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Malaysia’s art scene is slowly gaining momentum and being appreciated across the world. Driven by passion and experience, Malaysian artists share their unique voices and stories through art. Many of them have utilized ways in displaying their works, from retail and exhibitions to social media. Check out the artists you should know more about.
Kenji Chai is one of the best-known graffiti artists in Malaysia. Inspired by his hometown, Sabah, and Malaysia’s pop culture, his works are dynamic with the balance of nature and urban environment. His artworks are spotted across Malaysia including Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Penang, Johor, and Ipoh. He has also painted his works outside Malaysia such as his recent artwork at Tropica Bali Street Art Festival in Indonesia.
Recently, he took part in the global 3890 Tigers art campaign (organized by Tiger Beer) to create the awareness of tigers’ extinction. ‘Roar’ and ‘Fade Away’ highlight the importance of taking care of nature and tigers.
Kenji Chai participated in 3890 Tigers art campaign © WWF International/YouTube
Ruby Subramaniam left her digital media job to pursue her passion in art. Inspired by her self-discovery in backpacking travels, her art relates to questions about culture and society. She organizes Art Battle Malaysia and is involved in art-related events to support local artists.
Her latest photo collaboration series ‘This Body of Mine’ addresses thoughts about how Indian women wear clothes in Malaysia through depictions of Hindu goddesses: Lakshmi, Saraswathi, and Kali. The paintings are shown on the local dancers’ bodies along with vigorous poses taken by photographers. After it went viral and featured in exhibitions, it was selected as one of the top 50 projects for the Global Movement of Arts, co-organized by UNESCO.
Ruby Subramaniam talking about ‘This Body of Mine’ © Ruby Subramaniam/YouTube
Visual installation artist Red Hong Yi creates artworks by using everyday materials. Her creations of famous people and objects let us understand how we use the materials in our daily lives. Hong Yi’s popular works include Ai Weiwei (using sunflower seeds), basketball player Yao Ming (using a basketball and red paint), Teh Tarik Man (made of used 20,000 tea bags), and a hanging structure of Jackie Chan (made of chopsticks).
She was invited to talk about creativity and innovation through global conferences, such as APEC Young Entrepreneur Conference in Beijing and World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos, Switzerland, and designed visual installations outside Malaysia.
Hanging Structure of Jackie Chan © Red Hong Yi/YouTube
Kamwei Fong created Bo & Friends after he was inspired by his goldfish in the aquarium. The goldfish brings happiness and relives our inner childhood. He started with sketches and drawings followed by ceramics, canvas art, and paper crafts of his goldfish, Bo (means wide, broad, and versatile in Cantonese).
He continues to design the works of Bo’s friends including his series ‘The Furry Thing’ and ‘Swooshy Line Art’. He had his solo Bo & Friends exhibition ‘Be Happy, Be Childlike, Be Ridiculous’ in Malaysia followed by his first global exhibition ‘Ridiculously Happy Animalerie in Paris’ at Club Sensible Gallery.
Illustrator Chong Fei Giap designed “Loka Made”, based on architecture and Malaysian culture. His works have the mixture of creativity and fantasy with “manga and animation” style. He started with illustrations of a school girl seeking adventure and discovery in different places and recently introduced the latest pop up postcard series (such as ‘The Whimsical Architecture’, ‘A Tale of Kampung House’, and ‘The Rhythm of Fishing Village’). The detailed buildings and depictions of people’s daily lives bring out Malaysia’s different culture and races.
Prologue of Loka Made © Loka Made/YouTube
Dynamic duo Emma & Adrihana seek to introduce Malaysia’s culture and heritage to the younger generation and travellers abroad. So they founded Bingka KL (its name is derived from the steam tapioca cake). They brainstorm in coming up with handcrafted designs to be created and printed through silkscreen printing. The pair mix the paints to get the right colour hues before printing the designs of Malaysia’s culture and heritage on fabric. The detailed designs of Malaysian elements (such as kuih-muih (sweet treats), Malay kampung (countryside) houses, and tropical flowers) are printed on tea towels, bags, pillows, and pouches.
Fusion Wayang Kulit founders Tintoy Chuo and Teh Take Huat, work together with master puppeteer Pak Dain to re-introduce wayang kulit (Kelatan shadow puppet) to the public. With the founders’ love for sci-fi, they adapt Star Wars and DC superheroes (such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern) into wayang kulit to attract a younger generation.
The modern storytelling of shadow play ‘Peperangan Bintang: Harapan Baharu’ (‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ in Malay) is shown across Malaysia including their recent show at George Town Festival in Penang. They were featured in BBC programme ‘Dara & Ed’s Road to Mandalay’ and designed personalized shadow puppets for the Irish comedians Dara Ó Briain and Ed Byrne.
Al Jazeera coverage on Fusion Wayang Kulit © Al Jazeera/YouTube
Doodle artist Dudu launched his Instagram page Dudu de Doodle after he failed to sell his artworks online. He travels around and features his captivating designs, inspired by visiting cafes, and doodles portraits of cartoon characters, including Studio Ghibli characters designed by his favourite artist Hayao Miyazaki.
Dudu uses drinks, food, cups, and utensils in creating these characters with unique expressions. He has created eight murals in cafes and restaurants across Klang Valley. To date, he has 37.8k followers on his Instagram page.
Pui Wan graduated from Mechanical Engineering and pursues a career as a full-time miniature artist for PicoWorm. Her passion started after her sister gave her a book about doll’s houses and miniature art from Taiwan. From there, she bought her own tools and materials to create miniatures. Air dry clay and acrylic paint are used for her artworks and she creates miniatures of childhood memories, including sundry shop (along with vending machines, snacks, and Coca Cola posters) and kitchen. She designs each miniature in detail to rekindle people’s nostalgic moments as a child.
Pui Wan discusses about her journey in miniature art © The Star Online/YouTube
Scribble artist Vince Low draw portraits of famous personalities through a combination of ink scribbles, curves, zig-zags and words. It started with his involvement in running a campaign on dyslexia awareness after discovering he was dyslexic. That inspiring start to his journey led him to draw and experiment in scribbling. His first series of scribble arts for the ‘Vince Low: Dyslexia Couldn’t Stop Me’ campaign are Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and John Lennon, which saw him invited to have his solo exhibition in the UK, Germany, Singapore, and Malaysia. Earlier this year, Vince drew a sport scribble art series for NBC’s Sports Grill & Brew at Universal Orlando CityWalk.