PETALING JAYA: On a rainy Monday, Wesak Day, the commercial area surrounding The Strand Mall in Kota Damansara was quiet.
A single hub, however, remained well-lit through the storm, drawing people united by a common interest.
For the past two years, Artas Galeri has struggled to see a steady stream of visitors due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
With those days behind it, however, the gallery’s doors have been thrown open to welcome visitors eager to see the artworks on display.
For its second-year anniversary celebration, Artas Galeri is exhibiting various artworks by both up-and-coming and established local artists, including contemporary painter Awang Damit Ahmad.
While many of these artists are relatively new, their works are impressive and are a promising sign for Malaysia’s art scene.
Taking a page out of Van Gogh’s portfolio, Fadzril Fakaruddin’s “Mysterious Piece of Land” depicts a field of sunflowers, vivid but unnatural colours.
“I like to create my own world through sheer imagination,” the 27-year-old told FMT. “Painting helps me express what words can’t ever achieve.”
Meanwhile, up on the gallery’s third floor and tucked away in one corner is a solemn painting of a beautiful butterfly. Upon closer inspection, its wings are tattered with gaping holes.
According to Najib Ahmad Bamadhaj, 35, this is intentional as his painting, “Keep Calm and Fly High”, is symbolic.
“It’s meant to encourage people to never give up. If even an injured butterfly can keep fluttering its wings, you, too, can push through despite the odds.”
Another featured painting is less colourful but has just as much meaning. Aptly titled “Play”, the black-and-white depicts playgrounds interspersed between skyscrapers.
Khairul Arshad, its 35-year-old creator, explained that, to him, life is a game played by humans every day, with their goal being their ever-distant dreams.
“Why black and white? Well, life is black and white. There are positives and negatives. That’s just how it is.”
On the opposite end of the colour scale is Izzuddin Basiron’s “Broke the Rules”, which employs a dazzling variety of pastel colours.
His artwork depicts a collection of shapes, all in distinct hues, gathered together in a structure of sorts.
Growing up in drab and grey Kuala Lumpur, he said it only made sense for him to put a “positive spin” on his surroundings, creating a world of harmonious colour.
Haziq Syawal, another of the young artists, stood watch over his artwork that hung in a corner.
“Mindscape I”, he said, was inspired by his time spent in a kampung, with a chicken and banana plant invoking scenes of village life.
“It makes people think of home and hearth. But, ultimately, it’s subjective. What you see in my work may differ from what I see, and that’s fine.”
Also present was 32-year-old artist Yong Hui Lin, who had no artworks on display. But that was because her “Heritage” series of paintings had sold out due to popular demand.
Admiring the diverse art styles of her fellow artists, Yong said the Malaysian art scene was slowly but surely picking up after the pandemic.
“While working on commissions, I might just go travelling around Malaysia and visit heritage sites I’d love to capture in my art,” she shared.
Prominent art collectors, too, were present at the exhibition.
“It’s a good thing to see many young, emerging artists having their works promoted,” said Pakharuddin Sulaiman, who has collected artworks for the past 25 years.
Agreeing with him was fellow collector Bingley Sim. “Artas Galeri does a good job of bringing these young artists together and including them into group shows. Those are not easy to put together.”
Another collector, Brendan Siva, added that the exhibition would likely help propel the careers of Malaysia’s young artists.
“The talent on display is quite remarkable and bodes well for the local art scene,” he said, adding that the gallery would bring much-needed attention to the exhibited works and their creators.
Artas Galeri director Roy Ng told FMT that the response to this month’s exhibition has been promising.
“Art is something that really calms people down and, after the pandemic, I think some calm is what people want and need,” he said.
36, Jalan PJU 5/20D,
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