Post­card from Bali

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ART - By DINESH KU­MAR MAGANATHAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

IT was ev­ery­where. Hang­ing on hooks in ev­ery eatery the duo came across. Roasted, bar­be­qued, steamed and stewed.Worry crept in. They were go­ing to be here for a whole month and could not just be sur­viv­ing on cup noo­dles for the du­ra­tion.

Some­thing had to be done. They phoned their con­tact back in Malaysia and asked about eater­ies that served ha­lal food. Thank­fully, their con­tact knew ex­actly where to di­rect them and soon, af­ter days of eat­ing noo­dles, they were feast­ing on suc­cu­lent duck meat.

The days of see­ing swine ev­ery­where were gone. The ducks had ush­ered in a new dawn for them. If this was a dream (or per­haps a night­mare), one could imag­ine pigs and ducks fly­ing ev­ery­where in the Ba­li­nese skies.

And maybe that was what the two young artists saw in their mind’s eye. Even be­fore their artist res­i­dency pro­gramme in Bali was over, Na­jib Ah­mad Ba­mad­haj and Hisya­mud­din Ab­dul­lah took their ex­pe­ri­ence and this vi­sion to the can­vas.

And what re­sulted were two paint­ings de­pict­ing fly­ing pigs and fly­ing ducks, named Babi Ter­bang and Be­bek Ter­bang re­spec­tively.

Th­ese two art­works and nine oth­ers form the Nah! Bali ex­hi­bi­tion, show­ing now at the G13 Gallery, Ke­lana Jaya, Pe­tal­ing Jaya in Se­lan­gor.

The res­i­dency is an ini­tia­tive started last year by the gallery; Kenny Teng, the gallery di­rec­tor, shared that usu­ally, only one artist is sent over for the res­i­dency pro­gramme but they de­cided to try some­thing new this time around.

“Both of them have a dif­fer­ent cal­i­bre. It’s very in­ter­est­ing to see them com­bine their skills into one art­work. Truth be told, we re­ally didn’t dis­cuss how to go about the show­case un­til the month-long res­i­dency was com­pleted.

“That is when we de­cided that th­ese two artists should col­lab­o­rate to pro­duce ev­ery sin­gle art­work, and this is very rare and sel­dom heard of in our coun­try,” said Teng.

Both artists ob­tained their Fine Art de­grees from UiTM Shah Alam in Se­lan­gor. In spite of the young ages, their names are recog­nised in com­pe­ti­tions, ex­hi­bi­tions and col­lec­tions.

About the res­i­dency pro­gramme, Teng was quick to note that it is an im­por­tant el­e­ment in “the jour­ney of an artist.”

“Via a res­i­dency, they get to en­counter new things like new ge­o­graph­i­cal land­scape, new cul­ture and such that are dif­fer­ent from their daily lives.

“I be­lieve this is a time for them to ab­sorb new ideas and ways of think­ing in­stead of pro­duc­ing the same ideas again and again,” he added.

Two es­tab­lished names in the Ba­li­nese art cir­cles – Ny­oman Su­jana Kenyem and Putu Bonuz – guided the Malaysians dur­ing their res­i­dency in Bali.

Na­jib con­curred and said that though he pre­pared him­self by do­ing a lot of read­ing and re­search be­fore go­ing to Bali, ev­ery­thing changed once he was there.

“Ev­ery­thing changed for me be­cause it was all dif­fer­ent from our way and cul­ture. The Ba­li­nese so­ci­ety, their cul­ture and way of life, their art­works and even their rea­son to paint.

“How­ever, I wasn’t in­flu­enced by the Ba­li­nese art­works them­selves as they are still very tra­di­tional whereas the Malaysian art scene is very con­tem­po­rary. What I took from there and ab­sorbed was their way of think­ing,” said Na­jib.

The 26-year-old went on to say that the chal­lenge was to blend his and Hisya­mud­din’s dis­tinc­tive styles in­stead of chang­ing them al­to­gether so that peo­ple will not be taken aback and not recog­nise their art­works.

“So when you see th­ese paint­ings, it is as if another artist did it,” as­serted Na­jib, who is also part of the Young Guns 2013 ex­hi­bi­tion show­ing in Pe­nang now.

What tran­spired was an eclec­tic mix of themes on all things Ba­li­nese.

This was nowhere more ev­i­dent than in a se­ries of four paint­ings called Se­man­gat Alam (Spirit of Na­ture).

Tak­ing cen­tre stage in th­ese four paint­ings is a sculp­ture of Barong, the Ba­li­nese king of the spir­its, with a lion-like face, fear­some and ma­jes­tic, of­ten seen in Ba­li­nese cul­tural dances.

The four paint­ings de­picted dif­fer­ent facets of the spirit king’s face and had dif­fer­ent colour themes to rep­re­sent the four el­e­ments of na­ture.

The pre­cise lines and con­tours of the rock fig­ures al­lude to the em­ploy­ment of sten­cils but they were ac­tu­ally hand drawn by Na­jib, whose spe­cial­ity this is.

“Hisya­mud­din had the idea of jux­ta­pos­ing the spir­its with cul­ture and na­ture be­cause in Bali, the nat­u­ral world is their de­ity. More­over, peo­ple in Bali have the habit of putting a flower on their cars or be­hind their ears. That is why we de­cided to in­sert dif­fer­ent flow­ers in all four paint­ings,” ex­plained Na­jib.

But the duo did not only dwell upon the spir­i­tual. The so­ci­etal el­e­ments also in­formed their thoughts.

A long-en­dur­ing is­sue that plagued the lo­cals was of course the 2004 In­dian Ocean

It’s rain­ing ducks! be­bek Ter­bang is a per­sonal piece by the duo on their foodrelated dilemma in bali.

na­jib ah­mad ba­mad­haj (left) and Hisyam­mudin ab­dul­lah worked on all 11 art pieces to­gether, a rare oc­ca­sion in the malaysian art scene. — SHaHruL FaZry IS­maIL/The Star

Se­man­gata­lamI

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