sembilan Art Residency Exhibitions
Season Six: Pancaroba
Taking a perspective of the traditional Sanskrit culture, Pancaroba carries a direct translation of “five changes”. Over continuous use, this evolved to the meaning of change and the shifting times.
6 months ago, Tomi and Sofia stepped into the realm of uncertainty, leaving behind the comfort of their studios and work spaces, to challenge themselves in a new environment.
Each of them began their residency with a different purpose, but both with the same ambitions to come out of the programme more sure and confident of their direction in the field of their choice. The routes taken in their pursuit of change were vastly different, reflecting their different style and approach in managing change.
Tomi Heri, a self-taught visual with a degree in graphic design, stepped away from the world of design to explore the world of fine arts. Combining the philosophy of design with the principles of fine art, Tomi sought to develop new techniques and approaches that would refine the outcome of his ideas, and to bring his message across in an uninterrupted manner.
In Pancaroba, Tomi explored the value of human life in their environment and surroundings. This concept is the central idea to the artist’s series of works, to understand the reality of situations and to empathise with the different perspectives about social issues and cultural surroundings.
Tomi attempts to capture visuals that was most engrained in his mind, purely by memory – challenging himself to be mindful of what had inspired and which events drew his attention the most. In his series of multi-layered spray-paint story board, he reproduced through memory experiences and interactions in several places – at studios in Kuala Lumpur and Jogjakarta. The images were not recorded in any form during the occurrence, but he relied on his memory to tell him what was the most memorable and significant event, object, experience that his mind could capture. These stories were then told in the most representative way, so that the message is clear and uninterrupted by noise or distracted by other visuals in the works. In each of these iconic patterns, he introduces designs which are uniquely created to represent the particular scene. Thus, enhancing and delivering the notion of being engaged in a situation, and experiencing the relationship of human interaction and the surroundings.
Orang Lama Seremban – a nonet of characters in Seremban is another representation of Tomi’s exploration of human life in their environment. Paying tribute to the local veterans of the community, Tomi explored a new approach in his art, combining his trademark pattern and colour palette with wood cut and plastic collage work to produce this series of sculptures. Each figure represented a special story of a Seremban resident – whom Tomi had the opportunity to observe from afar and to also get to know during his time at the residency programme.
Sofia Haron – a fine art graduate took to an insular approach during the programme, using this opportunity to redefine her style, and to understand the emotional journey of her career in fine arts.
Letting her emotions guide her way, Sofia’s feelings are expressed in the colours and creations that had manifested from dreams, which she sees as a subconscious interpretation of real life experiences. Documenting her dreams immediately when she awakes, Sofia attempts to capture their meaning, and her feelings in trying to overcome the associated emotional changes.
These are best reflected in a three major works which have been selected for the exhibition – Ophie’s Dream, Rest Deeply, and Waves of Thoughts - 100 pieces of 1 by 1 frames, where the dreamlike atmosphere seeks to bring a sense of calmness and serenity.
Pancaroba sees the artists coming through the doors of the sembilan Art Residency, evolving during the 6 months, in search of meaning, developing skills and new techniques that sees them through a momentous journey of change and shifting times of their artistic careers.
Inaugural Group Exhibition
A path may be chosen, but the experience is never predictable, nor can it be planned.
The journey each person goes through is as good as what they see it to be. A challenging situation could be seen either as a set-back, or an opportunity; a successful outcome could be seen as an entitlement or an achievement. Your journey is what you perceive it to be. 12 artists of 6 seasons from sembilan Art Residency Program share what “Journey” means to them in a group exhibition, with each artist displaying their own storyboard of works.
The artists hail from various places, with the only commonality being that everyone currently calls Malaysia “home”. The diversity in background, culture, artistic style and expression of the artists has contributed to the varied interpretation of life as they experience it. Each artist has created art works revolving around their perception of “Journey”. Is this the road travelled? Or the future? Does the past determine their future path? Is it their own experience or an opinion about the general being of the environment?
Since sembilan opened our doors to support artists through its residency program and artist development programs, our story has been woven through the trials and tribulations of the artists, and our journey is a never-ending tale that will forever be told by those who come through our doors, who have supported the program, and who have worked alongside us in our common goal to support Malaysian Art and Malaysian Artists.
Journey is an exhibition of people’s stories, individuals representing themselves and the paths they have taken on their own and collectively.
Artists participating are Nicholas Chong, Jael Estrella, Ajim Juxta, Eryn, Elena Kravchenko, Aleff Ahmad, Anahita Ghazanfari, Syahbandi, Tajrin Faruqi, Ahmad Rais, Tomi Heri & Sofia Haron.
Season Five: Work x Play
Work x Play
When Ahmad Rais and Tajrin Faruqi presented the idea of ‘Work X Play’ as their theme for our 5th residency, more than anything else, it managed to capture what I personally observed as the alchemy of the sembilan Art Residency Program this time around.
Rais and Tajrin had opposite styles and characters when they first stepped into the Residency. But as the season unfolded, ‘Work x Play’ began to incorporate both their individual and the collective spirit of their journey throughout the program. Where, despite being conscious of their purpose, despite working hard to resolve ideas and thoughts, these artists were still able to represent the vigour that comes with being young, being experimental, and most importantly to move beyond what they once were.
Ahmad Rais (born 1993), a classically influenced painter with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, certainly came out of the residency with a different presentation from what he excelled at during his study years. Undeniably, coming from a school that has produced some of the best figurative artists in the country has helped Rais establish a solid foundation and develop his own impressive resume. Nonetheless, this association also presented him with a dilemma of being frequently compared to the legacy of established artists.
Although his works are still dominated by his favourite figurative subjects with direct formal descriptions – where his canvasses were once filled with fine strokes of oil paint brushes, they are now replaced with more spontaneous brushstrokes and bolder charcoal sketches. These daring new expressions of energy managed to successfully provide a more realistic human touch to the stories of the figures. Whilst his approach is neither new nor unique to him, it is critically more sincere and reflective of himself. Arguably, these works represent a reconstruction of his own self.
Born in 1987, Tajrin was educated at MSU School of Law before deciding to become a full-time artist. The demands and pressure of becoming a self-taught, full-time artist has seen him publish a wide variety of works with different media. He produced artworks for underground zines, clothing lines, posters, books, and independent publications. Despite a very ‘pop’ mode of operation, his works mostly fell into the Neo-Expressionism / Abstract Expressionism category.
This residency provided Tajrin with the opportunity to focus his ideas and thoughts on large-scale canvasses. Most of his major works for the residency are monochromatic, black and white of scribbled letters, anticipated motions, naïve sketches, and dripped paints. Talking to Tajrin, his admiration for Twombly and Pollock is apparent. The ubiquitous transparent layering of media using pencil, crayons and ruddy paints, breaks the boundaries of what is considered ‘High Arts’. It also gives us a flavourful hint of Basquiat’s ferocious techniques. The visual appearances, gives a satirical glimpse of his takes on current social and political context, providing an easier approach for us to look at – or into his works.
Art residencies are often a mix of a workplace and a playground. At sembilan, strong work ethics are required and daring experimental endeavours - celebrated. As in a classroom where learning requires both hard work and having fun, residencies put the learning process in context of reality, where work and play are equally a part of life.
“Work and play are artificial pair of opposites, because the best kind of play contains an element of work, and the most productive of work must include something of the spirit of play.” - Sydney J. Harris
sembilan Art Residency Program
Season Four: Exploration X Expression
Exploration x Expression
“Everything we feel deeply must be expressed” - Hans Hartung
And for every person, the need to explore and communicate may be met through different means. Some write, others talk. For artists – they draw and paint.
In Exploration x Expression, Anahita Ghazanfari and Muhammad Syahbandi transposed their inner thoughts into art works, uniquely interpreting and conveying their deeper individual feelings. Separately, their pieces are apparently in blunt contrast to each other, a clear depiction of their total opposing personalities. Yet in collaboration, their differences seemingly vanish – perhaps a reflection of human’s natural instinct to sometimes underplay the concept of “Self” in favour of a broader, collective purpose.
The exploration to the inner depths of his mind was intense for Syahbandi. The 13 works produced forms a narrative on the anger, frustration and fear he has had to overcome. It speaks of both challenges faced and the continuous battles within himself. “Hati 23 Tahun” is a collage of objects, including the tools of his trade, representing his lifetime experience of internalised conflicts. The somewhat morbid self-depiction is a notable departure from his previous interpretation of fairy tales and mythology.
Illustrating a path of terror and uncertainty, Syahbandi’s pen on canvas exudes a soft delivery to an otherwise harsh story, starting with “Dedaun atau Deduit”. Thereon, it intensifies with stronger accents, starker contrasts and dimmer exposures, such as “Monster Under the Bed, Never a Nightmare Will Be”.
The notion of ‘self’ is often under-rated, unrepresented and indescribable. Finding the meaning of ‘self’ is almost impossible without looking at the surrounding that moulds, influences and inspires a person.
Anahita’s exploration of ‘self’ can be traced through her works during her residency. Taking time to familiarise with her new surroundings, she spiritually assimilated into the environment and internalised the outside world into her personal space. Bringing the lush greenery into her paintings, Anahita was inspired by the natural landscapes, which reminded her of home. The re-connection with her roots stirred emotions and realisation of self, and the need to express this in her series of works, “Life in Leaves”.
Reflecting on her evolved ‘self’, two of Anahita’s major works for the residency saw her amalgamating her worlds into a still capture, with hints of herself, Seremban’s landscape and the Iranian culture.
In what is perhaps the most poignant moment of this program, the duo trawled the streets of Seremban to feature 12 Seremban locals from various backgrounds, documenting their stories by photography and light hearted conversations. Extending their exploration of ‘self’ to the local community, the pair’s collaboration series convey the stories of those whom society may have taken for granted – or simply have not paused to ask, “Who are they?”
Exploration x Expression is a true manifestation of the artists’ self-expression through the lens of their emotions, thoughts and experiences. The physical is but a form that contains the soul, and so it is the heart and soul that sembilan’s season 4 artists seek to reveal to us. Congratulations to both artists for taking that step to reflect and share with us your journey in self-exploration and expression.
Season Three: Unborn X Reborn
sembilan Art Residency Program presents its third exhibition – Unborn x Reborn on 31st October 2015 in collaboration with Awegallery. Unborn x Reborn will feature works by Elena Kravchenko and Aleff Ahmad produced during their residency with sembilan.
Based in the quaint town of Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, the residency program provides emerging artists a home away from home for three months, to create new works for a joint exhibition at the end of their season in residence.
Unborn x Reborn presents fifteen  outstanding works completed by Elena and Aleff during their time with sembilan from May - August 2015. The exhibition showcases the individual artist’s work of art and - most interestingly, two joint collaboration pieces.
“Unborn” by Elena is inspired by the belief that individuals live with the problem of choice; and balancing between two or more parallel realities - physical, ideological, emotional and illusionary. Expectations may not be met due to the asymmetry of information while objectivity is almost never achieved in our decision making process. Choices and therefore decisions will always put us in a situation of inner conflict because of uncertainty. The Unborn therefore will not reveal itself before we actually take a decision and make a choice. Elena’s experience in graphic designing and illustration work has contributed significantly in the storytelling process of her works. With her mythological creatures and Russian folklore, Elena presents the current struggle of dualism through them as messengers. Her works are strikingly current as it combines current day iconicism with centuries’ old mythology in a pleasant calming mood. This balance subtly engages the viewer for a moment, as it is easy to be drawn to her friendly works, and be caught in the complexity of the story. Elena also explores a new medium in this residency where wood is pieced together to create “Two-Faced”, a montage of another mystical story.
“Reborn” on the other hand reminds us of our current being, how our existence is directly influenced by our decisions made about our lifestyle choices. Aleff’s childhood ambition to be an astronaut is featured in this series, where this goal will always be his dream. While it may not be achievable anymore, it reminds him of a higher pursuit to look forward to in life. Alike to being reborn, Aleff was inspired with the concept of living a healthy lifestyle during his period of residency, and has adopted healthier dietary choices during this time. Being in a different environment, Aleff was also influenced with the surroundings of Seremban – markets, the coffee shops and stalls he patronised, Hotel Sun Lun Yik and his fellow artist in residence. In an almost surreal depiction of floating food in space, Aleff juxtaposes realism into fictional environments, creating an interesting blend to the works.
A special feature of the residency is for the artists to collaborate on two pieces of work. In Season 3, Elena and Aleff reveal two pieces emanating from the underlying themes of both artist’s message. These collaborative pieces are strong collaborative pieces of the artists, produced with a great sense of artistic teamwork and mutual influences, which embodies the spirit of sembilan Art Residency Program.
Unborn x Reborn will be open to the public from the 31st of October 2015 till 8th of November 2015. The launch of the event will be held on the 31st of October 2015 at 3:00 pm.
Season Two: Known X Unknown
sembilan Art Residency Program presents its second exhibition - Known X Unknown on 31st May 2015 in collaboration with Aku Cafe & Gallery. Known X Unknown will feature works by ERYN and Ajim Juxta produced during their residency with sembilan.
Based in the quaint town of Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, the residency program provides emerging artists a home away from home for three months, to create new works for a joint exhibition at the end of their season in residence.
Known X Unknown presents the results of 37 outstanding works completed by ERYN and Ajim Juxta during their time with sembilan from February - April 2015. The exhibition showcases the individual artist’s work of art and - most interestingly, two joint collaboration pieces.
“Known Unknown” by ERYN alludes us to the mysteries of unknown creatures hidden within known objects that are familiar to us. With a talent in defining details, ERYN challenges the viewer with identifying realistic subjects within a surreal context. In her continual effort to find a balance between preserving her style and being contemporary, ERYN documents her observations of current worldly trends within her whimsical interpretation of nature. This relationship between nature and human in a modern world may seem obscure at first; but would be enlightening to those who allow their minds to wander and explore. In “King of Everything”, ERYN’s detailed rendition of a decaying, embellished Kingfisher holding on to as much as he can, as his soul lingers caged in a bodily husk, tells the story of how mankind, despite being held captive within his material world, still desperately tries to enrich itself. In “Tell Me About Yourself (diptych)”, the story of a modern long distance relationship plays out within two beautifully crafted wooden panels, with detailed drawings of two beings in conversation via modern day technology. ERYN works with ink, watercolour, acrylic, intricate paper cutting on wood panels and canvases.
“Unknown Known” on the other hand is an enigmatic collection of our existence. Almost abstract in delivery, Ajim Juxta deconstructs our surroundings to remind us about what makes up the city we live in - and how it in turn defines us. Components, materials and structures evolve over time, organically morphing from its man-made glory days to eventual decadence. “Kulat” and “Karat” tells of how people today are consumed by material possessions and gadgets, forgetting that these too will someday be consumed by nature’s forces of mold and rust. Ajim Juxta’s strong technique in perspective is amplified in this series, with dynamic points of views and varying degrees of dimensions visually illustrated. Humanity, and the corresponding personalities of mankind, is also explored with manifestations of individuals with multiple personalities - whether consciously, subconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally. The constant deliberation of what is obvious and what is not in our modern society underpins Ajim Juxta’s series of work. Ajim Juxta works with pen, ink, acrylic, blood (yes, blood!), on paper and canvas.
A special feature of the residency is for the artists to collaborate on two pieces of work. In Season #2, ERYN and Ajim Juxta reveal two pieces emanating from the underlying themes of both artist’s message. “Beauty in the Grotesque” and “Magic in the Mundane” depicts the gradual disappearance of the natural self, in the form of a possessed hermit and a mushrooming mind (quite literally). It tells of how, when materialism takes over, it has the power to turn us into parasites that leaches from the world out of greed. However, we simply have to look inside to seek reprieve and reclaim that little bit of peace and magic that leads to greater fulfilment. These collaborative pieces are strong collaborative pieces of the artists, produced with a great sense of artistic teamwork and mutual influences, which embodies the spirit of sembilan Art Residency Program.
Known X Unknown will be open to the public from the 31st of May 2015, till 7th of June 2015. A special and unique launch event will be held on the 31st of May 2015, hosted with a mission to promote art to new, first time collectors.
Season One: Flow x Symmetry
30th January 2015 marks a milestone for the newly developed sembilan Art Residency Program. Hosting its inaugural exhibition in collaboration with Alliance Francais Kuala Lumpur, sembilan presents Flow x Symmetry, featuring Nicholas Choong and Jaël Estrella – two promising artists from diverse backgrounds; with the common goal to experience a unique journey in their artistic career.
Based in the quaint town of Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, the residency program provides emerging artists a home away from home for three months, to create new works for a joint exhibition at the end of their season in residence. In addition to a cosy abode at Hotel Sun Lun Yik, Nicholas and Jaël also participated in an artist workshop held in Penang, hosted by Wei Ling Gallery. Sembilan fully sponsored this trip and managed the workshop application, as part of its artist development initiative which aims to provide the artist in residence new learning and growth opportunities.
Flow x Symmetry is the result of the outstanding works completed by Nicholas and Jaël during their time with sembilan from October-December 2014. The exhibition showcases the individual artist’s work of art and - most interestingly, a joint collaboration piece.
Flow is represented by Nicholas, whose character, style and approach to his work is akin to the nature of a floating leaf leaning where the wind blows. In this series, we follow Nicholas’ journey in sembilan from the time he settles into the art space, familiarizing himself with Seremban town (“Stage 1 - Where I am”), exploring new subjects and methods (“Stage 2 - The Uncles”), and finally to the last stage of his time, showcasing the emulsion of all his experience in four distinct portraits of people recognized for their individual strengths and talent (“Stage 3 - Portraits”). Nicholas works with watercolour, ink and acrylic on paper and canvas.
Symmetry resonated with Jaël from the beginning of her time with sembilan. Recognising her need to fulfill the desire to work on this, Jaël dived straight into creating nature-inspired works of symmetry. In achieving balance, Jaël meticulously outlines the patterns achieved from the pressing of acrylic on paper, creating out of this world patterns and colour streams. Each stroke and splash may seem unstructured at first glance, but balance comes into the picture with boundaries drawn into the perceived chaos, best described by the popular phrase ‘organised madness’. Although inspired by nature, Jaël’s paintings invite viewers to self-interpret the story: “You tell me what you see – because everybody sees something different. And that’s why I love this method so much!”
A special feature of the residency is for the artists to collaborate on one piece of work. In Season #1, Nicholas and Jaël reveals “The Roti Man”. A truly iconic Malaysian whom may be a thing of the past in the cities – but not so in Seremban. This collaboration sees Nicholas’ amazing line work merging with Jaël’s talented eye for colour. “The Roti Man” is a true reflection of collaboration, the spirit of the sembilan Art Residency, and fully represents flow and symmetry in Season #1’s exhibition.
Flow x Symmetry will be open to public on the 31st of January 2015 for three weeks. A special and unique launch event will be held on the 30th of January 2015 by invitation, hosted with a mission to promote art as a lifestyle. A post-event press release will be issued after the launch.