A chartered accountant on weekdays, Sheela Raghavan Tan dedicates her weekends teaching underprivileged children the art of Bharatana...
Women in Art
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we present a list of Malaysian female artists (both the emerging and the veteran) who break boundaries, set fresh perspectives, and create some fantastic art along the way. While by no means a comprehensive overview of the many talented women artists in the country (for more, you can follow @MyWomensArt on Twitter), we hope this list will inspire more Malaysians to create art.
Born in Batu Pahat in 1987, Fadilah Karim first fell in love with art through colouring contests of her childhood. However, it wasn’t until a two-month mentorship under Malaysian figurative painter Amron Omar and a group show after her graduation that becoming an artist began to seem like an attainable goal. Fadilah only has had two solo exhibitions (Vague at Pace Gallery in 2012 and most recently, Secret Lies at Taksu Gallery in 2016) to her name, but it’s enough to showcase her signature aesthetic – a disciplined use of colour, intimate portraiture, distinct elements of shadow and light, and a sense of drama and mystery.
Defying Gravity by Fadilah Karim
White Lies by Fadilah Karim
In interviews, the Kuala Lumpur-based painter frequently refers to her works as autobiographical in nature. Every image tells a story – melancholic scenes of a girl, her face partially hidden from the viewer (sometimes with a sandy rabbit), or characters falling into the unknown – there’s a sense of despair about it all. Holding a Masters in Fine Art & Technology from UiTM, Fadilah is also a HOM Art Trans Young Guns 2013 award recipient and has exhibited in Singapore, Germany, Taiwan and Korea besides Malaysia.
Credit: Kadist Foundation
One of the most celebrated contemporary artists and curators to emerge from Malaysia in recent years, Susyilawati Sulaiman (fondly called Shooshie Sulaiman) has been recognised internationally in some of the art world’s biggest events in Vienna, Korea, Tokyo and more. However, Shooshie has been able to avoid the spotlight in Malaysia thus far. Born in Muar in 1973, the UiTM Fine Art graduate is known for her masterful approach to different mediums such as site-specific installations, performances, gallery spaces, two-dimensional works and more to get her message across.
Credit: George Waldren/Tomio Koyama Gallery
Unique to her identity, Shooshie’s works bring the Asian narrative to a wider stage by exploring history, culture, social contexts and stories within Southeast Asia. Case in point: Sulaiman is a Rubber Tapper, presented in her first solo exhibition at the Tomio Koyama Gallery, is a piece that explores her relationship with her father by carving moulds of her father’s image from rubber tree sap extracted from their family plantation in Segamat. Or her most recent exhibition Malay Mawar at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, a piece in which Shooshie pays tribute to her mother.
An avid gardener, the artist turns a scientific experiment into an aesthetic one, grafting two rose species (one growing on her mother’s grave in Johor, the other from a farm near Versailles) together to explore the boundaries between art and science.
Credit: George Waldren/Tomio Koyama Gallery
Shooshie’s works are collected by the Kadist Foundation, and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Follow her work on tomiokoyamagallery.com.
Inspired by her mother who paints as a hobby, visual artist Sophia Kamal has been interested in art since young. Based in TTDI, the University of East London graduate debuted her solo exhibition WUDU at grungy art space Minit Init Art Social at Damansara Utama. Wudu (ablution) is an act of ritual cleansing of self before prayers, and therefore, the series by Sophia is hyper focused on the hands and faces of women, painted in strokes of bright colour.
Under the illumination of fluorescent lights at the exhibition, the paintings take on a different quality. The 25-year old artist takes on the issues of identity, religion, freedom, feminism and beauty through portraits of women, painted in psychedelic tones of pink, purple and blue, seeking to render the female body from a modest point of view.
The young artist has showcased her pieces in more than 20 exhibitions, from the Espacio gallery in London to Hin Bus Depot in Penang.
Visual artist and founder of Everyday Studios (an independent creative agency), 23-year-old Sharina Shahrin is currently based in Prague, studying Fine Art and Experimental Media at Prague College. Having a background in creative direction (she studied it at the London College of Fashion), fashion and art has certainly propelled her to greater heights.
Following her London stint, Sharina spent a year in Kuala Lumpur working on various projects for brands such as H&M, Shu Uemura, and even local shoemaker Nelissa Hillman, before furthering her studies in Prague. Identifying herself as more of a “creative” than an artist, Sharina started Baju by Sharina with her mother, a traditional wear clothing line that combines baju Kedah and unique batik textiles designed by Sharina herself. She’s also had exhibitions in Malaysia, London and Prague. Her works have been described along the lines of “psychedelic”, “surreal”, and “otherworldly”, but the visual creative actually prefers to work with acrylic on canvas.
By John Kang
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