Ahad, 24 Julai 2011

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion


Art that speaks

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 01:16 AM PDT

Eight artists show off talents that shout to be seen.

EVERY word is a struggle and his face is twisted with effort. At times, it seems as if the words have to be forced out of Nazmi Kamarulzaman bit by bit.

"This art exhibition… will help create a better awareness… of the talents and potential of people… with learning disabilities."

Nazmi is a committee member of United Voice (unitedvoice.com.my), a society that believes those suffering from Down's syndrome, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, among other conditions, should speak up – for themselves – about their needs.

He was at the launch of the United Voice art exhibition at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC), Kuala Lumpur, an event that is part of the Tourism Ministry's 1Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism Festival (1MCAT).

Eight artists are showing some 80 works and they certainly have amazing talent.

One of them is Clement Ooi, 22. Despite his autism, he is a successful artist in his own right, what with numerous art shows (including two solos) and various awards (including from the Bryan Ayers Memorial Exhibition of North Carolina, the United States). His collectors come from as far afield as Switzerland, Japan and America.

Clement's paintings of flowers and butterflies are full of radiant colours and bold strokes, in contrast to his reserved personality. So it is his mother, Annie Kam, who speaks of his various achievements while he wanders away from the glare of publicity.

She proudly shows off his other paintings on a small digital camera and talks about her son's website (clementooi.net).

But Kam admits things were much tougher when Clement was younger. "We didn't understand his condition then. But we noticed that he liked doodling for hours, from the time he was five. Luckily I like art and could guide him."

In contrast, the parents of Dennis Liew did not quite understand how to guide their son when they saw him doing detailed pictures of buildings when he was a young boy.

"We tried to discourage him from art in those days, but later realised we were wrong," says mum Patricia Liew, an accountant. "My husband is an engineer. We were not from the creative field and could not quite relate to it."

Looking at Dennis' luminously translucent Chinese brush paintings of bougainvilleas, grapes and cockerels, one feels glad that his parents eventually allowed his natural talent to bloom .

"I can paint for up to four hours and not feel tired," says the 25-year-old artist, who has Asperger Syndrome, a neurobiological disorder. "I just let it flow and feel very inspired and relaxed. I've also been reading up on Chinese and Japanese art."

Dennis has a degree in graphic design from Curtin University, Western Australia, and now does commercial advertisements, brochures and merchandise such as caps and T-shirts. He led guests at the launch through the exhibits using a slideshow, a good example of United Voice's goal that the differently-abled should be self-advocates for their special talents.

As for Chee Siew Chong, 17, the first time his father Kenny Chee noticed his artistic skill was after a road trip to Singapore.

"When we came home, my son drew all the highway exits we had passed. He was just six then," Chee recalls.

Siew Chong has a penchant for intricate line drawings of buildings and landscapes and will often just take out his ink pen and sketchbook to doodle when travelling to places of interest. Lately, he has been drawing images from the Internet that catch his fancy. He goes to a special education school in Rawang, Selangor.

Damien Wong, born in 1995, is autistic. But such is his natural talent that in 2008, his first painting received the Special Merit Award from the Brian Ayers Memorial exhibition in Boone, North Carolina.

Damien is fond of cheerful, bright colours and has worked with pen and ink, colour pencil, crayon, watercolour and acrylic.

When Tan Seng Kit, 22, wanted to watch the movie Chicken Little, he drew the cartoon character.

"When he was young, he didn't talk," explains his mother, Jenny Soh. "So he would draw out everything he wanted, like a fried egg."

An artist, whom Soh declines to name, noticed her son's talent. So she started him on art classes eight years ago.

Earlier this year, Seng Kit won third placing at the National Abilympics Art Competition.

Besides painting, he also bowls. He won a silver medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai, China, in 2007.

"I hope the public can be more aware of the abilities, rather than the disabilities, of these people," Soh adds.

Nurulakhmal Abdul Rahman, 20, used to observe the graceful movement of insects in parks for hours, and then go home to her drawing block. In 2008, she won the first and third prizes at an art competition organised by Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd. She has produced vivid paintings of flowers and insects for the current show.

Her mother, Wairah Marzuki, formerly director-general of the National Art Gallery, is now an advisor for the United Voice Art Gallery.

"Art is one way for people like my daughter to earn an income and groups like United Voice have good young talents. We need more support from corporate social responsibility programmes," Wairah says.

> United Voice is on at MaTiC (No. 109, Jalan Ampang, KL) till July 31, after which it will move to the United Voice Art Gallery (No. 603, Jalan 17/12, Petaling Jaya, Selangor).

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A toast to art

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 01:06 AM PDT

FRENCH cognac maker Martell aims to honour art in all its forms by creating a platform for artists and designers to express their vision and ideas, through its Martell Art Expressions gallery showcase.

Earlier this month, the Martell Amber Lamp, designed by acclaimed architect Jean Nouvel, was added to the showcase. The event was held at the Bridge Bar, GTower in Kuala Lumpur, where the showcase is currently housed.

Celebrating Martell's closeness to the world of architecture in particular, and art in general, the creations are specially crafted by both international and local artists.

Besides the Amber Lamp, other items on display include the L'Art de Martell Decanter, designed by French glassmakers Daum; the Martell Creation Grand Extra Decanter (by Sergeu Mansau); the Martell VSOP Limited Edition Snifter Set (by Malaysian fashion designer Daniel Chong), and the Limited Edition Martell VSOP Blink Glasses (by Lau Hoe Yin aka DJ Blink).

Fifty of the Amber Lamps, created in late 2010, have been produced and exhibited around the globe, at art galleries, museums and Martell's Château de Chanteloup in Cognac, France. MICHAEL CHEANG

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Go Figure

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 01:03 AM PDT

There are hundreds of reasons why we should visit the watercolour world of 30 artists.

GALERI Petronas' latest exhibition, Figure In Paint, serves a very specific purpose, says Mohammad Medan Abdullah, senior general manager of Petronas' Group Corporate Affairs. As he explained during its launch, "This exhibition is a vehicle for us to develop a deeper interest in the use of watercolour."

Malaysian artists in particular have made great strides with the medium. Well-known watercolourist and former chairman of the Malaysian Watercolour Organisation, Dr Wong Seng-Tong, gave several examples of experts whose works are in demand and now command between eight and 14 times more than when the country's watercolour movement was in its infancy.

Figure In Paint poses a challenge to 30 local artists to push both themselves and the visiting public to examine the wider potential of watercolour.

The show is skillfully curated, and the first impression is strong, arousing interest and curiosity.

After reading at the entrance that you are about to see an exhibition of "30 large-scale works" which will negate idea that watercolour is solely for painting pretty landscapes, you find yourself facing a postcard-sized painting of a pretty landscape – a boat reflected on water.

It is absolutely lovely yet totally expected from the medium and unexpected from the show. And so Figure In Paint begins with a touch of humour, a wink and a point of comparison. This is what you expect to see, now see what is different.

Some of the guest artists are bolder than others. While there are some pieces that are so everyday watercolour that it feels like déjà vu, there are many among the group, however, whose works are positively splendid.

Only a couple of artists went so far as to break the convention of painting on surfaces other than canvas or paper. SabriIdrus' In Conversation looks back at you with large eyes painted on galvanised metal sheets.

Ahmad Shukri Mohamed's Top Of The World is a touching collection of framed boy's school shirts. They are the generic white shirts that millions of children wear, which can only be told apart one from another if they happen to have the student's name or school crest ironed on.

Ahmad's shirts are painted with images a young boy might draw himself – animals, trees, mountains and cities, and give the impersonal uniform a personality. You feel that you know the boy. Going deeper than the plain cloth that identifies him as a school kid, you now have a window into his imagination.

If this piece does for you what it has for me, you will start looking at other uniforms – school, factory, police, soldier, nurse, waitress – and wonder what images are unrevealed.

Paper is the most common surface here, though sometimes this, too, is played with and folded, cut or layered. Haslin Ismail's The Red Tree is a sculpture of cut paper, forming a house covered in paper barbed wire. Besides the shadows cast by the paper, the only colour is where the paper has been painted solid red.

Shadows also add dimension to Tang Yeok Khang's Golden Globe and Paper Tree, in which a girl seems to be soaring up into branches which fold like fingers over her. Cut and mounted between acrylic sheets, the painted piece casts sharp shadows on the wall behind it.

Khairul Azwan was present at the opening and reminded me that an artist is never truly finished with a piece of work – that pieces and ideas can germinate for years in his brain and push their way out to the surface when they are good and ready.

For his piece, Tembak Keliling, Khairul used figure studies from years ago.

"Watercolour is an art student's medium for study," he says. "To study form, shape, light and shadow, and especially colour theory."

Khairul has painted a policeman, legs apart and weapon held before him, from numerous angles. He has layered these figures on top of one another to make them appear to be standing in a circle, facing outwards.

The rest of the wall is a shower of bullets which, interestingly are flying towards the policemen rather than from their raised weapons.

This small twist changes the story of the work entirely. The armed cops look vulnerable and worryingly unalarmed by the hail of lead speeding towards them.

It always shows when an artist feels free in his or her work. Three pieces of fantasy at the exhibition are positively magnetic.

Khairul Azmir Shoib is a welcome addition to the show. Painting directly on the wall, his fairytale figures in All Of A Sudden I Missed Everyone whisk you into a world you love visiting.

Sabahan artist Donald Abraham's Otak Merajuk inhabits an alcove worth entering. As you get closer to the beheaded body on the far wall, aspects pop out as if in 3-D, such as the doorway in the neck, or a head peeking out from a hole in the forearm. Bring someone with you because the multiple tattoos are simply aching to be discussed.

There is a second alcove and this is where, given a chance, I would live. It is lined with miniature paintings each carrying a tiny "J", for artist Jeganathan Ramachandram. There are 109 of these paintings, which I had expected to glance at, get a sense of and move on.

Instead, each one of them captivate me. I moved slowly, absorbed by every piece and as content as when flipping the pages of an extraordinarily beautiful picture book.

And when I came to the last painting, I started again, completing three slow circuits before I could tear myself away. (I did return to them several times after that.) Each piece tells its own story.

If you catch up with Jeganathan, he will tell you what lies behind each work. But you'll be just as happy letting the individual pieces release your imagination and pique your curiousity. What are the animals? Why the egg? Why the flag?

Thanks to works like his Mindscreen, there are not only 30 reasons to visit Figure In Paint; there are hundreds.

Figure In Paint – Contemporary Watercolour is on till Aug 28 at Galeri Petronas, Tower 1, KLCC. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm. Admission is free. Call 03-2331 7770 for information.

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