Selasa, 8 April 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Power portraits: George W. Bush unveils new paintings of world leaders

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 01:50 AM PDT

Former US President George W. Bush revealed a series of portraits he painted of world leaders – even though the results exposed him to joking criticism from his own mother.

An exhibit titled The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy opens on Saturday at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas and was shown to reporters on Friday.

It features Bush's paintings of some two dozen world figures he worked with during his 2001-2009 presidency, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama. 

A self-portrait and a painting of his father, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, are also part of the exhibit.

Accompanying each portrait, are some rarely seen photos of Bush with each leader, including a photo of Bush and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi strumming guitars during a tour of Graceland in 2006. Koizumi, a fan of Elvis Presley, had requested this visit.

"No telling how these people are going to react when they see their portrait," Bush said in a taped interview on NBC's Today with his daughter Jenna Bush Hager.

Artistic reinvention

Bush had no interest in painting until leaving the White House and reading Winston Churchill's essay Painting as a Pastime. His earliest works included quick drawings made for family members with an iPad app.

"I wanted to make sure the last chapters of my life were full, and painting, it turns out, has helped occupy not only space but opened my mind," Bush said. "I paint a lot because, as you know, I'm a driven person and I want to get better. A whole new world has opened up."

Bush, 67, said he was reluctant to display his work but hoped the exhibit, which will run through June 4, will create interest in his presidential library.

In a video that describes the exhibit, Bush said he intends to paint throughout his lifetime although he admits "the signature is worth more than the paintings."

In addition to his world leaders series, Bush's paintings include still lifes, landscapes, paintings of animals and self-portraits set in a bathtub and shower. Some of those early works, including the self-portraits, were leaked on the Internet after Bush's email was hacked.

Bush said his favourite painting was the one of his father and said he sometimes was teary while working on it. "It was a joyful experience to paint him," he said.

Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, joined the interview live and was asked what she thought of her son's portrait of his father. "That's my husband?" she joked upon first glance.

She quickly said she liked the painting very much but would absolutely not pose for her son.

Bush said he had learned an important lesson about portraiture – don't paint your wife. Former first lady Laura Bush, in a taped portion of the show, said his portrait of her "still needs some work." – Reuters

Art gallery Kedai is open for collaboration

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Newly opened independent art space Kedai reinforces support for the artistic fringe.

If you think running an ordinary business is difficult, imagine running an independent art gallery in the Klang Valley.

But that did not stop artists, Izat Arif Saiful Bahri, 28, and Rizal Sufar, 41, from opening Kedai, an art gallery in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The duo wanted hands-on experience in running an art/space gallery and Kedai, as a blank canvas, is the sort of place to embrace community and multi-disciplinary arts projects.

"We wanted a space to ourselves; a collaborative space that's open and free to work with other artists and creative minds alike," said Izat.

According to the owners of Kedai – which opened in March 2014 – at least one show will be held every month. Later this month, Kedai will roll out a show with two homegrown artists – Engku Iman and Akmal Borhan.

The owners say that Kedai is like an open studio, where they welcome anyone interested in using their gallery space.

"We have power tools and working areas so anyone can use them. We encourage these kinds of activities to make it less formal and make it more approachable. Of course, we have plans to organise talks, workshops and other activities. We are open to anyone who wants to utilise the space," added Izat.

Izat Arif Saiful Bahri (left) and Rizal Sufar, the main men behind creative space Kedai, which is a new art gallery in Petaling Jaya in Selangor. With its youthful outlook, the gallery aims to promote cross-platform artistic pursuits.

Izat Arif Saiful Bahri (left) and Rizal Sufar, the main people behind Kedai.

Back in February, Izat had one of his works removed from the Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries) 2013 finals at the National Visual Arts Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. The dust has since settled and this young man has moved on from that episode with Kedai.

In terms of decision-making, Izat and Rizal work together to select exhibitions for their gallery, allowing them to maintain the focus and art direction of Kedai.

"We try not to put any restrictions in terms of form. In fact, during the opening (of Kedai), we had all sorts of forms like photography, sculptures and installations."

Ultimately, being artists and owners of Kedai, the pair have to manage their time between their passion and the business.

"We think that all artists try to juggle making a living and pursuing their passion as an artist. This applies to a lot of people, regardless of profession.

"While you have to be responsible and professional, you never quit pursuing your passion. It's all about the effort on how you make the time," he added.

Currently, Kedai is hosting a show by Escape VA (real name Mohd Zaki), a 28-year-old graffiti artist. His show called Can Control features his works in graffiti art which he started back in 2006.

Art enthusiasts at the recent launch of Escape VA's 'Can Control' graffiti exhibition, which underlines art space Kedai's boldness in championing unconventional artists.

Art enthusiasts at the Can Control graffiti exhibition.

"Can Control is about how the spray can conquers me. I started in 2006 with zero support and the only thing by my side was the spray can," said Escape VA as he briefly explained the contents of his first solo exhibition. "Everything I have made comes out of the tip of the spray can."

For three years, Escape VA planned for his solo show only to be hampered by financial issues until the Kedai gallery came along.

During the exhibition period this month, art enthusiasts can view six canvases (0.9m x 1.2m each) linked to the wall, featuring Escape VA's work that even comes with glow-in-the-dark black light effects, which he achieves by using fluorescent paint.

On the subject matter, Izat says that Kedai wanted to test the limits of graffiti within the confines of a gallery.

"We wanted to see if it is possible to obtain a similar impact if the work was shown indoors.

"Escape VA also wanted to challenge his own limitations by working with canvases and doing installations to accompany his graffiti," added Izat.

While graffiti is often associated with negativity, Escape VA is adamant that like all forms of art, opinions and interests on graffiti can be very subjective.

"It's a classic thing to relate graffiti to vandalism, but I won't say that it's vandalism – it depends on how you look at it," said Escape VA, who compares graffiti to advertising billboards.

"Just like there are good and bad people; there is also positive and negative graffiti," he concluded.

Escape VA's Can Control is on at Kedai, D-G-03, Jalan SS6/20A, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor till April 11. Open daily from 11am till 7pm. For more information, log on to or check out Escape VA's page at

Tuneful treats from Nigel Richards

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

British vocalist Nigel Richards kept the audience in awe at his show series in Kuala Lumpur.

BRITISH singer/actor Nigel Richards is no stranger to showbiz on a large or intimate scale. His name has graced West End productions (including playing the lead role in Phantom Of The Opera) and he also made a BBC Proms appearance. To scratch the experimental itch, Richards even tried out eccentric musician Scott Walker's tunes on stage. He won the hearts of purists when he took on a role in the acclaimed production Drifting And Tilting – The Songs Of Scott Walker at the Barbican in London in 2008. Alongside British pop musicians like Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn and Gavin Friday, he took on Walker's challenging songcraft.

His resume also includes a two-year stint in American experimental theatre director Robert Wilson's production of Tom Waits' The Black Rider over a decade ago.

Richards is also a respected teacher in musical theatre.

Last weekend, he played a small showcase series at the Intimate Encounters@Theatre Lounge Cafe in Kuala Lumpur. It was all about Richards' fantastic voice and stageside charisma.

I've been to concerts before and watched singers perform, but nothing quite like this.

Rest assured, I was not disappointed in the least when this talented performer took the stage last Friday night.

Richards blew the crowd away with his booming voice and literally stunned the room into silence. A typical West End charmer, he bantered and captivated the audience by rolling out several tunes from stage musicals, such as Phantom Of The Opera and Les Misérables.

Throughout this 60-minute set, Richards was the focus of attention. The small performance space made the show a real treat for music fans. It was like having Richards in your living room.

Out came classics like More (from the film Dick Tracy), Frogs (from theatre production Cinderella), Some Enchanted Evening (from South Pacific), Bring Him Home, Stars and Empty Chairs And Empty Tables (from Les Misérables), Let's Do It (written by Cole Porter for the musical Paris), Pointy's Lament (from next-generation Stephen Sondheim, Michael John LaChiusa's The Petrified Prince) and Music Of The Night (Phantom Of The Opera).

He performed 13 songs in total with a short intermission in between.

On Friday night, Richards was accompanied by local pianist Samuel Tan, who supplied a sublime performance too.

Of course, it was Richards' rich and amazing vocals that put a smile on many faces. Some swayed on the spot and some simply closed their eyes listening to how he hit every note perfectly. But what was interesting was how Richards told a story in each of his performances. He sang each tune as if he was narrating a page from a delightful storybook. From songs about love, solace, heartaches and joy, Richards brought the night to life and filled the room with melodic and enchanting music that was truly magical.

Hence the title of his show, Let's Fall In Love.

It comes as no surprise that this bloke has many experiences to share.

"What would I know about love?" he asked the crowd at the beginning of his first act.

"I'm 49 and single!" he continued, sending the crowd into hysterical laughter. It is clear, Richards was born to entertain. His songs, just like him were filled with humour. By the end of the night, you could end up crying, laughing or completely inspired.

The affable Englishman wasn't just a delight to watch on stage. He was fun to talk to.

"It's my first time in Malaysia and I'm still getting over your wonderful weather!" he said. He also mentioned being in Kuala Lumpur made him fall in love with the people here. "Everyone is so warm and friendly and I feel so welcomed."

The good news is Richards will back at the Intimate Encounters@Theatre Lounge Cafe this weekend.

"I will be singing and playing the piano then. Tell your friends!" he said. Richards' next show called A Life In Song promises to feature more delightful and uplifting tunes. He has also mentioned that he will be exhibiting how the mask in Phantom Of The Opera is made on that night. A tale worth listening to surely

Nigel Richards' show series A Life In Song from April 11 to 13 will take place at Intimate Encounters@Theatre Lounge Cafe (B1-3A, Plaza Damas 3, No. 63 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur). Shows start at 9pm. Cover charge is RM100. For more details, call 012-236 9100 or 03-6211 3000. Browse


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