif, Azrin Mohd, Haris Hamir, Hisyamuddin Abdullah, Nizam Abdullah and Nizam Rahmat and Syahmi Jamaludin.
Azizi Latif creates “sculpted canvas art” through his signature quilling technique. Titled “Irama Lautan 2 (Oceanic Rhythms 2)”, strips of canvas are arranged in a wavy and undulating pattern depicting the fluid and rhythmic motion of ocean waves to contemplate the ever-changing rhythms of life. The formation conveys a sense of movement, depth, and the endless existence cycle.
The primary colours on the canvas are a passionate blend of red and soft pink. These hues evoke a sense of warmth and emotion, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the artwork’s depth to create a dynamic contrast against the canvas backdrop, drawing the viewer’s attention to the composition’s heart.
A delicate and intricate gold outline gracefully traces the contours of the quilled elements, adding a touch of luxury and refinement to the overall composition. This golden border not only defines the artwork but also serves as a testament to the artist’s attention to detail.
“Divided #3” by Azrin Mohd from 2017 is revisited in 2023 to mark the end of the Reformasi movement. Azrin Mohd uses powerful visual imagery to illustrate the withering spirit that leads to “reformati” — a derogatory wordplay on Pakatan Harapan’s famous slogan to suggest the agenda for reform is now dead.
A text that reads “Nation of Compromises” refers to the recent claims of political tampering in the corruption trial of a particular political figure who has been granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal.
Haris Hamir created a series of wall sculptures titled “Koleksi Panas #1-#6” after the famous collectable Hot Wheels. Reimagined and sculpted using paper, Haris Hamir’s selection of vehicles pays homage to the Malaysian context featuring “Van Jenazah” or a Muslim hearse, “Tanah Perayau Pertanahan”, which is a Land Rover Defender 90, “Kertas Terbang” or paper plane, “Kerja Lembughini Hurukan” after the Lamborghini Huracán, “Bas Sekolah” – a 14-seater Toyota Hiace in school bus yellow colour, and “Kooper Kecil”, which is a classic yellow Mini.
Hisyamuddin Abdullah’s “Caution! Elephant in the Room” conveys his perspective on the current state of Malaysian governmental affairs in which he expresses his concerns. He has cleverly defined the silhouette of a political leader adorning a songkok in black against a red background. Over it, a standing elephant in light blue signifies the metaphorical idiom highlighting a major problem or controversial issue that is present but is avoided as a subject for discussion. A transparent ballot paper is adhered to the cynical image.
Hisyamuddin Abdullah explained: “I see the management of an issue (case) involving the highest leadership of a political party is often a question about the transparency of the process, whether it has political interference or abuse of power, it still affects the people’s trust in politics. This mixed media work is a response to the issue, a layer of acrylic sheet on the surface of the subject gives an obscured narrative to the audience about who is the leader behind the ballot paper. This work serves as a warning sign that the selection of leaders should be examined clearly, to avoid hardships in the future.”
Nizam Rahmat’s multidisciplinary practice ranges from mixed media paintings using a collage and assemblage of found objects and images, stencil, screen print technique and drawing to installations. “Notable Cases” consists of recycled flight cases, flight case accessories, acrylic, polyurethane, graphite, and ink in variable sizes arranged in stacking order as a wall sculpture. He employs initialism to narrate the scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad, such as JL (Jho Low), NR (Najib Razak), and RM (Rosmah Mansor).
According to Nizam Rahmat: “In sixty years since the formation of Malaysia, the nation has been burdened with many incidents, events, and episodes that result in repercussions and consequences years ahead. Some are still being shouldered and borne to this day and those whose effects will continue to be felt by future generations. These six boxes of various sizes demonstrate the burdens we will bear — and in turn our children, until the end of time.”
Syahmi Jamaludin creates mixed media works comprising acrylic paint, silkscreen, charcoal, acrylic glass, and wood frame mounted on canvas. Titled “Fragila”, he uses the concept of the window as the main idea, encouraging the audience to look out from the inside.
He explained that “the main subject is the wallpaper effect as a representation of the interior and the window frame represents the exterior. Flora and fauna motif adorns the wallpaper to symbolise the trappings in the natural world and false beauty. Encased within a framed window, a balloon twisting armament is symbolic for peace and gratitude that we need to value.”
Sarah Abu Bakar
20 September 2023
Link to exhibition catalogue here.