Saturday, December 4, 2010

Life in a time of monsoon

The 25-year old wreck made of cengal

29 November 2010.

Going around Kuala Besut has led me to meetings with really fascinating people. This time, I met a man named Pak Eden. He goes around looking for old, abandoned boats, repairs them and sells them. He prepared five boats for U-Wei's latest movie, Hanyut. He offered to do up a small boat for me, an 25-year old wreck...but a beautiful wreck nonetheless, made of kayu cengal. I might take him up on that offer...who knows it will soon be displayed at my studio!

Later that afternoon we bade goodbye to Lan and Long and headed south to Batu Rakit where Awie's parents and his kids live. We stopped at Penarik, revisiting old haunts and did some waterclolours and pastels. Just some small sketches.

Painting the monsoon has taught me new lessons. I can't look at the landscape like i used to when I was doing the sunrise and sunset. The colours are not the usual.

Sometimes it's wet, no sun. Then, in some cases, like in penarik, it's bright and sunny and you get the colours and contrast and clear forms. I have to do something to show how different the light, colour and ambience are during this monsoon period. Maybe I will show this through the subject matter. I'm not sure yet. For now, I will just go along, observing and painting what I know -- the coconut leaves, the wind, the sounds, the morning activities, the sunrise, the food, the people...There's just too many places and things going on. I'm glad to have my camera to record all these as reference.

By the time we reached Batu Rakit, it was already dark. Awie's daugther is so pretty, she's about Musa's age. But his son, Saiful, is already in Sepang for his berkhatan with his cousin.

In front of Awie's house there stands a pokok rambai which is estimated to be more than 70 years old. In a few days' time, the village people are planning to cut it down. Great, timber for my sculpture! I'm making arrangements for someone to cut the pieces up and with the help of Awie's brother-in-law, we plan to take these back by lorry.

That night, we managed to get Ikan Lembat Salai, a delicacy here in Batu Rakit Darat. It's a seasonal fish, netted among the marshland only during the monsoon season when it's too rough to go out to sea. It's smoked to bring out the great flavours. That's for lunch tomorrow!

We woke up early next day and headed to the Batu Rakit beach to catch the sunrise. This time of the year, you get to see many fishing boats lined up next to each other on the sand -- a holiday for them and their owners. Still, if the weather permits, the brave ones go out to sea.

One of the last remaining British forts built during WW2.
And in the background, our trusty wheels!

The sunrise was cloudy and tiny drops were descending from the sky. You can't really see them but you feel the gentle rain on your skin. It's so cold and grey, and suddenly, the sun appeared! That's how it is here...the weather catches you by surprise and you never know what to expect from one minute to the next.

The locals here are forever grateful for any little bit of sunshine they can get during this period. At least, the clothes will dry. Funny, though, whether it drizzles or rain, you don't see anyone here carrying an umbrella. Nobody minds getting a little wet!

We later visited the famous Pasar Payang and got a batik shirt for a friend and a kain sampin for myself. After that, we went to Merang to do some sketching. The mood there is simply beautiful, especially the sunset during this tengkujuh time.

More photos here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

From Besut to Bachok

Pok Seng

After our harrowing journey from Pulau Perhentian Kecil, we made our base in Kuala Besut for a couple of days.

At the jetty, I took some photos of the place -- fishermen were repairing nets, some were just lepaking, the boats were bobbing quietly against each other...

One particular man caught my eye. An old Chinese fellow, probably in his 80s. As he walked around the area, it seemed like everybody knew him. I found out that he was an anak jati terengganu, having spent some time in batu rakit since 1947 and later moved to Kuala Besut in 1949. He works repairing boats and engines. His name was Pok Seng, and, boy, could he tell stories of Kuala Besut -- its history, the events that happened here.

According to him, in those days, there were no fancy technologies for fishermen to depend on. They only had their skills and simple observations of nature to rely on. Before going out to sea, they would literally "read" the signs in the air and the water. For example, the presence of many dragonflies foretold of the coming monsoon. Or counting the number of waves would reveal the exact moment to cut through the water to get to the rivermouth. And looking or putting their ears to the surface of the waters would enable them to identify what fish lay beneath.

He was quite a character!

An Abdullah Badawi lookalike

At noon, we had nasi kampung with ayam kampung goreng and the ulam-ulam that we brought with us. The day before, we had gulai itek, ikan keli masak lemak, ikan singgam, ikan tawar, budu ikan perkasam and lots of ulam. Delicious!After lunch I went to Tok Bali and to my surprise I saw the signboard to Bachok and Melawi. I didn't realise how close Bachok was to Kuala Besut. I used to live in Jelawat, Bachok, many years back in 1975 when I was in my mid-teens, with my eldest sister who was teaching in one of the schools there.

Monsoon in Melawi

So I re-visited the house we used to stay in and the beaches of Bachok, Pantai Irama. It has chaged so much. Pantai Irama used to be so clean and quiet -- I would go there almost every week. I realise now why I like to paint scenes of the beach and the sea. It has got something to do with my past experience there. Oh, but now, the beach is so dirty.

One of the specialities in Tok Bali is the pulut with ikan tawar (grilled ikan selayang). Very nice, but not good for me!

Boats at Tok Bali

More pictures here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Caught in the monsoon!

The brewing storm

"Jangan lalai!"

Those were Lan's last words of caution before we all jumped into the tiny boat in the drizzling rain, pushing off the shore for the mainland. He meant it for Long, the boat driver.

They've made the journey together countless times, from Perhentian Kecil Island to Kuala Besut jetty, a trip that, in good weather, usually took only about 30 minutes. But this time, with the winds threatening to blow again, and the rain picking up, we weren't even sure if we'd reach the mainland in one piece. The monsoon had claimed many lives before this.

One quick prayer, and with my trust in Long, we shot straight into the dreadful, brewing weather.

Our tiny boat

Lan and I sat in front, while Awi took the middle row. Long, navigating from the back, had earlier warned us not to panic and, no matter what, to be quiet, he would handle the boat.

I was thinking of my wife and kids the entire way, and what I was going to hold on to should we capsize! Lan, as though reading my mind, whispered, "If anything happens, just hold on to the boat."
Mid-way, we encountered huge waves that just kept hitting hard on the boat, non-stop. Then one particularly monster wave rolled up and almost overturned the boat! I could see Lan's face. We were all scared. Then Lan switched places with Awie; he took a piece of rope and tied it to a petrol container. I knew that he was preparing something for us to grab on to should the boat capsize.

The ride was rough but Long was a fine driver. His skill was once again tested as we approached the river mouth of Kuala Besut. The waves and current at the breakwater were extremely strong, pushing the boat backwards. There were two big fishing boats there as well, both struggling as much as we were.

We could actually see the jetty and knew that if we could just pass through this part of the water and enter the river mouth, we would be home free. But the choppy waters kept throwing our boat back and forth, left and right.We looked at each other's pale faces. I could only think of my family.

Long slowed down the boat engine, waiting for just the right moment to cut through the waves. He finally made a decision, revved up the engine and shot through the waters. I wasn't sure if we would make it, and just left it to fate. After several seconds or minutes, I don't know which, of struggling to ride the waves through the opening in the breakwater, we finally made it!

Safe on land
What a relief! Long immediately cut the engine and the boat just bobbed in the calmer waters. Muka Long yang hitam pun boleh nampak putih! Well, he's the driver with four lives in his hands...I guess he felt the pressure!

Once on land, I rushed to pee! I wanted to text Ena to tell her I was safe, but I couldn't find my phone. A few people came by, surprised to learn that we had made it from the island in this weather.

It was almost 1pm when we reached the mainland. I don't know how long we had been in the water, but it was the longest ever ride for me.

C-3PO: Sir, the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately three-thousand-seven-hundred-twenty to one!
Han Solo: Never tell me the odds!

From The Empire Strikes Back
More pictures here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"All right, Chewie. Let's get outta here!"

"All right, Chewie. Let's get outta here!" Han Solo, Empire Strikes Back

Last night, after that fantastic ebek dinner, I sat down with Awie and Lan to discuss our plan for the next few days. I was hoping to experience the monsoon on the island but Lan said we shouldn't wait for it here. Because once the monsoon hits, we might not be able to get out of the island for at least two weeks, due to the continuous bad weather. And we couldn't stay that long because of limited supplies.

So the plan was to leave the island on Sunday morning. Well, that very night, it started to pour and the wind blew in great gusts, howling away, "here we come!" It was a frightening sound, one I can't imagine how to paint! The moon was bright so I could see the coconut trees swaying roughly from where I was sleeping.

This morning, when I woke up, the weather was very cold and it was still raining very heavily. The cloud formations were huge and dark. The entire sky seemed like it was crying. The winds were blowing intermittently. Huge waves were rolling in and I could see the contrast in colour between the greyish blue sky and the greens of the water at the shoreline.  It was impossible to imagine any kind of sea travel today!

But when Lan woke up, he took one look at the sky and said we would have to leave immediately when the rain stopped. Otherwise, we would be stuck here for two more weeks without food and clean water supply.

It was a grim moment for all of us as we quietly but hurriedly packed up our things and water-proofed them in plastic bags. Luckily, before we left the mainland on Wednesday, Lan had already advised us to pack light.

To be honest, I was very frightened to go out into the sea in this kind of weather. Furthermore, our boat was small, tiny compared to these monster waves, and worst of all, we didn't have any life jackets...

More pictures here.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Me with the barracuda and ebek
On the island. Perhentian Kecil, Terengganu. The weather's been inconsistent. Sometimes it is bright and sunny, and in an instant, a matter of seconds, minutes, the winds can blow in these huge, dark clouds overhead. The atmosphere, when it is dark and gloomy like this, is charged with an electric feel. Cold.

My mornings are spent with my camera and watercolours. There is total silence here. Hardly a soul is in sight. Lan's place, Keranji Resort is the only cluster of chalets on this beach, and we, the four of us, are its only tenants. 

Awie cleaning the fish
Around 4 pm today, we went out to sea to catch some fish for our dinner. I was hoping to get something like mandi abu or ebek. Lan was lucky to catch the ebek. It's a beautiful fish that looks like an angel fish. It's upper (dorsal) fin curves long towards its tail and has a kind of flower-like bud. I understand it's expensive too. I caught a barracuda, the locals call it ikan kacang. We also fished some kerisi, selar kuning, tamban and others. 

Back on the island, I cooked the fish -- made curry and fried some of them. Dinner was lovely, especially the ebek -- no wonder Mie Pak Lah always raved about it!  

Simple but delicious dinner

More pictures here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monsoon island

I woke up early this morning to prepare for our trip to Perhentian Kecil. Feels a little bit like playing Russian roulette. We might be hit by a bad storm in the middle of the journey, we might not.

Anyway, we packed some supplies – veggies, ikan masing, fishing hooks, fruits, water – and by were already in the boat. There’s the four of us – Lan and his assistant, Awie and me. There were feelings of apprehension, excitement, foreboding.
Shh! Artist at work
The journey was surprisingly smooth. Weather was calm, the waters were as still as glass. But you know what they say about the calm before the storm. Heh.

When we landed on the island, not a single tourist was in sight. Jetty was deserted. Lan’s place looks like it hand been abandoned for years instead of just weeks! The chalet I stayed at the last time has been smashed during the first monsoon. Seems like we landed on adventure island!

Halfway on the journey here, we stopped to fish. Oh, seronoknya, The last time I fished like this was like some 13 years ago! We caught kerapu and kerisi for dinner. Fresh fish is divine!

One of my watercolour pieces
So, I’m safe on the island. No monsoon, though. Some of the local folks are saying that the monsoon might arrive late like last year, in January or February. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ve got fresh fish to fry!

More pictures here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

From Cherating to Besut

Dear Sayang,

We have left Cherating. We plan to drive non-stop to Besut and meet Lan there. While the weather’s still good, we might as well make the most of it and head for the islands. According to the locals, the first monsoon wave has passed but the second will be coming any time soon.

Breakfast this morning was in Kemaman – I was looking forward to my first nasi dagang on this trip. Unfortunately, it was a super sweet. I couldn’t finish it.

The river at Rantau Abang
We drove up to Kuala Dungun to check out the old ITM hostel where I used to stay. Well, it’s gone now. Only memories are left.

We made a stop at Rantau Abang for lunch. The lempeng kelapa was so nice. This was my “comfort food” when I was little. Eating this today made me remember my childhood days again.

Our next stop was at a place called Kelulut, for keropok lekor by the beach. Sayang, its so nice having tea and keropok by the beach, with the sea breeze blowing. We must come here with Musa and Maryam. I’m sure Musa will like it. I miss you all.
Kepok at Kelulut
The drive to Kuala Besut was bright and sunny all the way. Except in places near Kerteh and close to Besut where we experienced some rain but it did not pour.

The weather is unpredictable. The sky changes all of a sudden from sunny to dark but doesn’t really rain. We passed Penarik but didn’t stop this time because it was already late. By the time we reached Kuala Besut, it was almost .

Dinner tonight was nasi lemak with lauk ikan which you can’t get in KL. The gerai here makes four large periuk of it every day. Can you imagine how many bungkus they sell every day?

Tonight, we are sleeping at Keranji Resort’s office in Besut. 

More pictures here.

Chasing the Monsoon

Been talking to Ena about making a trip to the east coast during the monsoon season to paint and see how the grey and charged atmosphere of the rainy season there would translate on canvas. At first I had wanted to bring the entire family. Rent a kampung house near the sea, we'd sleep and cook there. Fish, paint, wander. And at the first sign of clear weather, make the sea journey to the Perhentians.

Our chalet at The Moon in Cherating
But practicalities took over -- as they always do -- and we decided that it was best that I make the trip on my own for work. So here I am, on the road again, chasing the monsoon.

My friend Lan Pulau who runs Keranji Resort at Perhentian Kecil Island had called to say that the weather is still good for island travel. The next few days might be the last chance to go to the island before the monsoon season descends proper. Immediately, I packed up my supplies to head for the island.

If before, I had made the trip with Suhaimi or Mie Pak Lah, this time, it is with Awie. He's been assisting me with running the studio for many months now, and in return, I teach him what I know. He's also one of Musa's "best friends"!
Need my coffee fix
From KL, we pushed off on 22 Nov, and made a stop at Kuantan for coffee (Good coffee is an indispensable companion), before moving on to Cherating. There, we put up the night at The Moon chalet (at RM30 a night, it was cheap). During my advertising days, I had always made The Moon my pit stop on my way to Kuala Terengganu for work. The owner at that time was some British chap who's philosophy in running a chalet was pretty simple...books, beer and conversations.

Now, though, the place is run by Indonesians. It looks almost abandoned, uncared for.

I couldn't wait to leave.

More pictures here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Drawings by Tengku Sabri

From L-R: My wife, Ena taking notes; curator Sau Bin, myself and Pokku
A couple of nights ago, The Art Room welcomed some visitors for an important meeting.

Tengku Sabri and Yap Sau Bin came over to discuss an upcoming project with The Art Room. My wife and I are planning to hold an exhibition for our dear friend, talented sculptor, voracious reader, our personal art critic, knowledge-person, and hard-core rocker (although this last description has only been revealed by the artist to very close friends, and even then, never before midnight!), Tengku Sabri, or as we sometimes call him, Pokku by virtue of his Terengganu heritage. We look forward to showing many of his drawings from what we are now calling the "Gunung Daik" series as well as other collections.

So there we were, a little before midnight, with about 20 to 30 pieces of Pokku's drawings from the Gunung Daik series assembled on the floor. We listened to Pokku speak passionately about these works that were done some twenty years ago. Works that told stories not only about this mythical land --Gunung Daik -- he created in his head, but also about the state of the real world he lived in at the time.

With any work of art, the viewer benefits from two levels of appreciation. The first, is the surface appreciation for the beauty or skill presented in the work. However, the experience is enhanced when the viewer is able to understand the work of the artist on a deeper level, i.e. what drove the artist to create the work, the so-called "story" behind it all.

One of the drawings to be exhibited for the Gunung Daik show
This collection of drawings, I think, promises to be a unique exhibition of Pokku's works that have never been publicly available before. While many know Pokku for his skills in producing fine sculptures and for his frank commentaries on art, I believe this series will show a darker, intense side of the artist that will be equally intriguing.
With Sau Bin as the curator of the show, we look forward to introducing viewers and art friends to this series of rare drawings and observations by Pokku. Details of the exhibition will be released at a later date.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thirty Art Friends

Many weeks ago, Bingley Sim, one of my very first collectors, and now family friend, presented me with a book, "Thirty Art Friends." Published by a group of 30 art collectors in Malaysia and Singapore, it features some of the art works in their collection.

In the book, Bingley had chosen to talk about one of my paintings, "Memories of Pulau Lang" -- in his words, "the first of the many Zainal paintings I have bought."

I remember that first visit by Bingley and his wife, Ima, to my home. It was late morning, and my then-fiance (and now, wife) had shown them the way over to this new housing area where I was renting. At that time, I didnt' receive many visitors over, what more collectors, so this visit was pretty memorable!

Bingley was interested to see my paintings and I brought out my landscapes one by one from my store room. But his curiousity got the beter of him and he peeked into the store room. That was when he saw the "Memories of Pulau Lang" painting which I never intended to show in the first place!

That particular painting was done while I was teaching at an art college, and times were hard. I hadn't been able to travel to paint the landscapes and could only paint from memory. Thus was born "Memories of Pulau Lang" because on that canvas I poured my feelings and memories of that beautiful island in Terengganu.

When he expressed his interest to purchase it, I was hesitant. It was one of very few abstract pieces that I had done at the time and it was of significant importance to me -- I didn't want to "lose" it and never see it again by simply letting it go to any buyer.

However, I was also facing some financial difficulties and needed some extra cash for the impending wedding. In the end, after Bingley assured that I could come over to his place any time I wanted to view the painting, I relented. I guess you could also say that without Bingley and Ima, there wouldn't have been a wedding! Haha!

Well, true enough, Bingley and his family remained close friends to us and we've both visited each other's homes many times. I'm happy and not at all regretful of letting go "Memories of Pulau Lang" to him. He has been very encouraging of my development in art and for him to feature my painting in "Thirty Art Friends" is a great honour for me.

On a related note, nowadays, whenever Bingley comes over to the house, my store room is one of the "must see" places in his agenda (proven in the pic below; Bingley is the guy in white t-shirt with his back to the camera)!

Anyway, to Bingley, Ima and their children, thank you!

The book "Thirty Art Friends" and a related exhibition will be officially launched on Saturday, 26 June, at the National Art Gallery. All are welcome! In the meantime, read more about it here and here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Open house!

On 14 March, we had a small minum petang with neighbours, friends, family, artists and art collectors at my studio. It was a sort of a studio/gallery warming tea party.

The afternoon started off with a great big storm, but after it cleared, the guests started arriving. The last ones left at 2am!

I'd like to thank everyone for coming and sharing this little space of mine. More pictures here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Directions to my studio

My studio is about 20 to 30 minutes away from most parts of Klang Valley, i.e. Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. It may be a little out-of-the-way, but it's along a major highway/road, and with the instructions below, you should be able to find it. If you think you are lost, you can always send an SOS to us on our mobile phones!

No. 10 &12, Jalan PUJ 4/10A
Taman Puncak Jalil
43300 Seri Kembangan
Tel: 012 321 9137 (Anis) / 019 617 3706 (Zainal)


If you’re coming from KL, get on the Federal Highway and go towards PJ area. After the Guinness factory on the left, stick to the left lane and go up the flyover that looks like the Jambatan Pulau Pinang, then take left. (The landmarks at this flyover are Freescale factory and the Bali building). Proceed straight all the way to the Sunway Toll, then follow instructions below.

If you’re coming from PJ / Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, get on the LDP, you will drive past Kelana Jaya LRT station, Giant Mall, Kelana Seafood Centre, Yamaha Music School, etc. Soon, you will pass Western Digital on your right and LDP Furniture Mall on your left. Once there, you should get on the flyover and go straight on, heading towards the Sunway Toll Plaza. Then, follow the instructions below:

From Sunway Toll Plaza, basically, you just need to go all the way to Taman Teknologi Malaysia / Technology Park Malaysia (there are appropriate signages). At TTM, you need to do a U-turn which will then take you to Taman Puncak Jalil. However, below are the detailed instructions with some landmarks highlighted for you. Please read these notes carefully before you begin your journey, they will get you safely to my studio.

1.At the Sunway Toll Plaza, choose "Plaza B" and pay the toll (RM1.60 post-hike)

2.Follow signage to “Sungai Besi and Taman Teknologi Malaysia”

3.Go up flyover, stick to the left-most lane

4.Come down flyover, and continue to follow signage “Sungai Besi and Taman Teknologi Malaysia” – just stay on this main road

5.Pass 2 Shell stations – one on your left and another on your right (current MRT construction on-going at the moment, which may just obstruct the view of Shell station on the right)

6.Pass Giant Hypermarket on your right. Quite a long road, a couple of kilometres

7.MAJOR LANDMARK: Road will slope downhill, and you will come to traffic lights. At the traffic lights are Petronas and Shell on your right.

8.Go straight at traffic lights, there will be a flyover to Taman Teknologi Malaysia.

9.GO UP FLYOVER. Traffic lights, turn right. Another traffic light, turn right again. (You are making a big u-turn to come back down to the main road but this time heading towards the way you just came.)

10.Once on the main road, the Petronas and Shell will now be on your left. Drive past.

11.IMPORTANT: Drive slowly and stick to left lane, and take the first left turn. There is a small signboard that says “Taman Puncak Jalil” just before the turning.The left turn is just before a building (this is Sirim building). Once you have made the left turn, the Sirim building will now be on your right.

12.Stick on this road and it will swerve to the left, just follow it.

13.Traffic lights, go straight.

14.You will see a Petron gas station on your left. Proceed on this main road until you see a Pasaraya Khas on your left. IMPORTANT: There will be a junction further up. Stick to the right lane and proceed straight uphill at the junction.

15.Eventually, the road will take you up a slope and you will be facing a small hill. The road will swerve left and here you will see a small Hindu temple. Once you have made this left swerve, take the 3rd right turn (you will see a small TNB substation). If you see a small surau on your right, it means that you’ve just overshot it – backtrack a few paces).

16.You are now on Jalan PUJ 4/10A – it’s a dead end road. Look out for house No. 12 with the big cherry tree in the garden. It faces a hill with a tree-like tower. You are now at my studio!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Apprenticeship at The Art Room

(Me using pastels)

These days, the studio is seeing quite a bit of activity with the arrival of two people who are apprenticing at The Art Room. Yes, things are getting a bit busy and the studio space is feeling a little bit cramped since Awie and Khairunissa joined me here.

But I'm not complaining. They are here to learn and I am rather glad to have their company and assistance. I try to instruct them what I know. It's in no way formal education. Nor is there a particular system employed to ensure their enlightenment.

(Musa observing Awie's observational skills)

Daily, they do drawing exercises -- blind contours, vertical and horizontal lines, etc. They learn about tonal values, observational skills and such.

Besides the instruction of basic skills, I also let them learn about cutting the canvas, stretching it and basic carpentry skills to make the stretcher. In the studio, they assist me with displaying the artworks on walls, and also, occasionally paint the undercoat for my works. This last exercise, I believe, will help them get comfortable with the oil and acrylic mediums -- how each feels on canvas, how the brush works with these different media, etc.

(Me trying to capture the fleeting evening lights at Putrajaya)

Last weekend, we arranged an outing to Putrajaya Botanical Gardens for some outdoor live drawing sessions. The beautiful scenes there made for some really interesting inspirations and I think it was a change of scenery for both Awie and Kharunissa.

(Khairunissa practising her vertical and horizontal lines)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New paintings

I've just updated my Flickr account with photos of some works done in 2009 and 2010. Some are waterlilies, some are sunset landscapes and others are...ermmm...well, see for yourself lah!

These paintings are also currently up at my studio...before I bring them down for the group show of paintings from the Penang Art Marathon.

In the meantime, enjoy...!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Visit to Pakharuddin Sulaiman's gallery

When a whole motley crew of artists and collectors get together, it is usually at an exhibition opening, and it is usually a kind of an awkward affair -- you're there for the sake of the art gallery owner or the artist whose works are being displayed...well, not all the time lah...Other than these two people, you hardly know anybody else there, and pretend to look very interested in the paintings to escape from having to make small talk.

In November last year, such a gathering came together. But it wasn't at any of those commercial art galleries, and it wasn't for any exhibition opening. It was at Pakharuddin and Fatimah's gallery of their collected art works somewhere in Ampang. It wasn't the least bit awkward, thanks to Pakha's unique personality to bring all sorts of people into the conversation.

It felt, rather, like a much-anticipated tour -- the ones my school always arranged for its students to go on some educational field trip -- headed by Pakha himself! The "students" in this case included artists, friends and collectors. Among them were Tengku Sabri, Raja Shahriman, and U-Wei.

Pakha's gallery was really impressive, filled with paintings and sculptures. He knew every piece in his collection, the story behind each work and the reason for collecting them. Another part of his collection that was mind-boggling was his books -- lined up neatly against the walls. Another voracious reader, Tengku Sabri, was similarly impressed with his books, too!

After the gallery tour, Pakha and his wife took us to lunch -- the first choice, to eat assam pedas, had to be cancelled because the restaurant was closed. We finally went to an Indonesian restaurant where we all gathered around a long table like a big artist family gathering!

Pakha, as always, was very lively and had an interesting opinion, or unique perspective, on everything...entertaining us with all the latest news in the art circle...and the gossips! Tak kering gusi langsung to be in his company!

(The last two photos of me are with Raja Shahriman the sculptor whose works were at the time being displayed in a solo at Petronas Gallery, and with one of Pakha's collection which was my favourite, a work by Amron Omar)