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Newcomers as gallery owners but not to the world of art, three art lovers want to raise the bar for artists, especially those from Perak, writes INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL
The guys are in high spirits. The launch of their first exhibition, Semangat Chandan, officiated by the Raja Muda Perak Raja Nazrin Shah ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbudin Shah, was a success.
Art-lovers Nazli, 41, Faisal, 47, and Azim, 48, are bubbling over with enthusiasm as they talk about the new Galeri Chandan in Jalan Gelenggang, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur which showcases stunning pieces of art by Perak artists.
As they walk me through the unique contemporary space that used to be a furniture showroom, the pride in their eyes and voices is obvious.
True-blue Perakians, save for Nazli, who’s only half Perakian (his mum is from Terengganu), they tell me that the gallery was born out of a love for their ‘homeland’ which is rich in its cultural heritage.
“It all started when Faisal and I went to an exhibition in an art gallery,” begins Azim, who’s been in banking all his life, and is also a politician and businessman. “We were told by the owners that not one piece had been sold. To think that after all their work, the artists, all from Perak, couldn’t even sell one piece.”
Taking a drag of his cigarette, the Cancerian continues: “I remember telling Faisal and Nazli then that maybe we should consider having a space that focuses not only on Perak art but also her culture because there’s definitely a void of it in KL.
“When people talk about Perak handicraft, they think labu sayong only. But there’s also the art of tekad and we also make keris. That’s how it developed. It was meant to be a centre for Perak arts and culture but we needed something that could generate income. So we turned to something else – Perak artists.”
When they sat down to review top names in the local art scene, they realised that few were from Perak. When they eventually decided to proceed with the gallery, they had one condition – the opening exhibition must comprise only Perak artists.
“Our first show was Semangat Chandan. Chandan is a town in Kuala Kangsar,” explains Faisal. “Istana Iskandriah is located on Bukit Chandan. In Perak, if you say you’re from Chandan, chances are you probably have a link to the palace.”
Azim, who comes from Batu Gajah, says: “Chandan also evokes a sense of royalty, pomp and pageantry and it’s the centre of culture for the State too. If the gallery does well we might be able to dedicate a space for non-profit making elements like tekad, keris, songket and tenun.”
The chaps have big plans but for now, they’re content to let the gallery find its own footing. Says Nazli, whose background is in professional building (architecture and quantity surveying): “There are lots of galleries in KL. We just want to see ours evolve. We’re not going to decide what and how it should be. That’s why we’re going back to our roots and see how it takes off from there.”
“Artists have their artistic journeys and along the way they’ll yearn to return to their roots. With this exhibition, it’s like a signpost for them to come back to a point of their common origin,” adds Faisal, an interior designer by profession who also has an investment in a small art gallery in Plaza Damas.
They began with a list of 60 artists from Perak and made cold calls. Nazli, a youthful-looking father of four, remembers it as very challenging. “Many were not convinced that we were for real! Thankfully, we managed to gain their trust and ended up with work from 21 artists.”
As for their vision for the gallery, Azim, confides: “We want it to be different. We’d like people to enjoy art and realise the value that’s attached to each piece of art. We also want to gain the confidence of artists and art lovers to our gallery.”
The guys aim to raise the bar for Malaysian artists by instilling professionalism into their work. “We want to document pieces we sell,” says Nazli. “People buy not only for the love of art but also for its value. And creating value isn’t just about having good PR. You do it by having an analysis from an expert – curators, people who bring the value of the work and immortalise it — making it a reference for other analysis.”
Faisal concludes: “As a gallery, we’re also looking at art that makes good expressions rather than just good impressions.”
YA! These are ThreeSixty Art Development Studio’s first eleven
I saw the hunger in their eyes when I met them last week. Eleven young and passionate art students, with fire burning in their belly, aspiring to be full-time artists. If those 11 were for real, it was definitely the mark of a new awakening in our art scene.
At first blush, the students appeared naïve and easy as ice creams on cones, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. There was more to these undergrads than meets the eye.
They call themselves ‘YA’, a play on both the phrase Young Apprentices and an affirmation to their entrance in art scene (ya meaning yes in Bahasa Malaysia). Thus, “360 YA!” group show was conceived as a collaborative step between the studio and YA group.
The idea behind the show is to shift public myopia and their fixation on established artists towards a network of young talents who are poised to become professional artists any time soon. But it won’t be a walk in the park. First of all, Threesixty Art Development Studio’s very act in plucking these students from their varsity and putting them straight into the commercial world is in itself a gamble, especially since this is the studio’s only second show.
Secondly, we will be the first to admit that raising new talents is not an easy task. They’ll get on your nerves, burn your energy, be crybabies and generally make a misery of your life. “Be careful when dealing with young artist, they are brats who bite the hands that feed them,” people say about ‘aspiring’ artists “They’ve got attitude!”
But aren’t all nurturing processes like that?
We are not intimidated, even while we are perpetually bombarded with these warnings. For once, why not let these kids swim in their attitudes, give them full license to rebel, tolerate their attack on our front and allow them do this their way? What’s the worst that could happen? They don’t even have enough confidence to stagger the art scene to begin with. Because I know that whatever attitude that they have, it is not borne out of self-belief. They still need us to guide them and be their support system.
Our studio is giving these young artists a chance to use our space as a stepping stone in entering the real scene. We are going to let them handle their first commercial show on their own. We are not going to breathe down their necks but give them total freedom if that’s what they need.
These 11 serve as a preview of what we have in store. Over time, we intend to inspire other art graduates, make them be part of the scene rather than dissolve into anonymity or doing odd jobs to make ends meet.
My communion with Young Apprentices group that Sunday was a testament to their commitment, interest, passion, ideas and perseverance all wrapped up in one. Honestly, I’m loving their spirit. Let’s give these new artists a chance. We don’t have to bend over backwards to help them; just invite them into the picture in anticipation of a new wave in the art scene.
by Faizah Elis
e : firstname.lastname@example.org
The ThreeHundredSixty crew interviewed Yeoh Jin Leng a prominent Malaysian artist and cultural ambassador and went home with priceless insights of his colorful artistic journey
Yeoh Jin Leng will be featured in the inaugural show of Galeri Chandan Bukit Damansara, entitled SEMANGAT CHANDAN : CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS FROM THE LAND OF GRACE in June 2008 – A celebration of 21 talents from Perak Darul Ridzuan