The Keris Makers of Kelantan

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“Keris” is an ancient traditional Malay weapon, often although not necessarily with a wavy blade, damascened with beautiful patterns forged into the steel with a stylized, carved hilt of wood.  Continue reading

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The Art Of Stone Lithography Prints

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Artists are constantly inspired by not just what goes on around them, but also what is missing or absent from around them.

Recently, I had the opportunity to write about my trip to Paris where I spent some time with Malaysian artists Ahmad Zakii Anwar (Zakii) and Jalaini  (Jai) Abu Hassan. Whilst the main object of the trip was to attend an art event at the Pompidou, it turned out that the trip led me to host a full blown art show on stone lithography prints by the two artists at Cult Gallery, an art space I co-founded.

The “Stoned in Paris” show opened on the 28th of July 2018. The show displayed lithography prints created by the two Malaysian artists at Idem Paris, a workshop in Montparnasse, Paris renowned for printing stone lithographs in a traditional way from over 100 years ago. It was the first time Jai and Zakii had created artworks from the stone lithographic process. This is because Malaysia does not have the kind of facility that Idem Paris has. It was truly exciting for the two artists to find a new way to express themselves simply because there were new equipment and an environment in which to do so.

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For the show, Jai produced a series of works comprising lithographic prints entitled  “Jembalang Busut Jantan” and subsequently 5 unique prints that combined lithography with drawings in bitumen and ink.  Zakii produced lithographic prints entitled “Mephisto” and subsequently 9 unique prints that combined lithography with drawings in acrylic, pastel and other media. The show was well covered by the media, and the visitors to the gallery were thrilled to learn about a new art form through these two artists’ works. It is yet another benchmark for Malaysian artists to experiment, explore and create something out of their comfort zone.

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As the co-founder of Cult Gallery, I was very pleased to have hosted a show that was educational and which opened up the boundaries to collectors and artists alike. After hosting the Sisters in Islam charity art show “Hell, Heaven” late last year along with a public talk on “Gender, Art and Culture”, it is yet another benchmark for the gallery – the challenge of introducing something new to art lovers.

Read more on the art show here : The Star  and The Edge 

 

 

 

 

Paris Snows in the Spring

” I love Paris in the springtime
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year…”

Remember this song? I particularly like the version sung by Ella Fitzgerald. The song is soulful and simultaneously uplifting, just like Paris, one of the most cultured cities in Europe.  Continue reading

Traditional creativity in modern Seoul

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On a trip to attend an art exhibition in Seoul recently, I discovered parts of this huge city that were delightful to someone who likes to walk, loves art, history and traditional craft.

The art exhibition I attended was located in one of the most attractive areas in Seoul, which otherwise resembles a modern, concrete jungle. Samcheong-dong is flanked by two royal palaces from the Joseon Dynasty – Gyeongbokgung palace and Changdeokgung Palace. The Joseon dynasty lasted 5 centuries from the 14th to the 19thcentury and has left a substantial legacy to modern Korea.

Most of modern Korean culture, etiquette, norms and societal norms developed during this period. The modern Korean languageits dialects derive from the culture and traditions of Joseon.

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In stark contrast to the center of the Seoul which is full of high rises, shopping centers and huge roads filled with cars, Samcheong-Dong has mountains, blossom trees as well as the Bukchon Hanok, the traditional wooden Korean houses.

Sam which means “three” and cheong “clean or good”,  was given its name in reference to the three things it is said  to have in abundance: clean water, beautiful neighboring mountains and kind-hearted residents.

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A stroll through Bukchon and Samcheong-Dong revealed a distinctive neighbourhood full of not just traditional Korean culture, but also contemporary art. We were there in late March recently, and witnessed the grounds of the royal palace gardens  overtaken by enthusiastic local and foreign tourists (undoubtedly avid fans of Korean soap operas) dressed up in Korean traditional costumes to take pictures against the picturesque backdrop of the traditional Korean palaces and the pink spring blossom trees – it was like being in a period Korean drama film set.

On the other hand, the national Korean contemporary art museum, The Jewellery Museum and numerous other museums have mushroomed in Samcheong-Dong. Art galleries, craft shops and specialty food cafes have set up in this neighbourhood, adding to its considerable charm.

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Our first stop was the main reason for our trip, which was a solo exhibition of Malaysian artist Ahmad Zakii Anwar at Baik Gallery. Baik Gallery is an art gallery from Los Angeles that has now set up a second branch in Seoul. The gallery was located around the corner from the Prime Minister’s residence which meant it had a lot of free security, and right across is the famous MILK COW bun and milk shop which sells a variety of soft but square milk buns with fillings like chestnut and red bean, and special milk tea in square bottles. So the location of the gallery was excellent in many ways than one. The art opening was interesting as we had mostly Korean visitors who were art collectors or art lovers, but the very friendly Malaysian deputy High Commissioner attended too. Many were intrigued by Malaysian art. I noticed that art spaces and museums are very well attended by Korean themselves. They have a strong respect for art, culture and tradition. Contemporary art seems to be thriving in Korea. The major Korean conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai have already set up private galleries showcasing their considerable art collections to the public.

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In another gallery in Samcheong-Dong, we discovered the exhibition of  artist and  craftsman Ernst Gamperl who won the Loewe Craft Award 2017. He made wooden bowls from fallen trees, and these exquisite bowls were displayed in a modern gallery designed by a Korean architect that felt like a traditional house with its integration of the nature, light and the outdoors. I was awestruck with admiration with the space as well as the masterful craftsmanship of the wooden bowls.

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Further up the hill just below one of the palaces, we were fortunate to visit a private ceramic gallery and showroom, LVS crafts. I fell in love with Korean ceramics. Ranging from traditional shapes in restrained white or pale green glazing to ceramic pieces in odd, fantastic shapes colours and textures, Korean ceramic artists have pushed the craft towards creating ceramic artworks which are original and highly creative.

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Freshly inspired by Seoul and its pleasant contradictions between modernity and traditional creativity, I returned home with a new set of eyes through which I could view our very own artisanal creations.

 

The silversmiths of Kelantan

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Kelantan is the north-eastern Malaysian state where I was born. As a state, Kelantan is known to be one of the most culturally rich in Malaysia, and it has had centuries of royal history, which shaped its traditions, arts and crafts. It was linked to the 15th century Pattani kingdom as well as the ancient 2nd century Langkasuka kingdom with ties to the Cambodian and Thai kingdoms. Continue reading