Art gallery Kedai is open for collaboration

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 05 Apr 2014

Art enthusiasts at the Can Control graffiti exhibition.

Newly opened independent art space Kedai reinforces support for the artistic fringe.

If you think running an ordinary business is difficult, imagine running an independent art gallery in the Klang Valley.

But that did not stop artists, Izat Arif Saiful Bahri, 28, and Rizal Sufar, 41, from opening Kedai, an art gallery in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The duo wanted hands-on experience in running an art/space gallery and Kedai, as a blank canvas, is the sort of place to embrace community and multi-disciplinary arts projects.

“We wanted a space to ourselves; a collaborative space that’s open and free to work with other artists and creative minds alike,” said Izat.

According to the owners of Kedai – which opened in March 2014 – at least one show will be held every month. Later this month, Kedai will roll out a show with two homegrown artists – Engku Iman and Akmal Borhan.

The owners say that Kedai is like an open studio, where they welcome anyone interested in using their gallery space.

“We have power tools and working areas so anyone can use them. We encourage these kinds of activities to make it less formal and make it more approachable. Of course, we have plans to organise talks, workshops and other activities. We are open to anyone who wants to utilise the space,” added Izat.

Izat Arif Saiful Bahri (left) and Rizal Sufar, the main people behind Kedai.

Back in February, Izat had one of his works removed from the Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries) 2013 finals at the National Visual Arts Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. The dust has since settled and this young man has moved on from that episode with Kedai.

In terms of decision-making, Izat and Rizal work together to select exhibitions for their gallery, allowing them to maintain the focus and art direction of Kedai.

“We try not to put any restrictions in terms of form. In fact, during the opening (of Kedai), we had all sorts of forms like photography, sculptures and installations.”

Ultimately, being artists and owners of Kedai, the pair have to manage their time between their passion and the business.

“We think that all artists try to juggle making a living and pursuing their passion as an artist. This applies to a lot of people, regardless of profession.

“While you have to be responsible and professional, you never quit pursuing your passion. It’s all about the effort on how you make the time,” he added.

Currently, Kedai is hosting a show by Escape VA (real name Mohd Zaki), a 28-year-old graffiti artist. His show called Can Control features his works in graffiti art which he started back in 2006.

Art enthusiasts at the Can Control graffiti exhibition.

Can Control is about how the spray can conquers me. I started in 2006 with zero support and the only thing by my side was the spray can,” said Escape VA as he briefly explained the contents of his first solo exhibition. “Everything I have made comes out of the tip of the spray can.”

For three years, Escape VA planned for his solo show only to be hampered by financial issues until the Kedai gallery came along.

During the exhibition period this month, art enthusiasts can view six canvases (0.9m x 1.2m each) linked to the wall, featuring Escape VA’s work that even comes with glow-in-the-dark black light effects, which he achieves by using fluorescent paint.

On the subject matter, Izat says that Kedai wanted to test the limits of graffiti within the confines of a gallery.

“We wanted to see if it is possible to obtain a similar impact if the work was shown indoors.

“Escape VA also wanted to challenge his own limitations by working with canvases and doing installations to accompany his graffiti,” added Izat.

While graffiti is often associated with negativity, Escape VA is adamant that like all forms of art, opinions and interests on graffiti can be very subjective.

“It’s a classic thing to relate graffiti to vandalism, but I won’t say that it’s vandalism – it depends on how you look at it,” said Escape VA, who compares graffiti to advertising billboards.

“Just like there are good and bad people; there is also positive and negative graffiti,” he concluded.

Escape VA’s Can Control is on at Kedai, D-G-03, Jalan SS6/20A, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor till April 11. Open daily from 11am till 7pm. For more information, log on to or check out Escape VA’s page at

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