Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lautan 3 online gallery

Just to share with you a link to the Lautan 3 online exhibition which was created by Art Village gallery. In it, you will be able to view from the comfort of your home or office the paintings by myself, Suhaimi and Tuan Azhar that were exhibited recently.

The exhibition is over...thank you to everyone who gave their support -- Art Village gallery, especially Kenny and Gary; Mr. Hee, my picture framer and logistics manager; Bingley Sim, who introduced me to many of his friends; the collectors who made time in their busy schedule to view the artworks; my family and friends who gave their support, encouragement and motivation; and not forgetting the media for featuring us on TV, radio and the newspapers (I've updated the section "Zainal in the news" on the right with the latest links to our media interviews).

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If you would like to see more of my works, please, you are welcomed to visit my studio gallery...just give me a call before-hand so I can spruce up the place and give you directions to come over.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Launch of Lautan Tiga exhibition at Art Village, Bangsar South

Zainal presents a painting to Bingley for officiating the Lautan 3 exhibition.
Looking on are Suhaimi and Tuan Azhar

Yesterday, Bingley Sim, personal friend and art lover and art collector, officiated the Lautan 3 3-man show at Art Village Bangsar South.

In his speech, he said he was "a small-time art collector," but I beg to differ. His enthusiasm for Malaysian art has made a huge impact in the lives of many Malaysian artists, myself included.

His wife, Fatima, their children, Bella, Iza and Imen (please correct my spelling!), and Bingley himself are avid fans of art. Their support and encouragement has helped many artists to move forward in developing their works and careers in art.

Thank you, Bingley, for giving us your precious time to officiate the Lautan 3 exhibition. And thank you to everyone for sharing your Saturday with us and to enjoy the paintings we have ourselves enjoyed producing!
I also want to record my appreciation to Kenny Teng of Art Village for giving us this opportunity to showcase our works at his premises.

For pictures, go to our Facebook page.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lautan Tiga Exhibition

(please click for larger image)

Dear friends,

I'm happy to announce my upcoming exhibition "Lautan Tiga" at Art Village, opening on 21 November, 4pm (and continues till 13 Dec). I'd like to personally invite you to the launch and share my latest works with you.

The exhibition is personally something that I've wanted to do with two of my close friends, Suhaimi (Mie Pak Lah in this blog) and Tuan Azhar, my buddies from ITM "those days." I'm glad for this opportunity to exhibit with them finally!

Moreover, the exhibition will be launched by Mr. Bingley, who has been a great supporter of the Malaysian art industry, and who has encouraged me in the development of my work.

I'm also thankful to Mr. Kenny from Art Village for giving us the opportunity and space to exhibit at his chic new gallery in the esteemed neighbourhood of Bangsar South. (View map)

As to why we've named the show "Lautan Tiga," well, you will just have to be there at the show to find out!

Please come by and say "hi" to me...I look forward to seeing my old friends and new acquaintainces there!
Lastly, please spread the word. For Facebook promo, click here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Work in progress

Funny how the year 2009 started out quite bleakly with the world economic recession hanging over our heads and art business everywhere suffering a slow period. And now, here I am in the last quarter of the year running on 5th gear!

The most recent news is that I've managed to secure the house next door to be turned into my studio/gallery. Right now, I'm busy supervising the contractors to do up the place a bit, i.e. turning the garage into my work area, minor spruce-up works inside so that it will be a presentable art gallery, making my work-bench, etc.

Over the next few weeks/months, I will be installing the lights, getting the curtains, designing and making the storage equipment, and making my own simple furniture and minor storage accessories.

At the same time, I'm juggling my time to finish up some works for my up-coming exhibition in Bangsar which will hopefully happen in November.

And as the maiden exhibition at my studio, which I've simply called "The Art Room," I'm planning a show with some friends of the Penang drawings we made during the marathon. Hopefully that will be ready before the year-end.

It's quite a headache, but I don't mind this little pain knowing that there is an outcome to look forward to.

And so, who says an artist's life is one of leisurely pursuits? Sigh...

Monday, October 12, 2009

The 1st Malaysian International Drawing Marathon 2009

(At Suhaimi's house before we left for Penang)
(My drawing) (Suhaimi's drawing)

(Tengku Sabri's drawing)

(Tengku Sabri preparing to draw)

(Professor Fauzan Umar standing in as model)

(One of the participants of the marathon)

(Deep in discussion)

(Suhaimi and Lennon)

(The Cathay Hotel on Leith Street)

(Plumber on the move)

I am proud to say that I took part in the 1st Malaysian International Drawing Marathon 2009, the inaugural programme hosted by the School of Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang from 5 to 7 October 2009.

It was partly a male-bonding session with my friends and I who drove up together in my trusted station wagon. There was me, Lennon, Tengku Sabri and Mie Pak Lah, all excited, partly because of the drawing marathon, to meet my lecturers and artist friends, my art collector, and also because we wanted to make it a "food marathon," too!

It was literally a drawing marathon where some 20-plus artists stayed up the entire duration for 72 hours to draw. Drawing is one of the first things they teach you in art school, and it forms the foundation of your artistic strength in later years. It is so basic that many art students today disregard its importance.

For me, the drawing marathon was a welcome break from my paintings. Besides the invigorating exercises that pushed me to explore my drawing skills, it also rejuvenated my spirit in making art.

Being at the University, meeting Professor Fauzan Umar who first taught me drawing at ITM all those years ago, being in the company of other artists furiously sketching away -- these all combined to create an atmosphere filled with creative energy. Being there was truly an inspiring experience and sparked my ideas and motivation to create and explore the possibilities in my work.

It was a shame that the outdoors of Penang was not utilised much. Instead, the drawing sessions were held indoors (with the exception of the first day when we had a scheduled outdoor sketching session), with settings that immediately brought back memories of art classes from my college days!

I look forward to a yearly installment of this marathon, and hope that next time the organiser will encourage participants to freely explore Penang. After all, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and every street, every corner that you turn, you can feel the vibration and the energy from years of accumulated history, heritage and trade. Now that would make for some interesting output!

And as a little something new (because I always believe in lifelong learning and progress), I compiled the photos above in a little video. Enjoy it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

For the love of art (The Edge, 3 August 2009)

This article appeared in The Edge (Options) 3 August 2009.

Cultural Index: For the love of art

Full Circle

This article appeared in Accountants Today (August 2009), written by Anis Rozaimah Ramli. Please double click on each image to read the story.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Never a dull moment around here

(Raya at Pakharuddin's place)

I feel very bad for neglecting this space for so many months, but truthfully, with so many things going on in my life recently, and the puasa and raya festivities, I find that I hardly have time to update this blog.

My wife has been on a long leave from her job and we have been spending a lot of time at home together with Musa. It is nice to see her spend her time leisurely with me, instead of rushing off for work at the break of dawn and only to see her late at night.

My kids have also returned from their school in Jakarta for their annual holidays, and they, too, have kept me preoccupied. We recently went on a holiday together to Langkawi, all nine of us, and it was a very memorable trip for all.

Despite the demands on my time, I have also been working non-stop the past few months to produce works and to paint based on my trips this year.

In fact, there is an upcoming exhibition I am preparing for -- a three-man show with my good friends and artist comrades, Suhaimi Abdul Wahab (Mie Pak Lah) and Tuan Azhar. It's called Tiga Lautan and will be organised by Art Village in mid November. At least, that's the that I look forward to very much. It's meaningful to me because Mie and Tuan share the same feelings that I have on art and on the whole matter of "why we paint" and hopefully, the exhibition will materialise to enable us to share our feelings with others.

Finally, I'm taking part in an international drawing marathon organised by Universiti Sains Malaysia's art faculty. I'm also excited about this one because I've managed to rally up the interest of fellow artist friends to take part in this event with me up in Penang. As I understand it, the event will bring in artists from all over the country, and the world, for a gathering to do drawings with fellow artists. It starts this Monday, and Lennon, Tengku Sabri, Mie Pak Lah and myself are driving up for it.

My time is fully occupied these past few months and the next, for sure...I will be in 5th gear, moving things along...there are many things I want to record in this blog, but they can wait for the mean time.

And oh, almost forgot...God willing, I will be occupying the house next door very soon, and make it into my studio and gallery. My wife will be happy to have my paintings, easels, canvas and brushes and paints (which are now lying haphazardly on the floor of our current abode) out of the way, for sure...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rolex and art

(Above: Waterlilies at Janda Baik, Acrylic, 2006)

When I was a kid in school, I remember we always had to write an essay or karangan about our hobbies. Mine, of course, was painting. Friends would write about collecting stamps, catching fish, playing marbles, etc.

These days, I think our kids' hobbies are very different from my generation's. Theirs are probably more advanced and high-tech due to the new invention of things!

Recently, I got to know a new art collector based in the north. Besides collecting paintings, he is also an avid collector of rare and vintage watches, and specifically Rolexes! From his website, I learned about the history of this fine brand of watch and why even to this day, a Rolex is an esteemed timepiece that people are willing to pay thousands for as an investment or a much envied accessory.

Of course, many want to own a Rolex simply for the name and prestige that it commands today. But, for those like this Penang collector, his love for the Rolex is not only about the brand, but about the passion, fine workmanship and the commitment that goes into each vintage piece.

I hope this means that he collects my paintings, such as the one above, for the same reasons! Hehe...

Janda Baik sunset

Last week, we went to install a few paintings at Kevin and Dwina's house. Their main "feature" wall was red in colour, something that was of concern to the couple when they were looking for a painting.

But when we hung "The Janda Baik Sunset" against it, the red wall framed it quite nicely.
This particular piece was my wife's favourite because we both have a certain fondness for Janda Baik. It's one of those places that we used to frequent on the weekends for a quick getaway. My in-laws have a nice little apartment at Bukit Tinggi, and we have friends who live there, too, operating a little chalet business.

It's amazing that in just about an hour from the congestion of KL, we can already be amidst nature. Being partly in the highlands, Janda Baik is very cooling in the daytime, and extremely cold at night!

Like everywhere else, development is encroaching upon this tiny village, but there are still some very nice places there, with the rivers and streams, the thick jungle, the hills and valleys and wildlife there.

My wife wrote a poem about the place once, and I'd like to post it here...but will have to search for it first. She wrote about being at peace, the solitude there, the colours of nature -- a magenta-coloured dragonly -- and about doing absolutely nothing!
UPDATE: The poem by my wife:

The dream of pink dragonflies

We sat there by the pond
counting dragonflies
that flitted here to there
on paper-thin wings
of red, magenta-pink,
blue and gold.
I had never seen pink
ones before, I said,
Only dreamt them up
in my dreams.
But sitting there
by the water's edge
with tadpoles
swimming at my feet
and you lounging at my side,
it came to me,
-- a quiet smile --
my dreams had just
come true.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Our house is littered with books the living room, under the table, by the bedside table, and of course, in our throne room!

Even from a very young age, my son has shown a love for books. He is currently into Malay rhymes like "Aci, Aci buka pintu," "Can mali can," and "Suriram." The blue book (pic above, top left), "That's Not My Robot" is a particular favourite at the moment.

My wife buys books for all of us. Her recent book presents to me include The Artist Revealed (pic above) which she got during the Malaysian book fest at PWTC a few months ago. It features a short story about major artists through the years as well as their self-portraits. I think she is enjoying reading about them because unlike other art books, this one features the artists on a personal level and talks less about their works. She particularly loves reading about the female impressionists such as Berthe Morisot and the wealthy American artist, Mary Cassatt, who were both supportive of and influential to the artistic development of their Impressionist male counterparts.

Also, I think she is secretly smitten by the outwardly-gruff Edouard Manet!

The book isn't of great photo quality but it gives a glimpse of how all the artists were friends with or related to each other, and how they supported each other.

She also borrowed a book for me from her office library written by Ilse Noor, which features beautiful prints of Malaysia as well as some poetic writings of her travels around Malaysia. The book was commissioned by Shell.

So, these are some of the books we are reading now...although most times, we do tandem reading of several books at once!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend visitors

It was quite a busy weekend for me and my wife. On top of that, our maid wasn't feeling very well, and our son was extra active! But, it was a great weekend with friends, art and food!

First of all, I had invited my friend, Awie (pic above), to visit my studio and help me manage it this weekend. Musa simply adores him! The picture above makes him look very fierce, but personally, Awie is a gentle and soft-spoken person and a good friend. That's us having breakfast in my garden.

On Friday night, Azma brought her friends (pic above) over to view some of the paintings. One of them wanted to buy a painting for her future husband who is very much into art. She says that he picks up a piece of painting wherever he travels. It would be her maiden purchase. I think it's nice of her to surprise her man with something he likes! I hope that whatever painting she chooses, he will appreciate not just the artwork but also her gesture!

Azma's other friend was quite well-versed in art and has visited many of the famous art museums to view the original artworks. How I envy her! The above picture is of us having dinner -- roast chicken and potatoes.

On Sunday afternoon, we had invited Bingley and his brother (pic above, Kevin and wife, Devina) along with their wives over. Bingley's brother, Kevin, had expressed his interest in art, too, previously and finally managed to clear some time to visit my studio on Sunday.

He chose two paintings that were different from each other -- one was a soothing sunset landscape of the beach, the other was a vivid piece of the Janda Baik sunset.

I like these two pictures of Bingley and Musa below. Bingley was looking at some of my sketches done in the East Coast, and Musa was very interested to take a peek at them also!

It was very encouraging for me to know that the interest in art is spreading among more Malaysians...I feel very happy about this and it renews my semangat to continue with my paintings and to stick to this path!

To Azma, Bingley, Fatimah and friends, thank you for spreading the word.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The East Coast Chronicles: Cherating

Cherating was another disappointing stopover. I remember Cherating fondly from many years back as a small kampung that was considered a must-stop among backpackers and foreign travelers.

Swaying coconut trees,
small wooden huts and chalets,
walking barefoot along the small lane,
the sandy beach across with the pounding waves and
blue, blue sky that stretches forever.
RM20 chalets a night.
Homely hospitality.
De'moon chalet up on a little hill.
Nightwalks by the beach.
Staying up to count the stars.
These are the Cherating I recall in my mind.

That day I arrived in Cherating, I thought that I might have made a wrong turn into a different town, yes, town! Like almost everywhere else in Malaysia, the place has been over-developed with tall buildings, cement structures, etc. There are brick walls instead of wooden ones, there are astro dishes everywhere, karaoke blaring away, air-con boxes jutting out of walls and making that awful hum to break the day.

I guess the community there was not able to maintain the uniqueness of Cherating that made it so appealing in those days. Maybe the Cherating today is run by the new generation, I don't know.

It just seems stuck in between. Not really traditional, and not really modern. Confused, more like!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The East Coast Chronicles: Kemaman

I used to go to the East Coast a lot during my days in advertising. Some of our best clients were in Kuantan, Cherating and Kemaman.

In Kemaman, things sure have changed since. Small towns got bigger. Narrow roads got wider. Roadside stalls got demolished. The fishing village is vanishing, the makciks that used to sell keropok lekor are now fewer in numbers.

There was a small roadside stall in those days along Pantai Geliga, run by all the females of a family. They sold the best satar I've ever tasted.

Satar is mainly made up of fish, coconut, shallots, chillies and ginger, mixed to a paste and wrapped in coconut leaf, then grilled over low fire. The best ones are the savoury ones (so many people make it too sweet), and this particular stall at Pantai Geliga is rather famous, even in those days. Apparently they were among the first ones to sell satar. Today, they are even listed in the Tourism Terengganu website!

When I went there recently, it just wasn't the same anymore. It used to be a place where you could hang out with good food, pleasant company and scenic views. Now, the beach road is no longer there, replaced by a big and busy road. The patrons of the stall are mostly locals from around the area, and the overall ambience just isn't as friendly and laid-back as in the old days.

The place was jam-packed with people, and we couldn't get a table. In the end, we just ordered some to take-away. Despite the unwelcoming changes, one thing still remained the same...the satar was still damn good!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The East Coast Chronicles: Kuantan

Our first stop on this journey was Kuantan partly because Mie Pak Lah had a job to complete there -- an artist's impression of an old building in Kuantan that was scheduled for restoration.

We also had a contact there by way of Atord and his English wife, owners of Kuantan's most happening restaurant, Crocodile Rock. The restaurant is a converted bungalow near Teluk Cempedak, serving up really good food like pizzas, pastas, etc. From the looks of it, the place is pretty popular. No matter how packed the place was, Atord always welcomed us with food, drinks...and even accommodation! Yes, we put up our nights in Kuantan at his office. To Atord and wife, we thank you so much for your hospitality.
On the second night in Kuantan, we were introduced by Atord's wife to the Tengku Puan of Pahang. It was quite an honour for us to meet her, especially when we learned that she paints, too! I even managed to ask her to draw something in my sketch book!

Overall, Kuantan, I think, is well-placed as the gateway to the East Coast, especially now that the East Coast Expressway has opened, linking Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur within a couple of hours. However, this only leads to a disturbing juxtaposition of old and new in this capital city of Pahang.

On one side, you see the busy, thriving city and its young people chasing after their modern lifetstyle. On another, you see the older generation toiling away on their fishing boats at the nearby rivermouth, doing what they've traditionally done for years before.

On this journey, Mie and I sought out the old places which we feel were much more beautiful than any modern architecture or city could offer. We looked for the quiet spaces where the Kuantan of old still resides. And while these pockets of peace may have been rare and few in urbanised Kuantan, we did manage to find them in places like Pantai Gelora and Tanjung Api...even the names evoke a certain romance and nostalgia, don't you think?

Tanjung Api is a little fishing village where you can still see the fishing boats going in and out to sea at the Kuantan river mouth...all this within a short distance of Kuantan town itself. It was quite a sight to see a thriving, bustling town like Kuantan on one side, and the fishermen and their boats on another. It's a reflection of the see-saw balance between modern and kampung that is essentially Kuantan!

Teluk Cempedak was beautiful, too...tapi sayang, the view from the road leading to it was unceremoniously blocked by two very imposing Western influences, the red-haired clown in yellow overalls and the old guy with white hair...Those two just tipped the balance of Kuantan into ugliness.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The East Coast Chronicles -- My travel buddy

Suhaimi Abdul Wahab, also known as Mie Pak Lah, was my travel buddy to the east coast. He was my junior at the MARA Institute of Technology (ITM), studying fine art, those many, many years ago. That's how I first knew him.

When he went for the entrance interview at ITM's art and design school, he brought along an art porfolio when everyone else, his peers, brought along only themselves! Needless to say, he frightened the other candidates away!

But that is Mie Pak Lah and his desire for perfectionism. When he does something, he wants it to be as perfect as possible. (This, of course, becomes a problem when he has to depend on other people and their work doesn't meet his exacting standards!)

As a student, he was outstandingly skilled, especially in his drawings. He impressed the lecturers when many other students failed them.

Mie has never worked for any establishment, management or organisation, except that sometimes he teaches art on a part-time basis at some universities/colleges. Upon graduation, he traveled the world to Europe and many parts of Asia, living the life of a so-called bohemian. Wherever he went, he would do paintings and sketches, getting whatever payment he could get for them, surviving only on this.

I guess this makes him a naturally seasoned traveler -- one who can survive in any situation.

It was good to do this road trip with him because both of us wanted to paint live, and we both wanted to document the state of Malaysia at this time. It was a great opportunity for us to bounce ideas and challenge each other.

Furthermore, when Mie crits my work, he doesn't sugar-coat his comments. Sometimes it's tough to swallow, but then it is the bitter pill that makes us better.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The East Coast Chronicles -- Summing up

I'm back from my road trip to the East Coast. Mie Pak Lah and I travelled 13 days, through four states, and visited numerous little towns, secluded beaches, quiet villages.

Our journey started on 12 May and ended on 24 May 2009. From Petaling Jaya, we used the East Coast highway that brought us to our first destination, Kuantan, where we stayed for three nights.

Using Kuantan as a base, we explored the surrounding areas of Tanjung Api, Teluk Cempedak, and Pantai Gelora.

We left Kuantan town on 15 May and headed for Cherating, making a stop at Kemaman. In Cherating, we put up the night there and pushed off for Kuala Terengganu the following day.

Between Cherating and Kuala Terengganu, we passed by Kampung Rusila, Rhu 10, Kampung Cik Wan, Kijal and Kemaman.

We stayed in Kuala Terengganu for two nights, and visited the boat-making facility at Pulau Duyong. It was simply excellent.

We pushed off for Kuala Besut on 18 May, taking the scenic coastal road. Along the way, we stopped at Merang and made beautiful discoveries in Batu Rakit, Penarik and Mangkuk.

Our stay at Kuala Besut was hosted by a good friend, Lan Pulau. He made arrangements for us to go onwards to Pulau Perhentian Kecil, where we stayed at his place in Mira Beach.

We spent two nights on the island before we headed back to the mainland and onwards, with Lan Pulau, making us a threesome, to Golok, Thailand.

After putting a night at Golok, we left for Kuala Besut the next day, then Kuantan again, spending one night in each town.

By the 26 May, I was already on my way home.

I could easily say that the trip was about me and Mie Pak Lah. But, honestly, it wasn't just about us. My trusty station wagon, with its own character, also played an important part.

It was also the people we met along the way. Strangers would just come up and sit with us for hours as we painted. The fishermen, tired from days of work at sea, would beckon for us to share their fresh catch and lunch.

It was the food we had at simple stalls. The little roads we took by chance, which eventually led us to special and secret places so beautiful, we never imagined it could have been there. It was the atmosphere of the east.

We went without map or compass. Just with the serendipitous hope that we would be lucky.

We had gone with the intention of painting en plein air and we came back with the loot to show for it -- lots of watercolour paintings, studies and sketches in pastels, charcoal, watercolour and ink. We also took loads of photographs of the places we visited, and these will be our reference for our future works.

The next few postings will be on some of the places we visited and the experience of mixing with the locals.

One thing that struck me as weird, though, was when during one of my conversations with my wife, she asked me if I ever felt like a tourist when I was traveling to the east coast. And in answering her, I was surprised that yes, strangely, I did feel that way!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Painting outdoors

On location at Pantai Pasir Tengkorak, Langkawi, 2006

The French have an expression, en plein air which means "in the open air" that describes the act of painting outdoors.

Many of the Impressionist artists in mid-19th century painted under natural light because they wanted to study the effects of light and capture the fleeting scene.

Several developments in the art scene at that time facilitated this trend greatly. One was the introduction of tube paints which meant that ready-made paints were available to be carried around. Previously, each artist would have to grind up pigment powders in bowls and make them into paint mixtures before using them.

The second development that made plein air painting more popular was the invention of the French Box Easel which was essentially a portable box the size of a briefcase that opened up into a proper easel, complete with paintbox and palette.

Plein air painting poses a whole new challenge to me. I have to work fast, so much so that the final product looks "unfinished" due to the rough and loose strokes and patches of colour.

I suppose this is the "controversy" that Monet's paintings brought about among his peers who, at the time, painted in their studios and whose "traditional" works were very detailed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The road begins here

I am off on a road journey tomorrow for a working tour with friend and fellow artist, Suhaimi aka Mie Pak Lah. We both hope to do lots of traveling and live painting in the outdoors, documenting the scenery, the atmosphere and the spirit of the east coast of Malaysia.

The plan is to leave Kuala Lumpur and cut across central Malaysia and head for the coast, covering Kuantan, Beserah, Cherating, Kijal, Kemaman, Dungun, Kuala Terengganu, Pulau Duyung, Kuala Besut and Pulau Perhentian...but not necessarily in that order.

I'm very excited about this road trip we are taking. We're bundling up our art tools and equipment -- lots of paper, some canvas, watercolours, acrylics, charcoals, brushes, etc. -- and stuffing everything into the back of my Benz station wagon.

It will be classic! Just two artists, the open road, the sea, our canvas and paints. It's like Monet and gang in the Impressionist period!

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Sunday affair of art, food, books and conversation...

On Sunday, Bingley, Fatima and Azma came over to the studio to view my works. Azma has just started to collect artworks with the guidance and advice from Bingley and Fatima.

We first met at Eric Quah's exhibition in Starhill where we shared a table with Bingley and Pakharudin, talking about art, artists and collectors. After that first meeting, I often saw her at other art exhibition launches. I suppose, fired by Bingley's own interest in art, she, too began to develop a taste for it. With Bingley's advice and guidance, I believe she is off to a good start!

So that Sunday, my wife and I prepped up our home studio for the arrival of the special guests(my wife said that for the first time in many months, our house actually looked like a home instead of a makeshift store room for my art work and materials!).

After watching Scandinavian Cooks on the Asian Food Channel a few days ago, Ena was inspired to make something Swedish, so she tried her hand at making Swedish meatballs, complete with the cream gravy and lingonberry sauce! We served elderberry juice with some fizz -- the elderberry is a Nordic berry but with the addition of club soda, it tasted a bit like 7up! She also made some really nice potato mash.

And since we recently discovered the joyful combination of grapes and cheese, we served that up as dessert. For anyone who has never tried this before, you are in for a real treat! The sweetness of the grape combined with the tart creaminess of the cheddar cheese went down beautifully! My contribution to the Sunday lunch was my own creation of swiss brown mushrooms baked with mozzarella cheese...these were gobbled up the minute they were served.

In the end, the Sunday affair was filled with art, food, books and lots of conversation. Azma chose two pieces of my landscape works -- one was Ferns at Janda Baik and the other was Sunset at Tanjung Rhu, Langkawi. After seeing all the works, these were two that she wanted, she was sure of that. They struck a chord in her.

To Azma, I hope that you will always enjoy having them in your collection. I wish you all the best in your new adventure of appreciating and collecting art.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In aid of Force of Nature

I haven't updated my blog for such a long time. Actually, I have many stories to tell, just that I don't have the time! This entry should have been written in January, but I kept postponing it. Well, here it is now.

When my friend and art collecter, Bingley Sim, called to ask if I would like to donate a painting for the 7th Inter Malaysian Accounting Group's Golf Tournament 2008, which he was organising, I obliged. The above painting was to be the prize for the Hole-in-One winner of the tournament.

As it turned out, there was no winner for that category. However, during the golf tournament, I was introduced to Dato' Ali Kadir who was there for the prize-giving ceremony. He is a prominent figure in Malaysia's financial sector, and was among the few individuals called by our former PM, Tun Mahathir, to help the Government during the financial crisis.

Dato' was interested to purchase the painting in aid of a cause that he was supporting, i.e. Force of Nature Aid Foundation. Apparently, the Force of Nature Aid Foundation and PACE Art Gallery were working together to sell selected paintings to raise funds for the survivors of natural disasters. The artists involved included Ivan Lam, Yusof Majid, Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, and Ahmad Zakii Anwar. Dato' Ali Kadir had been invited to officiate the event.

To cut a long story short, on the night of the launch event, my painting was exhibited together with the works of other artists who had been invited by PACE Art Gallery. It was a rather awkward moment for me since my work wasn't part of the show's original lineup and only became part of it due to Dato's interest in it.

I hope I didn't step on anybody's toes on that night, and I sure didn't intend to offend the owner of PACE Art Gallery with the sudden showing of my painting. At the same time, I wasn't able to decline when Dato' Ali Kadir insisted on putting my painting, the one he purchased for the show, at the gallery.

It was, however, an honour for me to be part of the show and to do my bit to help out the survivors championed by the Force of Nature team.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Farewell, Ibrahim Hussein

Yesterday, we buried one of Malaysia's most prominent artists, Datuk Ibrahim Hussein.

Suhaimi and I were among the first at the cemetery, and we watched the mourners file in one by one to pay their last respects to a man who, in his lifetime, epitomised dedication and hard work in his art. I recognised his brothers, Datuk Abdullah Hussein and Tan Sri Ismail Hussein, Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, Datuk Elyas Omar, A. Samad Said, and Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, as well as art collectors Pakharuddin and Farouk, and the Pelita Hati artists, among those present.

I felt it was a pity that not many of Datuk Ibrahim's peers were there, but perhaps they were by his side at the hospital or home earlier.

The funeral rites were carried out amid silent weeping and swollen eyes. The afternoon heat dissipated quite suddenly for a few moments as the air cooled under the threat of some rain clouds, but the moment passed just as quickly without precipitation.

Throughout, and actually since I received the breaking news at dawn yesterday from Pakharuddin, who has to be given credit for being the eyes and ears of our art industry and the people populating it, I had been reflecting on my limited encounters with Datuk Ibrahim.

One of my strongest memories of him is of the grand appearance he made at the Persatuan Angkatan Pelukis Malaysia meeting at Balai Senilukis Negara in 1982. I was a student at the time, hanging out towards the back of the hall and listening to the panel discussions. Suddenly, Ibrahim Hussein arrived, making quite an entrance. The discussion ceased abruptly for a few seconds as everyone in the hall turned to take in this short and stout figure of a man sauntering in with no lack in style!

Looking back, I suppose you could say that Ibrahim Hussein's appearance at the meeting created a similar stir as his artworks -- and the prices they fetched-- did in the Malaysian art industry. Very few artists of the time dared to price their paintings as high as Ibrahim did. And the issues he dared confront through his art made him out to be a provocative -- some would even say audacious -- artist.

During the meeting, some unflattering remarks were made about "certain artists" who sold their works far above the market price. It seemed clearly directed to Ibrahim, who, during the question and answer session, didn't hesitate to walk up to the mike and state his mind on the matter.

He criticised the Malaysian artists for their tendency to keep works to themselves, and for always flocking together to complain instead of venturing outside of their comfort zone to reach out to the public. I talk about my art to everyone, from business people to gardeners, he said. The problem, he said, was that artists felt as though they were special people, direct from God. Artists, he said, need to work hard and not hope for fortunes to fall into their laps.

His little speech left everyone speechless after that. It would be the first and last time he ever went to an all-Malaysian artists gathering.

His opinions probably offended the feelings of some people, but whether you like to admit it or not, there was a whole lot of truth to what he said.

His words have stayed with me through the years.

I remember Ibrahim Hussein for more than this, too. I remember him for his My Father and the Astronaut. I remember him for his Senyum SeOrang Monyet. I remember him for his presence in the Malaysian and overseas art industry. And how he boosted the morale and confidence of my generation to continue our work and commitments to fine art.

Many people recognise Ibrahim Hussein for his groundbreaking efforts in elevating the standards and value of Malaysian art. For that, we must give him credit. He influenced many people and inspired even more.

To know that Ibrahim Hussein no longer walks among us, and that we will never see a new Ibrahim Hussein piece of painting, that is a real shame.

To Ibrahim Hussein, I bid you farewell. Semoga rohmu dicucuri rahmat.

To his wife, Datin Sim Hussein, and daughter Alia Ibrahim, I offer my deepest condolences.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Some paintings for Langkawi

Here are some of the paintings I recently developed. Maybe I will take them to Langkawi, maybe not...I haven't decided which yet. More paintings in future days.

Tanjung Rhu, Langkawi, 55x48 in, oil on canvas, 2009

The Harbour, Sunset #2, Langkawi, 49x46 in, oil on canvas, 2009

The Harbour, Sunset, Langkawi, 49x46 in, oil on canvas, 2009

Langkawi Sunset #2, 49x46 in, oil on canvas, 2009

Langkawi Sunset #1, 55 x 48 in, oil on canvas, 2009

Cenang Sunset, Langkawi, 55 x 48 in, oil on canvas, 2009