Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shadows on the Water -- Pulau Besar, Mersing

Shadows on the Water -- Pulau Besar, Mering

As a painter, my eyes and mind have been "programmed" to see the world and everything in it as compositions on canvas. It comes naturally to me to imagine the scene before me as a painting -- how it is cropped, how it colours, how it shapes.

Early last year, before the tourist season set in, I found myself on Pulau Besar, Mersing, very much alone. Walking along the long stretch of beach, I felt like a castaway on an island. At one point, having walked for some time, I turned around to face the journey I had made. I immediately saw the scene before me on canvas.

It was an interesting composition of long shadows of trees being cast from the right, onto the beach, the wet sands, on the frothy lips of the waves, and onto the rolling sea coming ashore.

The reflection of the blue sky on the water created a contrast between the shadow and light, creating space and depth.

It was a very quiet and silent composition with only the sounds of the waves breaking the serenity.

Back at my studio, the scene was captured on a canvas measuring 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 feet. It was a challenge to capture the different levels of light and shadow on a single composition. I wanted to contrast the coolness of the shade with the late morning brightness, while showing the depth of that stretch of beach.

Now, this piece, "Shadows on the Water -- Pulau Besar, Mersing," is available for sale at Artcase Gallery, Great Eastern Mall, Jalan Ampang.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

First exhibition in Penang

I was in Penang over the weekend for the launch of my first exhibition in Penang. It was a group show entitled "Black and White" organised by A2 Art Gallery.

The gallery is located on Bangkok Lane (off Burmah Road) and is a beautifully-restored heritage house from the pre-war days.

Three of my black and white works are currently on display there and they are:
Ferns at Janda Baik

Perhentian Kecil

Pond at Janda Baik

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Black and white

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri to everyone...hope it's not too late.

It's been a long while since I updated. Not that I have been idle...far from it. I have been busy with the Hari Raya celebrations with my family, some new paintings, a group exhibition, an art competition, a pro bono work, among others.

At the end of it all, my computer (and not me, thank God) burnt out! Which explains the lack of postings here. But I am back. Still busy, but back.

I've recently started working on some black and white pieces. They are mainly for a group exhibition up in Penang. It was interesting how my landscapes turned out in only shades of grey. I was encouraged by the fact that one of my regular collectors picked up a the piece featured here, "Janda Baik," even before it was shown at the gallery.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The last of my "ignorance"

The “Illiterati” series was created in 2004. It consists of only four still-life paintings done with acrylics.

Two were bought by a corporate individual some years ago and the rest are still with me. One that is still in my collection is “Illiterati 2:208,” measuring 38 x 55 inches -- an arrangement of my Quran, a newspaper article about the US invasion on Iraq, a mug and a bowl on a table.

The simple items I laid out were in contrast to the complicated situation of the world at the time, and the confusion it caused. A war was looming, tipping the balance of things and shaking the order of God.

The situation in the world made me pause to reflect on many things: about nations exerting power upon others, about their use of wit and cunning to outdo each other -- but only succeeding in creating destruction for mankind.

It expressed the ignorance of learned people -- the illiterates of the so-called literati.

It is very rarely that I paint still-lifes these days and these four paintings are very special to me. It reminds me of a significant period in my life some years ago.

I may never get to see the two that were already sold to a client, but if I had to part with the remaining two, I wouldn't mind if it went to the hands of a friend whom I know will appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Filling in the blanks

Bintulu Sunset in the making (scroll down for the "after")

.... almost completed the Bintulu Sunset and now working on a piece on Pulau Besar, Mersing (pic below, the left canvas). I went there last year and stayed at the Coral Bay chalet. At the time, the place was not completed except for the reception and a few rooms. I was the only guest there and it was very special. The island has a long beautiful beach, so quiet and peaceful. Over the next few days, i spent lots of time alone walking along the beach.

Right canvas: Bintulu Sunset; Left canvas: Pulau Besar, Mersing

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This is how it starts. On a blank canvas. Or in this case, two blank canvases, as I attempt to paint two pieces simultaneously.

I've been studying the paintings of William Turner and feeling so inspired by his seascapes, by how he paints the air, the "multitudinous" sea, by his skills at watercolours, by his sheer imagination!

I've also received a few pictures of the sunset from the middle of the ocean, somewhere off Bintulu. They were taken and sent to me by my neighbour Alex who works out on the sea. I think they call him a geologist. He took some very good photos which have had me itching to paint since then.

With Turner on my shoulder and this great desire to turn the Bintulu sunset on canvas, it's both a curse and a blessing. I can't wait to put brush to colour to canvas.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pantai Pasir Tengkorak, Langkawi

I've been working on a new piece this past week.

It's something on Langkawi where my wife and I had gone on our honeymoon. I remember my wife wanted to go and swim at Pantai Pasir Tengkorak. We decided to wake up very early one morning so that we would be the only ones at the beach. By the time we reached there, there was only us and a mat salleh.

It was so quiet and peaceful and the water was so cold!

I can remember that my wife (we just got married a few days before that) was very happy swimming with me.

This piece is about seven by five feet long. A view of the Andaman Sea by the Pasir Tengorak Beach, under some shady trees next to the Ibrahim Hussein Gallery, at noon.
While this piece is almost ready, I've also stretched a couple more of my canvas to do some sunsets simultaneously.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Selected paintings

All paintings featured here are available for sale. For price list or to arrange a personal viewing, kindly contact Zainal at 019 617 3706 or Anis at 012 321 9137.

"Sunrise Pulau Besar, Mersing" 9in x 12in Acrylic 2007

"Sunrise over Mersing" 9in x 12in Acrylic 2007

"Pulau Besar, Mersing - Sunset" 9in x 12in Acrylic 2007

"Dusk at Pulau Besar, Mersing" 9in x 12in Acrylic 2007

"Dusk at Perhentian Kecil # 3" 9in x 12in Acrylic 2007

"Perhentian Kecil Sunset # 2" 27in x 34in Oil 2007

"Perhentian Kecil Sunset # 1" 27in x 34in Oil 2007

"Dusk at Perhentian Kecil # 2" 27in x 34in Oil 2007

"Dusk at Perhentian Kecil # 1" 27in x 34in Oil 2007

"Sunrise, Pulau Besar, Mersing" 27in x 34in Oil 2007

"Water Lillies Janda Baik" 42in x 53in Oil 2007

"Water Lillies Janda Baik" 64in x 57in Acrylic 2006

"Dusk at Nort Port # 9" 42in x 52in Acrylic 2007

"Sunrise over Mersing #9" 42in x 52in Oil 2007

"Sunrise over Mersing #8" 42in x 53in Acrylic 2007

"By The Perak River" 52in x 56in Acrylic 2007

"Dusk at North Port # 7" 42in x 52in Acrylic 2007

"Dusk at North Port # 8 38in x 53in Acrylic 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Landscapes -- East Coast

"The View Of Perhentian Kecil from Perhentian Besar" 33in X 24in Acrylic 2000
In the collection of Ar. Hajeedar Abd Majid

"Sunrise Over Tok Bali # 1" 42in x 52 in Acrylic 2006
In the collection of YAM Raja Permaisuri Siti Aishah

"Sunrise over Tok Bali" 42in X 52in Acylic 2006
In the collection of Mr. Bingley

"Angsana at Pulau Lang" 40in x 53in Acrylic 2001
Private Collection

"The View from Pulau Lang" 50in X 72in Acrylic 2003
In the collection of Bina Fikir Sdn Bhd

"Dancing Shadows on Pulau Lang" 56in x 52in Oil 2003
In the collection of Bina Fikir Sdn Bhd

" Lullaby at Perhentian Besar" 24in x 33in Acrylic 1999
In the Collection of En. Rahimi Harun

"Balok" 24in x 33in acrylic 1999
In the collection of Dato' Azman Mokhtar

"Gazebo II" 24in x 33in Acrylic 1999

In the collection of En. Muhammad Zainal Shaari

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Of paintings and stories: Zainal Abidin Musa

“Two days in Redang, and still there was no sun. On the third morning, I woke up early, though dreams were calling me back to bed. At the beach, on the dark shores, I waited. As yesterday, all was quiet. Moments later, I smiled – there – a break in the sky. And from a higher heaven somewhere, a million shades of colours were filtering triumphantly through. In another moment, I was bathed in light!”

This is the story behind Zainal Abidin Musa’s seascape aptly titled, Waiting for Sunrise Over Telok Kalong, a dreamy piece of sand, sea and sky, brushed in shades of blues, purples and peaches, that took two days of patient waiting and two weeks of furious painting to complete.

It is one of many paintings of Malaysian landscapes and seascapes that the artist produces each year since his departure from an exhausting career as an advertising entrepreneur. Although he had studied fine art at Institut Teknologi MARA (ITM), he never really pursued a career in painting until recently, after 16 stressful years in the advertising industry.

The change, he says, began quite by accident. On a quiet Sunday morning, after a simple breakfast of half boiled eggs, toast and coffee, he began to idly sketch the breakfast scene before him, finding the effect quite relaxing and therapeutic. “Although I had not been actively painting for many years before that, it came naturally enough to me when I was seeking some form of balance and tranquility in my life,” he later said of that life-changing moment. That breakfast scene is now immortalized in a painting called Lazy Sunday.

Tengku Sabri Ibrahim, renowned artist and personal friend of Zainal, who has seen his progress over the years, says, “Zainal became what he called a Sunday painter, looking for weekends to paint beautiful seascapes along the east-coast shores. The frequent painting trips allowed Zainal to associate himself intimately with nature – of his childhood rivers, of the seashells and starfishes lying on his beaches, and of chirping birds amongst his bushes and trees. He conjured his childhood memories into landscapes he rediscovered during his trips. He abandoned the advertising world, and happily repeated Monet’s I paint as a bird sings.”

From these Sunday excursions, Zainal produced enough works to be showcased in his first, self-financed solo exhibition. Aptly titled Weekends, it was held at the New Straits Times building in Bangsar.

Zainal says, “The Weekends series was developed during a particularly demanding and hectic period of my life at a time when I was juggling a business and a career in advertising. The series is partly my personal account of a period in my life as well as, on a larger scale, a response to the state of the modern world, which to me, had become too complicated, too enclosed and too egocentric.”

From a Sunday painter, spending the weekends with nothing more than brush, paint, canvas and whatever fleeting scenery presented itself before him, Zainal turned to full-time painting, which led him to travel further around Malaysia, capturing the beauty of Malaysian landscapes on canvas.

Going through his works, one gets a sense of the artist’s development in art. His early works, the Lazy Sunday series, focused on still life subjects – studies of objects in his immediate surroundings. He later moved on to passionate renderings of local landscapes – there are the waterlilies floating on a pool of clouds in Janda Baik, Pahang; there are the romantic atmospheres of sunrise on the islands of Langkawi, Perhentian and Redang, there are the coastal scenes of Kelantan; and the warm sunsets on the waterfronts of Port Klang.

Each painting has a story to tell, and through the artist’s jottings in his sketch book, and the tales he tells, Zainal puts himself closer to his audience.

Of his time in Langkawi, Zainal, in his notes, reminisces, “Pantai Pasir Tengkorak sounds like a pirate’s den. Yet, it’s here, on this small beach, flanked by rocky headland on both sides, that one can sit for hours entertained by the shadows dancing upon the sands. The sand here is powder soft, and the winds blow in leaving a salty taste on the lips. Trees peel their skin and shed their red bark, as though undressing to jump right into the waters…but it is only their limbs, in shadows cast across the sands, that reach the water’s edge.”

And indeed, Zainal’s acrylic pieces, Shadows by the Andaman, and The Andaman Sea, Langkawi, portray the dark shadows of the trees crawling across the sands towards the sea. Looking at these paintings, one can almost feel the afternoon heat burning the skin, and the incredible desire to just jump into the waters!

There are paintings, too, that remind Zainal of his childhood haunts. His teenage years were spent in Kelantan and Terengganu, and though these places have changed much since he left, they still have a great influence on him.

“Kelantan’s coastal areas have changed physically over the years but they are still beautiful at sunrise. It reminds me of the mornings when I would wake up early to go to school, but arrive late anyway, because I had spent too much time admiring the sunrise on the beach….In a way, painting the landscapes is my way of capturing the scenes, and the associated memories, for posterity. After all, we are developing so fast as a nation that soon these places will not exist anymore.”

Of the waterlilies he serendipitously chanced upon after a wrong turn along the winding roads of Janda Baik, he writes, “It was perfectly still, the water. Like a large piece of mirror had been set upon the ground to reflect the sky and the beautiful formation of clouds. The lily pads floated on the glassy surface, as though frozen in time, suspended between heaven and earth.”
One of the “Waterlilies at Janda Baik” series

The resulting pieces, a series entitled Waterlilies at Janda Baik, are dreamy efforts where waterlilies seem to float on a pool of soft cottony clouds reflected by the clear, still waters of the pond.

Other paintings are a study of the changing colours of water at sunrise, the passage of clouds as reflected on water; the quality of shadows on sand, and the shimmering waters of the sea. Influenced by the masters of Impressionism such as Monet, Van Gogh and Pissarro, Zainal creates landscapes with beautiful colours and dynamic strokes, offering his audience a chance to be immersed in the blue waters he paints and the lights of the setting sun, and to be lost in the stories he shares.

These paintings were later showcased at Starhill Kuala Lumpur’s Loft Gallery for his solo exhibition, Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories.

Zainal’s journey as an artist may have just begun but from the looks of it, he will have many more stories to tell in the following chapters of his life.

Monday, January 1, 2007

The artist, a biography

Zainal Abidin Musa was born in Batu Gajah, Perak, in 1960. With a deep interest in art, he enrolled at the Institut Teknologi MARA (ITM) to pursue a degree in Fine Art. He graduated in 1983 with a promising career as an artist, having just won an award from the Malaysian Young Contemporary Artist competition – one of Malaysia’s more prestigious art competitions.

However, the Malaysia economy was in recession at the time. For practical reasons, he decided to join the workforce as a designer in an advertising firm, leaving behind, temporarily, his desire to paint.

From there on, Zainal continued to pursue his career in advertising, eventually setting up his own business in the industry. Perhaps sixteen years of being in the hectic business took a toll upon this gentle soul who finally returned to painting, at first only as a means to unwind.

Zainal found himself drawn once again to his innate passion for paintings and since then, there has been no turning back as he renders his acrylics and oils on one canvas after another.

Architect Hajeedar Abdul Majid, an avid collector of Zainal’s works, mentions that Zainal’s paintings celebrate his commitment and passion for art as testified through hi formal artistic grooming and natural development over the years.

Artist and personal friend of Zainal’s, Tengku Sabri Ibrahim, has seen the artist through his years as a student, businessman and artist. Of Zainal’s recent return to art, he says, “Zainal studied and rediscovered the science of colours, the dynamic strokes and the glittering lights from amongst our own landscapes…He chose to ignore the contemporary excitement of experimenting, exploring and working with ‘modern’ or ‘expressive’ images and approaches as practiced by many artists of today. He hung on to his romantic attitudes in reading and representing landscapes.”

Zainal is currently a full-time painter.