Monday, December 31, 2012 at 12:45 AM

Title: The Sad Baby Joker
Medium: Photographic effects and Graphics
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Model: Ian Zuhayr
Time/Date: 12:00pm; 30 Dec 2012
Venue: Kelab Shah Alam


Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 11:28 PM

"... it’s about time that we have a psychologist in the family...... "

Wedding of Kusyairi Ariff & Hanee Shereen
30 December 2012, Kelab Shah Alam

Bismillah Hirrahman Nirrahim. Assalamualaikum Warahmaruyllahi Wabarakatuh dan Salam Sejahtera. Yang Mulia, Tengku Tengku. Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri – Tan Sri / Puan Sri – Puan Sri / Dato’ - Dato’ / Datin - Datin / Tuan - Tuan / Puan - Puan dan Sanak Saudara sekelian. Bagi pihak Tuan Rumah, Dato Ishak, saya ingin merakamkan jutaan terima kasih atas kesudian para hadirin meraikan Majlis Perkahwinan Kusyairi dan Hanee. Kehadiran Tuan - Tuan dan Puan - Puan sememangnya memeriahkan lagi hari yang bermakna ini. Tuan - Tuan dan Puan - Puan, izinkan saya meneruskan ucapan saya di dalam Bahasa Inggeris, Terima Kasih.


A wedding is an occasion, a joyous occasion. But for a spokesperson like me, it is highly stressful for I have stage fright no matter how many times I have been asked to give speeches. By God’s will, when my son gets married, Kusyairi, you will be forced to be the spokesperson. Just remember that!

The Malay race has always been an advocate of “courtesy” as evident in their generosity in giving out Bunga Telurs and their art of Pantuns. We have experienced such courtesy at the reception by Encik Adam’s family. I must say, I was delighted to experience my first “Tea Ceremony”. That was the first time Kusyairi ever served me tea…. Actually, that was the first time he ever served me anything at all. So, it was a good ice-breaker. Today, the Ishak Family would like to offer you (Adam) our courtesy. We hope you’ll be delighted.


Kusyairi was born at Assunta Hospital Petaling Jaya on the 11th November 1983. When he was born we had some logistical issues. There was no bedroom for him. We only had 4 bedrooms all taken by Bapak, Mak, Kak Ita, Johari and I, and our Grandma. To ensure that such discomfort did not haunt our little brother Kusyairi, Johari and I decided to sacrifice our room… well, actually, we were kicked out by Bapak and ended up in Ipoh for 5 years.

Everyone in the Family was born in Penang. We were all proud to be called Islanders. Kusyairi, however, was born in Selangor. That did not exclude him from the joy of tasting Penang food at home. We had curry almost every other day, Bapak’s Dhalca and the infamous Gulai Tok Wan. So Hanee, you have a lot of catch up to do in the cooking arena.

Kush grew up in Shah Alam and later completed his studies at Curtin University, Perth. His Economics Degree landed him jobs at Public Bank, AC Nielsen, and now Mindshare where he specialises in the Advertising Industry. In his free time he likes to do outdoor activities that include hiking, climbing and jungle trekking. He said those activities gave him peace of mind. Well of course it did, that is how he met Hanee, in a bootcamp, I think.

Kusyairi, I would like to share with you some basic tips for a long lasting peace of mind, particularly in a marriage. I may not necessarily agree with these tips but they work nonetheless:

  1. When Hanee cooks, you say “Hmm.... Sedap”.
  2. When Hanee is sick, you make her hot soup, not Maggi mee.
  3. When it is 22 December, pamper her with an anniversary dinner and make sure you mark your diary because if you don’t, she will mark your head.
  4. When it is 19 April, get her a birthday present.
  5. Always assume that she is right in any argument because she has a special lock that locks the bedroom door for which keys are not made available to you.
  6. When she makes jokes, laugh as if she is the champion of Raja Lawak.
  7. Always put up the toilet seats.
  8. The weekend diary is managed by her. Don’t worry you’ll get the notification of weekend events weeks in advance.
  9. When she cries, take her into your arms like an angel.
  10. And the hardest of all, when you two have babies, stay up with her to feed milk and change diapers.


I have never had a younger sister before. With the inclusion of Hanee into the family, I now have a younger sister. Hanee was born on 18 April 1988 in Klang. Hanee was born on 18 April 1988.Hanee was born on 18 April 1988. Wow, 1988, I was still in Form 1 at that time. She was brought up in Klang and hence, Haneewent to Convent Klang, the school my sister went to as well. She is now completing her Degree in Psychology from Segi College and as I had noticed, she likes singing and she does it quite well as well. It’s about time that we have a psychologist in the family, not for Hanee to heal us, but rather, for us to test her. I have two hyperactive boys and I can assure you that they’ll make good psychological study subjects.

What advise can I give you as a brother in-law? Well, here goes:

  1. When Kush is hungry, he is not fuss. Fried Rice with Ayam Goreng and a bit of Kicap and Chilli Sauce will suffice (Note that Kicap will be known as To’Yu to you from today onwards. I think it came from a Chinese word Tau Yoo).
  2. When Kush is back from work looking tired, give him a smile.
  3. When Kush is sick, well, it’s your turn to do the hot soup, and not Maggi mee.

Hanee, you are Kush’s ribs; because, you are entrusted to protect his heart (both emotionally as well as the cholesterol level). And that would put you at a special place by his side, enveloping his heart. I think that is why Siti Hawa was created out of Prophet Adam’s (pbuh) ribs.

Hanee, the entire Ariff and Arshad clans are honoured to welcome you into the family. It’s a big extended family. Lots of names to be remembered but hey, it only means God is being generous to you.

We look forward to interesting contributions that you can offer to this family. Whilst the other 3 in-laws contributed Ikan Patin from Sungai Pahang, Ayam Kampong from Bangi and Masak Lomak Chili Padi from Negeri Sembilan, we expect nothing less than the beautiful Kuih Kasturi from Klang.


Before I retreat, please do allow me a short poem that I narrated at 2:00 am this morning:

Singgah di Kelang untuk Kuih Kasturi
Yang Enak Rangup Secukup Rasa
Sungguh Segak Kush dan Hanee
Mengakhiri Zaman Teruna dan Dara
Anak Bongsu Kawin Sudah
Meninggalkan Rumah Sunyi Sepi
Mak dan Bapak tak payahlah Gundah,
Nantikan saja cucu dari Kush dan Hanee
Semangkuk Selasih Semanis Puan
Segulung Popiah dari Tanjung
Terima Kasih Tuan dan Puan
Budi Dikenang Jasa Dijunjung

Sebelum saya mengundur diri, bagi pihak Dato' Ishak Ariff sekeluarga, ingin saya menyusun sepuluh jari meminta maaf sekiranya terdapat apa-apa kekurangan pada majlis yang tidak sebarapa ini.

Saya sudahi ucapan saya dengan kalimah suci Wabilllahi Taufik Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh dan Selamat Sejahtera.

Terima Kasih

"...... whilst the other 3 in-laws contributed Ikan Patin from Sungai Pahang, Ayam Kampong from Bangi and Masak Lomak Chili Padi from Negeri Sembilan, we expect nothing less than the beautiful Kuih Kasturi from Klang."    Johan Ishak


Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 2:48 AM

Title: Ang! Ang!
Medium: Photographic effects
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Time/Date: 8:00pm; 27 Dec 2012
Item: Electrified Statues of Swans
Venue: i-City


at 2:35 AM

Title: Excessive Power?
Medium: Photographic effects
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Time/Date: 8:00pm; 27 Dec 2012
Venue: i-City


Friday, December 28, 2012 at 2:59 AM

"..... and God sent me an Angel that opened my heart to a new realm of love,.. the love of a father... "

Title: Angel Daniel
Medium: Photographic Effects
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Model: Daniel Ariff
Time/Date: 6:00pm; 28 Dec 2012
Venue: Trick Museum, i-City


Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 1:19 AM

Title: Art Exchange 2012 Opening by Kakiseni
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Time/Date: 9:00pm; 6 Sept 2012


Friday, December 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Title: Burning Forest
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Dimension: 80cm X 80cm
Artist: Ahmad Shukri Mohamed the Matahati Group
Acquisition Date: 21 Dec 2012

My 1st art acquisition, an approx 80cm X 80cm oil/acrylic on canvas entitled Burning Forest, by leading Malaysian contemporary visual artist, Ahmad Shukri Mohamed from the Matahati Group on 21 December 2012 - a Mayan dooms day - How appropriate considering that it is a burning forest painting!.

Below are photographs of me with the painter, Ahmad Shukri Mohamed (carrying my son, Ian Zuhayr). The second photo shows me trying to impress Shukri with my own oil on canvas work (The Trio). His only comment was "You are a Pop-Surrealist artist". Not sure to what extent was his sincerity but it was good enough that he did not say anything negative, even if he was just being polite or patronising.


Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 5:20 AM

Title: Bravura Victuals XX - The French Riviera Feast
Medium: Photographic Effects
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Time/Date: 7 Oct 2012
Items & Venues:
Continental Breakfast in Cannes
Seafood Platter Lunch in Nice
Margherita Pizza Dinner in Monte Carlo


at 4:45 AM

Title: Teh O Limau
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Items: Lemon Tea
Time/Date: Unknown
Venue: Unknown


at 4:35 AM

Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Abandoned Bungalow
Time/Date: 3:00pm; 9 Nov 2012
Venue: Bangsar


at 4:31 AM

Title: Bravura Victuals XIX
Medium: Photographic Effects
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Items: Lobster, Wagyu & French Vanilla
Time/Date: 10:57pm; 9 Nov 2012
Venue: Lafite Shangri-La


at 3:54 AM

Title: Lights, Camera, Action!
Medium: Photographic Effects
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Model: Harith Iskander
Time/Date: 8:57pm; 12 Nov 2012
Venue: The Royal Arts Gala 2012


at 3:42 AM

Title: Bravura Victuals XVIII
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Roasted Lamb
Time/Date: 12:57pm; 13 Nov 2012
Venue: One World Hotel


at 3:36 AM

Title: Apple Jack-O-Lantern
Medium: Sculpture & Photography
Artist: Daniel Ariff
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Time/Date: 8:00pm; 20 November 2012
Venue: Sime Darby Medical Centre


at 3:36 AM
Title: Bravura Victuals XVII
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Roasted Lamb
Time/Date: 12:57pm; 13 Nov 2012
Venue: One World Hotel


Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 1:23 AM


Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 1:48 AM

Yusof “Gajah”, the reference many art scholars in Malaysia are familiar with in the realm of art academia. He is the epitome “naïve” art icon.

Elephantman is here in Malaysia. He has always been here. He is Yusof “Gajah”, the reference many art scholars in Malaysia are familiar with in the realm of naive art. He is the epitome “naïve” art icon. A visual art advocate who rides the “naïve” art genre like no other has in this country. Yusof only paints elephants (“Gajah” in Bahasa Malaysia). Even if you think there are no elephants in his work, look again. It’s there. Look deeper like how you would in Where’s Waldo. A full 4 feet by 4 feet oil painting of forest or underwater scenery may seem to be elephant-less but you’ll be amazed at where the elephants are positioned (example: in the bubbles coming out from the mouth of fish). Try to look for an elephant in this  masterpiece (on the right) . Yusof intends to keep this work not for sale.

“Well, an elephant is divine to the Indians, symbolizes wealth to the Chinese and for Malays, who are predominantly Muslim, it reminds us of the year our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was born, the Year of Elephant of the Arabic records... " said Yusof "Gajah"

When asked about this weird habit, his answer was, “Well, all my work must have a Gajah (elephant). If there are none, those are not from my own creative mind. It may have been work commissioned by some of my clients who is fed up of Gajah. Hahaha… ”. His devotion, or rather, obsession with elephants has categorised him within the “naïve” art genre. Naïve art is a form of playful art that goes against logical boundaries. For example, an apple that is not round but square in shape. In other words, art work that perhaps a child would have thought of. Wikipedia defines Naïve Art as a classification of art that is often characterised by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true. Yusof is one of the veteran artists who had early training at art cottage Anak Alam alongside other national art heroes such as Dato’ Johan Jaaffar (journalism and theatre activist). As mentioned earlier, Yusof “Gajah” is a reference in many art faculties of tertiary institutions such as UiTM and USM. When asked what he thinks about that, he jokingly answered, “Its an honor to be a reference. I was told that if students forget to make reference to Yusof "Gajah" for naive art, they'll end up failing their thesis. Hahahaha”.

Kak Zakiah, his wife, used to be a civil servant in the Transport Department, has opted to retire early from civil service and decided to be the marketing mind for Yusof. She says Yusof lack pricing strategy for his valuable art works. The combination of the two, creative and commercial values have resulted in an entrepreneurship that promises economic value in what Yusof "Gajah" does. His oil/acrylic/water colour paintings, wood sculptures, pewter pieces, illustrated story books along with other merchandises (of Gajah) such as mugs and tshirts has allowed them to enjoy a steady source of income not only locally but from foreign countries such as Korea, Scandinavia and Indonesia. He is also famous amongst the foreign consulates/ambassadors in Malaysia. To add, his wife, Zakiah has also started to do Batik (of Gajah as well).

“Its an honor to be a reference especially when students forget to make reference to me, they ended up failing their thesis. Hahahaha” said Yusof "Gajah" jokingly

As a mark of recognition, Yusof received a gold medal for the 1996 Grand Prix Award for Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO. His success was on the back of his creative illustrative kids story book series that feature various animal caricature characters including, of course, a Gajah. I was privileged enough to be invited to his house (also his studio) where he shared with me many of his work that he dearly kept as his own collection as well as those still in progress for his clients. Yusof tends to shy away from galleries. His clients come to his house to buy his work. However, he aspires to own his own gallery (which will materialize soon in Plaza Damas) and also have his own museum.

In my conversation with him, I asked, “Why Gajah? Why not Cat? Or something close to the Malaysian story such as Tapir, or Tigers?”. He said, “Well, an elephant is divine to the Indians, symbolizes wealth to the Chinese and for Malays, who are predominantly Muslim, it reminds us of the year our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was born, the Year of Elephant of the Arabic records. By the way, my son has taken cat as his “naïve” icon”. I then joked with him, “Can I then use Cacing (worm)? So I can become Mat Cacing”. He suggested, with sincerity, “Why not Mat Nombor (Numbers)? After all you are an accountant”. In my mind, what a brilliant idea! I might just do that (painting work involving numbers).

It so happens that that day was my birthday and as a result, Yusof “Gajah” gave me a birthday present, a pewter necklace with an elephant pendant. Brilliant! What an honor to receive an iconic present from an iconic artist, Mr Yusof “Gajah”. Before I left, my eyes gravitated towards a very powerful piece on his wall. It was an abstract of an elephant in purple and orange from Yusof’s Fun Series. Purple is playful and orange is passionate (for me that is). The marriage of the two colours gave birth to a “Sexy” feeling. What is more appropriate is that the company I work for has purple and orange as its corporate colours. So, as it was preordained to happen, that piece was acquired by the company as a gift to YAB Prime Minister Najib Razak during the launch of the company (MyCreative Ventures Sdn. Bhd.) - an honour for the man they call Yusof “Gajah”.

As a mark of recognition, Yusof received a gold medal for the 1996 Grand Prix Award for Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO. 


Monday, September 24, 2012 at 10:12 PM

"Art must contribute to the betterment of humanity and it has to be important" quoted by Shukor Yahya, the Kufi Rhapsody

I attended Malaysian Design Development Centre ('DDEC') Design Summit 2012 on 24 September 2012. There were many cool presenters touching the different aspects of designs such as product designs, computer images, automotive and more. One presenter caught my attention: Mr Shukor Yahya, a true genius in Islamic Art who saw the potential in Kufi. He is Kufi Rhapsody. Shukor had travelled in many countries including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, England, Wales, the USA, Switzerland and China. With such vast experience, Shukor has developed a profound love for art to the point that he quoted "Art must contribute to the betterment of humanity and it has to be important". When Shukor started painting seriously, he revived the art of Kufi square and quickly earned a reputation for his unique approach in painting. His individuality in style makes many art enthusiasts mesmerized by the contemporary works produced by him over the years.

Shukor shared the history of Kufi. Kufi is a font developed by Timo Khan, son of Kublai Khan, who ruled Samarkhand. The local (Samarkhand) culture back then was very diverse and rich encompassing many interactions between Arabs, Urdus, Chinese, Persians and many more. This exchange gave birth to Kufi whereby cultures of these different people were synergised into a simplified artistic font. Timo later embraced Islam and the rest was history as far as Kufi's development is concerned. It flourished. This history is evidenced by an ancient furniture that was found with Chinese lettering in Kufic style. It was a wonder about which one came first, the Arabic Kufic or the Chinese and how the two cultures had influenced each other to make up a Kufi square.

"Art is the ultimate expression of human soul. It tells the tales long past and dreams the future" quoted by Shukor Yahya, the Kufi Rhapsody

Shukor has now commercialised Kufi. He went further to expand the horizons of Kufi from a simple Islamic Art to product designs such as Caran'd Ache watches. His creativity landed him Eastern Art prizes (Annya Sand Pize) naming him one of the top 15 best emerging artists in Asia. Kufi is unique in that it requires some knowledge for its appreciation. One has to know arabic alphabets in order to read it phonetically. Arabic is read from left to right. This is the same for Kufi except that the left to right goes further spiraling inwards clockwise in the Kufi square.

Shukor is passionate and hopes that Malaysian culture will some day incorporate Kufi to a more pervasive manner. Until then, he will continue to drive Kufi with his sincere passion. He ended his presentation with "Art is the ultimate expression of human soul. It tells the tales long past and dreams the future". To give a final gimmick punch to this all, he cheekily added "Picasso, your time is out. It's Kufi's time now". For those who wants to experience Shukor's Kufi, The National Visual Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, is currently showing the "Power, Hope and Land" art exhibition, beginning from 7th August until 19th November, 2012, at Gallery 2B; featuring some of Shukor's work. Alternatively, you can visit his web site at

He (Shukor Yahya Kufi Rhapsody) cheekily added "Picasso, your time is out. It's Kufi's time now"


Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 12:43 AM

Title: Pikaboo!
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Model: Ian Zuhayr Johan
Time/Date: 19 August 2012
Venue: Shah Alam


Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Sutra Foundation presents Tarikan. Redefining Contemp Modern Dance from Asian perspective. Date/Time: 29/8/2012 – 2/9/2012 8:30PM – 11PM; Venue: Pentas 2, klpac. For more information:

Ramli Ibrahim presents Tarikan, redefining contemporary dance with traditional values. This was what went on in my mind when I attended the Tarikan dance show at KLPac yesterday. I had never experienced an Indian traditional dance show and this was my first. Wasn't sure what to expect or feel, but afterwards, it all makes sense. Being an art advocate, I was obliged to experience the different flavours artists can offer, only to discover that that obligation presented a memorable delightful experience of a First Timer! It was as if I was tasting olives for the first time - mysteriously weird with a pleasant after taste. Let me tell you why.

I love performing arts but traditional dance did not get my attention in the past. My recent encounters with Ramli Ibrahim presented me with the opportunity to understand traditional arts further. In this case, Indian dances. Ramli quoted ".... this is serious art" and I went ".... ya Michael Jackson was also serious". Little did I realise that "serious" means richness in aesthetic value. This (aesthetic value), I find in Tarikan. Ramli was kind enough to extend me an invitation for the show. I thank you (Ramli). I took it upon myself from that point that I should never assume what I'd feel before I actually give myself the chance to experience it (whatever it may be). So for those of you out there who have never experienced a traditional dance show, give yourselves the chance and go for Tarikan at KLPac.

Anyway, the lights went off and a buzzing sound (Hindu/Buddhist style) started getting louder by the second simultaneously followed by defined lighting that gets brighter every second at positions highlighting dancers. And they started to dance. Very gracefully. Moves that you don't think humans can make. It was as if an invisible giant child was playing with a doll flexing the arms and legs in unimaginable directions a human body could do. The dancers were not in traditional Hindu dresses but in contemporary costumes. This was the first departure from my perception of what this lot was all about. At this stage, the moves following the traditional Gamelan tunes were still quite within my expectations of a traditional Indian dance.

Then I realised that the series of dances performed seem to tell a story. You can almost create a story of your own by choosing the different dancers as different characters in your imaginary saga. This is possible because in the ocean of synchronised movements, ad hoc break ups by each dancers performing their unique movements gave character to each dancers. You can almost fit in a love story into the whole set. The choreography further metamorphosed from ethnic-influenced movements into a more passionate, exotic and erotic movements. A hybrid of traditional, gymnastics and contemporary dancing. This added flavour and meaning to it all. Ever watched Philadephia? The scene when Tom Hanks was appreciating the opera song while Danzel was observing him? Yeah! I was Tom Hanks practically - "appreciating".

In the midst of all that anticipated traditional Indian dance movement which was rejuvenated by the contemporary fusion of modern and sensual movements, suddenly, a rocker with an electric guitar appeared by the side! Wow! In my mind, what is going on here? Kurt Cobain just woke up from being dead? The rocker started to strum and play mini solos with distortions enough to preserve the rock elements but yet flowing nicely alongside the rhythms of the Gamelan. The dance moves seem to evolve into an interesting recipe of accommodating the influences of the battling Gamelan and electric guitar. Imagine trying to dance Salsa with a Metallica tune? It's a paradox really. It sounded impossible but hey! Indian traditional dance with electric guitar rocky music elements! It works! Fantastic!

So in conclusion, Tarikan is an eye opener. It is an evolution. An aesthetic value that truly upholds the need to move in the same wavelength with the changing environment. It epitomises the spirit of contemporary art and gives new life to ancient creation. It is simply refreshing. A surprise even. It is creative - Full Stop. Syabas! Ramli and his crew.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 1:29 AM

Title: Gunaan Ilusi
Medium: Water Base Paint Mural + Photography
Dimension: 340cm X 170cm
Artist: Johan Ishak
Models: Johan Ishak & Amirul Rizal
Time/Date: November 1992
Place of Creation: STAR, Ipoh
Current Location: Demolished


Friday, August 17, 2012 at 3:12 AM
At the dawn of Syawal, we are given the opportunity to seek forgiveness from all regardless of age, religion or ethnic origin. We are not spared from the imperfection of committing sins, even as small as atoms.

We must not forget that we are humans. For that, we err. For that, we are humbled by the mere acknowledgement of our weaknesses, as humans. With humility, comes realisation. With realisation, comes gratitude. With gratitude, comes love.

Therefore, at the dawn of Syawal, it is only appropriate that such love is epitomised through forgiveness. Let's forgive each other. Happy Syawal.


Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Title: Fighting Ciggy Cravings
Medium: Photography; Photo-effects
Photographer/Artist: Johan Ishak
Time/Date: 8:50pm; 5 Jul 2012
Venue: Shah Alam


Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 4:19 AM

Title: Bravura Victuals XVI
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Mandi Lamb
Time/Date: 9:57 pm; 29 June 2012
Venue: Nasi Arab, Kota Damansara


Friday, June 29, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Title: Bravura Victuals XV
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Banana Fritters & Vanilla Ice Cream
Time/Date: 2:00 pm; 27 June 2012
Venue: Ecoba, PJ Trade Centre


Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 1:54 AM

Malaysian Contemporary Art | Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection

LIYA AND FAROUK KHAN had recently shared with me their collections of Malaysian contemporary art. It is a magnificent piece of portfolio. Amazing really. They have made a book out of the collection called Malaysian Contemporary Art | Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection. What a shame that this book cannot be procured from the book stores nor is it available from any galleries. It is a limited edition. Only those very rare few managed to buy it when it was issued. In any case, I perused through the portfolio and felt compelled to at least share a few of my favourites.... just the top few that I admire from the whole collection (I choose not to name the title of those pieces but only the artists - I have my own reasons):

SHOOSHIE SULAIMAN has a magnificent flare for figures especially the face of human beings. Not realists, but distorted with brilliant mixture of colours to blend those faces into the ambiance of a room. It radiates emotion only each individual who is viewing it are entitled to interpret. A series of such work, if arranged on a wide wall will just roast the appreciation to perfection. Mind you, she is the only Malaysian, to have brought back award from the prestigious Documenta from Germany.

DAUD RAHIM toys around with abstract. Definitely not a realist. An impressionist random in thoughts but bold in presentation, sufficiently myopic to give chance for viewers to explore their own set of storytelling (in their minds). My personal view is that, his strokes and colour combinations just makes a lot of sense. It creates the mood for you to tell your own story of the piece regardless of what Daud himself was thinking when he was painting it.

ANUAR RASHID captures my attention in a different manner. It is as if he is enlightening me with certain cosmic aura. Unlike Daud who chooses to boldly present his statements, Anuar gives a mystical sense. The sort of work that makes you think with your eyes focused to the floor rather than on the painting. This piece here is my son's favourite. He (my son) said, "the rest of the art works are full of ghosts but this one, shows heaven".

AHMAD FUAD OSMAN simply gives me the creep. I am not sure whether this feeling will manifest for his other work but for this one here, definitely. I mean, a clown! in the river reflection. How scary is that? You can choose to start telling your own stories like what Daud's work can do; or you can struggle to find that divine meaning like what you get from Anuar's work...... but you cannot escape that first impression this piece gives to your psychological reaction. It simply by-passes neuron interpretations and hits the modulla oblongata straight concluding almost instantaneously that creepy feeling. I must say that out of those hundreds of paintings in the book Malaysian Contemporary Art, this is my favourite. Vibrant colours yet not depicting a circus-like impression. A realist in its visual but abstract in its concept. Manifesting the sarcastic and fearful factor. A masterpiece that can actually pull you away from other paintings gravitating you to itself; offering you a chance to interpret; but in the end, you lose the battle - because it had you at your first glimpse.

These four pieces are just the top four that caught my attention. There are loads of others in the collection worthy of being complimented. Quality wise, fantastic. The collection showcases the level of intelligence our Malaysian contemporary artists have - which is really why the book was published.

Thank you Aliya and Farouk. It has been a pleasure joining you on this short journey down the aesthetic valley. Definitely a heartfelt gratitude that must be voiced out. I salute.


Monday, June 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Title: Bravura Victuals XIV
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Various Buffet Items
Time/Date: 2:00pm; 9 June 2012
Venue: Istana Hotel, KL


at 3:10 PM

Title: Bravura Victuals XIII
Medium: Photography
Photographer: Johan Ishak
Item: Various Buffet Items
Time/Date: 2:00pm; 9 June 2012
Venue: Istana Hotel, KL


Friday, June 8, 2012 at 8:20 PM

"..... the mass public from local (Malaysian) middle income earners are now economically capable of appreciating and acquiring the new Malaysian art, that is Malaysian Contemporary Art. It is as if they (the collectors) are panicking and running to grab hold of those visual art pieces!" quoted by a prominent Malaysian art collector

ALAYSIAN contemporary art is emerging like phoenix rising from the ashes. What is Malaysian contemporary art? All these years and decades Malaysians were only exposed to a few big names in the local art landscape. When asked, they could only only mention Ibrahim Hussein, Ismail Latiff, Jaafar Taib, Azman Yusof and the likes. If Mona Lisa and Madonna On The Rocks are the infamous pieces from the early impressionists, then for us, Malaysians, we prefer to shout out Ibrahim Hussein's Ayahku Dan Angkasawan. These names and masterpiece has now been categorised as the art of the past. Whilst they are labelled as 'Modernist', they are modern for their era.

What characterised them as a class? Well, an example would be how Ibrahim Hussein uses lines in all of his art work and another example would be how Ismail Latiff's obsession with that moon that never seems to be absence from his abstracts. This compulsion to maintain a signature is what makes them 'Modernist' Malaysian Art, an art category of the past, the past that is labelled as 'Post-Colonialisation'. So what is the new age Malaysian art? I believe, as mentioned by a prominent local art collector: "..... the mass public from local (Malaysian) middle income earners are now economically capable of appreciating and acquiring the new Malaysian art, that is Malaysian Contemporary Art. It is as if they (the collectors) are panicking and running to grab hold of those visual art pieces!"

So who are the new names in this so called Malaysian Contemporary Art category? Well, I am an art lover but I am not a connoisseur. Recently I had the privilege of being introduced to a connoisseur of Malaysian Contemporary Art, Mr Farouk Khan and his wife, Aliya Akbar Khan. Both are collectors. I perused through some of their private collections. I must say that it is an impressive collection although some (of the art work), I couldn't grasp the subliminal meanings. That is only because I am the 'new kid on the block', so to speak. Beautiful pieces by names that are already big in the local art community but perhaps, a normal Joe Bloke like me has never heard before. To name a few (that I managed to capture in my mental note from discussions): Ahmad Fuad Osman (one of his masterpiece displayed above) and Ahmad Shukri Mohamed for canvases; and Bayu Otomo and Muthalib Musa for sculptures. These are the new breed of artists. The new contributors to the Malaysian culture. The new proud of nation.

Why now, in the years 2005 and subsequent, that these art works suddenly get noticed? The art industry is a unique industry. A very high quality art work may get unnoticed for years and some may even start getting attention when the painters have long gone to the heavens (or hell), like in the case of Van Gogh. Since Merdeka (the independence of Malaysia), the art scene in this part of the world (South East Asia) has been very much influenced by 'Oriental' type work, the Nanyang Art (see example of display on the right) they call it. This is/was an influence that can be traced from China all the way down to Thailand (Although Thais have somewhat unique religious touch to art), skipped Malaysia, and gravitated towards Singapore. For years collectors have been obsessed with Nanyang Art to the point where its supply becomes abundant. The 'commonality' of the obsession has resulted in an non-uniqueness of the art itself. For those who studied economics, particularly the neo-classical Keynesian Supply and Demand mechanism, of course they'd straight away pointed out the supply has dampened the demand.

Collectors have shifted their appreciation kiblat (direction) to the Malay archipelago that consists of artists from the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Indonesian Islands and the Southern Philippines. This group of people are commonly known as the Malays, for which, the British colonial masters have irresponsibly tagged as disquiet, depression, dissatisfaction, melancholic,..... well, pretty much the opposite of optimism. After colonising, not only they have dampened the the economic well being of these people (Malays), they have also hidden their culture, particularly their artistic creativity. The Malays didn't have to work hard to get the crops out. They didn't have to worry about the 4-seasons' impact to their vegetation. They can find fishes, vegetables, fruits and live stocks available from the rivers and the jungle nearby their kampungs (villages) that they lived in. Naturally, biologically, psychologically as well as historically, these people (Malays) should have developed skills in areas other than economics. In my crude opinion, I think that that skill ought to be art and creativity. When the collectors shifted their attention to the Malaysian Contemporary Art artifacts, it only confirms my hypothesis: a hypothesis that highlights the creativity and the intelligence of the Malay race generally.

Must Malaysia be represented by culture and art that do not even originated from Malaysia? Must a foreigner equate Malaysia to a piece of water colour work that has a panda eating bamboo trees? Why mustn't it be an oil painting of a Pak Cik (an elderly Malay male) by his beca (trishaw)?

So let's get back to the colonisation story. The Malay creativity has been deprived from public appreciation for years since Merdeka - 55 years of post-colonnialism. This is merely the outcome of prioritisation by the Malays themselves. Let's just ignore Indonesia for they have managed to put their cultural and artistic heritage at a higher elevation for the world to notice. Malaysia has gone through quite a milestone. They fought for independence via political methods which went on for ages since the early 20th century until now. This is to ensure their survival in this world. Next step would be, or had been, refining their economic policies to ensure that they are on par with the rest with respect to wealth. This was quite apparent in the various Government initiatives since the 2nd Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, and was made intensified under Tun Mahathir, the 4th Prime Minister. So far the 2 equations are: Politics = Survival and Economy = Wealth. The 3rd stage would be to define or redefine their existence via culture that has art as its subset. Who are we? Who are Malaysian? Must Malaysia be represented by culture and art that do not even originated from Malaysia? Must a foreigner equate Malaysia to a piece of water colour work that has a panda eating bamboo trees? Why mustn't it be an oil painting of a Pak Cik (an elderly Malay male) by his beca (trishaw)?

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