How do we illustrate the definition of art in our minds?
The idea of it will almost always lead us to perfectly curated museums with clean walls and clear spaces where works of art are put on display in a clinical fashion. So, how do we actually capture the fun side of art? It can be at a restaurant or maybe at a brightly lit bazaar, where art is haggled over and handled like any other commodity. Taking a walk down the street with exquisite artwork plastered on the walls tends to illustrate a colourful atmosphere where the cool alchemy of the ‘uptown meets downtown’ crowd can come about. We always hear the cliche that art is subjective but we have yet to explore the authenticity of art through different dimensions.
Let’s see how art is seen and defined in the region, in spontaneous and exciting spaces where artistic pleasure can be found. We seek answers from those who make and collect art to find out what keeps them interested.
Art is often seen as some kind of beautiful corporeality which can portray different emotions and stories. It can be shown through canvas paintings, graffiti, photography and even food preparation. An artist’s capability to express their emotions with harmony through their works is a gift that should be celebrated. Some art fair organizers are satisfied to put up a tent and offer what is essentially a supermarket; aisles and aisles of artwork for sale. However, things are done differently in certain places such as Ipoh, where the physical walls of the town and the artistic expression of its inhabitants are infused to create new cultural objects in the murals that speak to those seeking some kind of a ‘new essence’ in art.
Walking down the back lanes of Ipoh definitely triggered an interest to uncover the stories behind each of these murals, where the vibrant colours on the walls definitely kept visitors’ cameras busy. These paintings done by local artists appear along the back lanes of Hugh Low Street and Hume Street, a block away from the Kinta River. The murals mainly illustrate local culture and history, such as tin mining, folk dances and traditional games. In order to get inspired by this new pictorial way of promoting colours and culture, art lovers come from a far to witness this episode of creativity in the capital city of Perak. It clearly shows that this is another way of capturing the divergent side of art.
20-year old Landscape Architecture student Maryam Adila Zulkifli defines art as a medium to explore herself.
“Most of the people I know nowadays go to art exhibitions and events on the weekends to check out the galleries. I stumble upon a lot of youths whenever I’m at a gallery preparing for my upcoming showcase. It’s a good thing to know that people are starting to appreciate and know about the existence of the local arts, especially the younger ones as this could be a platform to start something special.”
Maryam, who is an avid illustrator, demands that more space be provided to broaden the exposure of art in local society. Public events that showcase the work of young artists, for example, could be a great platform that could help the general public digest ideas about art.
Some people possess differing sentiments when it comes to interpreting art. This applies to 20-year old Fazlin, a first-year Architecture student who is currently pursuing her degree at Taylor’s University Lakeside campus. She has a different take on art and its revolutionary spirit. To her, art is defined as equally important as other complex ideas as freedom, justice and beauty.
“Art is worldwide and it is every which way we look and is mutually exclusive with the one who is attempting to define it. Art makes people discover the power of the imagination. Malaysia is a mix of the modern world and a developing nation. I do believe that art is growing slowly within our society. Youths today can easily appreciate art because of the growing number of free art galleries that display and introduce the public to well-known and emerging artists. I think the spaces provided for young artists to exhibit their work are more than enough. It’s us youths that take everything for granted.”
From young art enthusiasts, we move on to the experts. Passionate art lover Yasril Rasyid, who lives in Indonesia, appreciates art as a valid conception in his life. His adoration towards art is expressed through Naya Gallery, a private gallery space transformed out of his own garage where he accommodates all the paintings and sculptures he has collected from various artists. The gallery is open to the public as a space where others can partake in his love for art.
“Back when I was studying, I used to visit the Faculty of Art and just stare at the artwork since I couldn’t afford to own a piece myself.”
That was one of Yasril’s lasting memories when he first fell in love with art, particularly paintings. Although he is considered a newbie in this industry, he has managed to collect hundreds of paintings and sculptures in his private gallery. He has also created a website and a Facebook page as one of his initiatives in promoting what he values in art, and is glad that he receives love and support from his family in his efforts in expanding art locally and globally. A fan of realistic paintings, Yasril thinks that his aspiration in art has matured since those days when he used to consider art purely as a decorative element. He considers interpreting art as not just about looking at a piece to speculate but more about knowing the artists, and to do so he prefers to meet them himself to talk about their philosophy, inspirations and points of view so he can receive a better interpretive understanding of the artwork.
Just like an empty canvas which could be painted with different patterns and colours, there is still plenty of space for art to grow and contribute towards Malaysian society. It isn’t too difficult to adopt foreign ideas and improvise them into something new, refreshing and unique. Malaysia is a beautiful country with a rich culture, and as art infuses with that culture a whole new dynamic can be created where young artists will not hesitate to contribute their work. This could add more vibrancy and authenticity to our collective identity as a nation. Even our street art can become as meaningful as our street food. We have to acquaint ourselves and one another with our beautiful art culture in order to publicize it through all possible mediums. Magazines, blogs and photography exhibitions, for example, are platforms which can help to promote art in Malaysia. Exquisite spaces and solid channels to display these young artists’ artworks will encourage the community to keep on defining art through more unique and fresh ideas.
Let art be one of the main contributions to our culture for the whole world to embrace. As Edgar Degas would say, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
Edited for ISSUE Magazine by Muizz Adam.