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Tuesday November 18, 2008

Sarawak through the eyes of Bidayuh duo

LOOK carefully at Raphael Scott Ahbeng’s paintings and one notices that red is used in all of them — whether all over or just a dash.

“I like red. It gives a lot of warmth and is easy to make friends with other colours,” said the 70-year-old.

He was speaking at the opening of the Borneo Escapade – Sarawak exhibition featuring him and Melton Kais at Art Loft gallery.

Display of colours and forms: Raphael Scott Ahbeng, a painter, cartoonist and former broadcaster and teacher with some of his artworks featured at the Borneo Escapade.

Art Loft founder artist Paw Gee Loung said she would like to represent the two artists, who were well-known in Sarawak.

“Both hail from the Bidayuh tribe and are similarly inspired by their environment, lifestyle and ethnic culture,” she said.

“While both paint semi-abstract subjects using the acrylic-on-canvas method, they are different in the way they interpret their work, choose their combination of colours and reveal their final results.”

Ahbeng is a painter, cartoonist, and former broadcaster and teacher.

“Painting is a way of expressing my feelings. I like to paint good things that give viewers a good feeling, and make them think and feel rejuvenated.

“I paint subjects that are close to my heart — nature and landscapes. Unlike people, they’re silent and don’t criticise,” Ahbeng said with a laugh.

Beautiful flower: Melton Kais with one of his larger paintings Heliconia.

“I also do ceramic works and photography. All these keep me occupied and it’s great fun doing them every day.”

A few of his artworks have been successfully auctioned overseas, an achievement he is proud of and spurs him to continue painting while making new discoveries.

Kais, 48, is so passionate about painting that he has disciplined himself to paint for four hours early every morning before he heads off to school to teach.

“I do my serious paintings in the mornings, when there isn’t much distracting noise.

“While the inspirations come by themselves, the execution isn’t as easy, so it’s important to have a set plan before I begin.”

He believes in leaving it to the viewers to interact with his work, hence will leave little hints through the titles to create a rapport between the viewers and his artworks.

Of culture and Bidayuh rituals: Visitors looking at some of Melton Kais’ artworks.

Kais, who has taught for 29 years from lower to upper secondary school levels, said: “I initially taught to survive after I received my specialist teacher’s certificate in art education. It eventually became an obligation to art and to educate the younger generation.”

Paw, a lawyer turned artist, founded Art Loft to provide a platform for all talented artists to showcase their work.

“A lot of talented people give up because they’re unable to get the necessary exposure or financial stability.

“Having experienced their journey and challenges, I’m able to empathise and understand them better.

“Our aim is to not drive away talented artists even if they’re inexperienced,” said Paw, 45.

A chance meeting with an arts professor in Shanghai sparked her interest in oil painting and the arts world, which she subsequently pursued full-time when she came back to Malaysia.

“I enrolled in the Kuala Lumpur College of Arts (KLCA) as a part-time Fine Arts student, but I earned enough credits to finish with a certificate in Fine Arts,” said Paw.

‘Singai Gap’ by Raphael Scott Ahbeng.

“I continued creating artworks using various medium like watercolour, charcoal, acrylic, pastel, lino print and wood cut, but my first love will always be oil painting, because I just love its textural feel.”

She hopes to create a space at Art Loft where artists and like-minded people can hang out, and represent more artists, including foreign or current expatriates, and expand her database to include sculptors, photographers and multimedia artists.

The exhibition is held until Nov 29 at Art Loft, Lot F-03, CapSquare Centre, No. 7 Persiaran CapSquare, off Jalan Munshi Abdullah, KL.

The gallery is open from Mondays to Saturdays, from 11am to 7pm.

For details, contact 03-2692 6118 or artloft@ymail.com.


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