Sowing a deeper sense of national pride through art

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In keeping with its ongoing efforts to preserve local arts, culture and heritage, Khazanah Nasional presents Galeri Khazanah and shares a diverse collection of artwork with global audiences.

KHAZANAH Nasional is Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, a strategic investor that seeks to deliver sustainable economic and societal values ​​for the nation, increasing long-term financial returns and balancing this with services and opportunities that future generations of Malaysians can take advantage.

As part of these services and its long-term strategy ‘Moving Malaysia Forward’, Khazanah plays an important role in building capacity, creating venues and fostering vibrant communities across various sectors in Malaysia, including the arts , culture and heritage, all of which help define our national identity.

With this in mind, Khazanah presents its first-ever virtual art gallery, Galeri Khazanah, through which it shares works by Malaysian artists that have been acquired since Khazanah was established in 1994. Its inaugural art exhibition, Time Together : Exploring Art Through Khazanah Nasional Berhad’s Collection, features more than 50 works by senior, established and young Malaysian artists, including Latiff Mohidin, Mr. Zain Idris, Ahmad Khalid Yusof, Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng and Kok Yew Puah, and serves as fragment of the nation’s institutional memory.

“Over the years, Khazanah has collected significant cultural pieces such as drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures, handicrafts, as well as historical objects that serve as fragments of the collective memory of the nation – in order to preserve and preserve all these irreplaceable artifacts for future generations,” says Dato’ Amirul Feisal Wan Zahir, Managing Director of Khazanah Nasional.

Another of its initiatives is the Khazanah Residency Program (KRP), to develop young Malaysian talent in selected disciplines by equipping them with the latest knowledge, skills and networks in their respective fields. Four programs are run under this initiative, namely Khazanah Media Fellowship, Khazanah Nasional Associate Artist Residency, Khazanah Design Residency, and Khazanah Public Service Residency. Until January 2022, a total of 42 emerging Malaysian talents have benefited from these various residency programs.

Artists Abroad

Visual artist Ajim Juxta says the Khazanah Nasional (KAAR) Associate Artist Residency was one of the best experiences he has had.

The Khazanah Nasional Associate Artist Residency (KAAR) program, which began in 2017, has been a wonderful way for local artists to broaden their horizons.

Delivered in partnership with Acme Studios, London, the KAAR program aims to expose emerging Malaysian artists to the international art scene by providing two artists each year with studio accommodation and a three-month program of artist support and professional development. To date, eight artists have participated: Ajim Juxta, Azam Aris, Haffendi Anuar, Winnie Cheng, Tomi Heri, Zulkifli Lee, Yeoh Choo Kuan and Izat Arif.

One of the first artists to take part in KAAR in September 2017 was Ajim Juxta, a 39-year-old visual artist (trained in architecture) who has been establishing himself on the local art scene for some time now.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had as an artist,” Ajim reveals enthusiastically. “I was exposed to a lot of things, and it was a turning point in my career to develop new works and connect with others through performances and sharing sessions.”

The multi-talented KL-born creator (he paints, draws, composes music, writes poetry and lyrics) was exposed to art from an early age as both of his deceased parents were college graduates themselves in art. “My siblings and I have always had a lot of art-centric opportunities and activities. I went to art shows and museums at a very early age. And I’ve been drawing since I was about 4 year.

    Ajim's Monomania: Ugut (2018, acrylic on canvas) is currently on display in Galeri Khazanah's exhibition Time Together: Exploring Art Through Khazanah's Collection.Ajim’s Monomania: Ugut (2018, acrylic on canvas) is currently on display in Galeri Khazanah’s exhibition Time Together: Exploring Art Through Khazanah’s Collection.

One of Ajim’s works, Monomania: Ugut, an acrylic on canvas from 2018, is currently on display at Galeri Khazanah.

“Ugut translates to ‘threat’ in English…and to me, it’s representative of one of those times where the feeling of anxiety kicks in, like what was happening while I was working on the show. And also because of society and the current state we live in. This is one of those works that depicts helplessness and dystopia…or a bleak future.

The title of the exhibition, Tugu | Ugut, used anagrams to interrogate and relate to the world around us. He explains further: “When the monuments are no longer what we can admire.”

Monomania: Ugut was part of a series of works he worked on after KAAR, du Tugu | Ugut exhibition in 2018 at the Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia (PAM) Building in KL, for which he worked with several collaborators including the Titikmerah collective, the artists Syahbandi Samat and The Silz, the engraving collective NomoonNofrens, the founder of No-to-Scale Studio Shamin Sahrum, poet Ali Noor, writer and ethnographer Xeem Noor and Artemis Gallery.

At the time, Ajim was quoted in The Star saying, “As an artist, I draw inspiration and knowledge from other artists around me. By inviting artistic collaborations, we then introduce an essential aspect to the creation of conversations and differential works.

Ajim says one of the things he learned through the Khazanah residency was realizing the potential we have to move forward together as artists and creatives.

“We’re not really lacking in resources here in Malaysia, but in how we use what’s already available to us,” he says. “I feel like there aren’t enough platforms and support on many levels, including in education for example, especially for someone who doesn’t come from a fine arts background to get into the domain. But things are starting to look up. »

After graduating, the UiTM graduate worked as an architect for around three years, before deciding that his true calling was the visual arts.

“I went from architecture to art when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to fully express my art and creativity working for an architecture firm. Awareness of ownership of my work was also another thing that led me down this path. A lot of people around me opposed my decision but I also had a few supporters so I thought it was worth a try,” he explains, adding happily that “it’s been 13 years now. !

Yeoh’s Mind The Step (2017, oil and lacquer on linen) is a reminder not to get too comfortable with your surroundings.

Feed creativity

Yeoh Choo Kuan was part of the 2022 cohort for KAAR. The 34-year-old, who lives and works in Kuala Lumpur, spent three months in London earlier this year and had a fabulous time.

“It was the best art residency I have had so far. My body and mind were very well nourished! Yeah says. and conversation with art workers in London. It was so stimulating…it felt like my brain was spinning like a disco ball!

Like Ajim, Yeoh also feels that artists in Malaysia do not have enough institutional support, compared to artists in other major cities. “It’s so important for us to learn how to seek out great opportunities like this and start working on our proposals and submissions,” he shares.

Yeoh’s practice revolves around the abstract and the tension between the spiritual and the physical. “Basically,” he explains, “I play with all kinds of emotions and reinvent them into unique experiences. As an audience, I like to see all kinds of mediums and styles, and for me, “art” works because of some sort of magical coincidence. Abstract gives the most exciting results when it reaches this threshold of ‘magical coincidence’,” he explains.

So far, Yeoh’s solo shows have included Today’s Special (2020), Lights In (2018), Live Leak (2017), and Private Sentiment (2012).

One of his favorite works, he says, dates back to 2019 when he collaborated with the team at Richard Koh Fine Art for an installation during Art Week Singapore. “It was called Streaming Mountain and consisted of a 20m long landscape scroll displayed at varying heights on a custom scaffolding structure that mimicked the layers and rhythms of mountain ridges.”

Yeoh traces his love for art to Standard One. “There was a waiting list among my classmates to get my crayon-colored Power Ranger masks…I knew then that art was something I loved and others would appreciate!”

Abstract artist Yeoh Choo Kuan had an empowering time connecting and conversing with artists in London.Abstract artist Yeoh Choo Kuan had an empowering time connecting and conversing with artists in London.

What are some of the challenges of being an artist in Malaysia? Yeoh says, “There are only good challenges in creating art, but having said that, I have to admit that it was very difficult to promote our art there. The Ringgit has depreciated and the costs are high, so it is difficult to obtain good quality materials from abroad or participate in international exhibitions.

Yeoh is thrilled, however, that one of his pieces is part of Galeri Khazanah’s Time Together exhibition.

“Mind Your Step is a painting that looks serene at first glance from afar…but has intense slash marks on closer inspection,” he shares of the oil and lacquer on linen canvas done in 2017. “It’s a reminder for myself not to be too comfortable as I just moved into a new studio, maybe too comfortable with an environment peaceful.

“I think that also applies to the Malaysian art scene, where we’re sort of self-sufficient and have patrons supporting us, but we have to be careful not to get stuck in our own loop. It’s so important to attract attention from the outside, to have a collective dynamic and a competitive spirit.

Yeoh is convinced that the KAAR program and Galeri Khazanah are positive efforts in this direction. “The virtual gallery is going to be very useful for artists of different generations to get international exposure. And the residency really helps us connect with curators and arts workers abroad. If we play our cards right, we can help elevate the whole art scene here.

Galeri Khazanah’s exhibition Time Together: Exploring Art Through Khazanah’s Collection is now open to the public and can be physically viewed at [email protected] Row, Jalan Doraisamy, Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, until September 4 (10am-6pm every days). Free entry. You can also opt for the virtual visit, by going to https://galeri.khazanah.com.my/, and discover 57 modern and contemporary works by 29 Malaysian artists in five thematic virtual reality spaces, including the Lobby, the Traditional House, Peranakan, pavilion and glass room.

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