Making a life in art on Langkawi

The Langkawi art group meeting at their regular home for inspiration and aspiration.

Langkawi island is not as well-known for its artistic and cultural heritage as the Indonesian island of Bali. It also has a long way to go to catch up with the tourist industry of Phuket which is a little to the north of the Andaman sea. But what these three islands have in common is their 550 million-year-old geological heritage, their surrounding seas and unique tropical landscape and weather.

However, neither Bali nor Phuket (so far) have been awarded the geopark status by Unesco. Langkawi was given the world geopark award in 2007. With joint research between LESTARI of UKM and LADA, the island’s ecotourism concept fulfilled all the international requirements of a geopark.

Artists from all over the world have been making  their way to South-East Asia, especially Bali, for over 60 years and many never left. One of the most famous early European artists, Walter Spies (1895-1942) was living and working in Ubud, Bali, from the 1930s till his death in 1942. He and his artistic friends helped put Bali artists and art in the Western art market.

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Buy and sell…it’s all a game


Syed Ahmad Jamal, Langit & Bumi 1, 1982-1986, acrylics on canvas, 203x224cm

NOV 22 — The 3rd international art market or Artexpo Malaysia is on this week in Kuala Lumpur. This will be a good opportunity for anyone interested in the sport of collecting artworks. The organiser has also got the National Art Gallery Malaysia in as co-organiser.

Artexpo promises art objects “Old and new, East and West. Whatever forms, whatever styles, whatever media. Paintings, sculptures, prints, assemblages, installations, new media (digital art). Astonishing artworks from all over the world — Asia, Europe — Eastern and Western, the United States, Central America. A true united nations of art people from all over the world every November since 2007.”

This art marketing event like all trading networks has an anthropological history. Man has always had this compulsive motivation to succeed or to win and will turn any human activity into a sport or a game (sometimes ruthlessly bloody). They argue that it could be both productive and also an amusement — a great pastime in the dark caves (perhaps in Mulu, Sarawak).

Over the thousands of years of human evolution this act of gamesmanship has become an art — the art of winning by cunning practices without actually cheating. Just think of the recent so called world financial crisis and see how some of the multi-national players got away with it and were rewarded as well. Some say it was not greed that got us there but envy.

Read more in The Malaysian Insider here…

Art and the marketplace

Mohamad Najib ahmad Dewa, Director General of the National Art Gallery

APRIL 12 – For 20 years or more, if you were a Malaysian artist, not in the popular line-up, yet one of those lucky ones with your artwork in the National Art Gallery’s (NAG) collection, you’ll probably have a quibble with NAG because you can’t find any of your works on display in the premier art institution. Why?

There could be many reasons for this distressing situation. One was that there was simply no deliberate policy, in the past, to display a sample of ever artist, past and present, old and young, of the 3,800 artworks in their collection, for the public to get an overview and judge for themselves what sort of artistic talents we have in the country.

But thanks to the current Director General of NAG, Mohamad Najib Ahmad Dewa, many things have changed. The 54-year-old, who has a PhD in textiles, was the former Dean of the University Science Malaysia’s Centre for Art Studies. He took over the helm of NAG in 2007.

Najib’s own artistic career has also seen many changes; starting as a batik artist at Central Market in Kuala Lumpur, he went on to university and later became an academic before moving on to the top job as custodian of Malaysian art.

NAG is now more inviting and informative about the general cultural wealth and health of the country. There are many more art activities by or endorsed by NAG in and outside the premises in Jalan Temerloh.

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