Artists and their notion of time

  • Arts
  • Monday, 17 Oct 2016

Years to study, train and refine the craft, hours and even days to create and construct, no two worlds meld better than watch-making and art.

To celebrate its 15th anniversary as the leading Malaysian-born purveyor of fine watches, Swiss Watch Gallery recently collaborated with a group of personalities from the Malaysian arts scene.

The fifth edition of its signature event, Art Of Time – which ends on Oct 23 – is a gallery of masterpieces from the worlds of watch-making and the arts. The art pieces were revealed at Art Of Time’s grand launch at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur on Oct 13.

Presented with an open brief, each artist worked on their individual expressions of the notion of time. This collective was specifically gathered for Art Of Time by noted artist Yusof Gajah.

Here, we take a look at the participating artists:

Timely expressions

Participating artists (from left) Abu Zaki Hadri, Mohd Yusof Abd Wahid, Emila Yusof, Tham Siew Moi, Yusof Gajah and Zarina Abdullah. Photos: Swiss Watch Gallery
Participating artists (from left) Abu Zaki Hadri, Mohd Yusof Abd Wahid, Emila Yusof, Tham Siew Moi, Yusof Gajah and Zarina Abdullah. Photos: Swiss Watch Gallery

Emila Yusof

Lost In Time In Chronoland

Emila occupies a wonderfully whimsical world as a children’s book illustrator and author, and it shows in her artwork.

Dabbling in various styles – from line work to painterly – her vivid paintings often carry a very surreal quality revolving around characters of pure imagination. Her favourite narrator is often a little girl journeying between worlds with a cat as companion.

Lost In Time In Chronoland by Emila. She occupies a wonderfully whimsical world as a children’s book illustrator and author, and it shows in her artwork.
Lost In Time In Chronoland by Emila Yusof. She occupies a wonderfully whimsical world as a children’s book illustrator and author, and it shows in her artwork.

Emila has won three awards at the Samsung Kids Time Author’s Award at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content Singapore 2016 for her titles My Mother’s Kitchen, My Mother’s Garden and Legendary Princesses Of Malaysia, and received Best Picture Book for Early Learner Award and Best Picture Book Award at the Festival Sastera Kanak-Kanak Malaysia 2015.

On Chronoland, she mused: “When I finished painting, I thought, ‘Wow, so lonely to be lost in time, poor kids’. Then I slowly added the trees and other little creatures, and I found that the whole painting has been given new meaning, a life to itself, a land of its own, which I call Chronoland. Now children can enjoy being lost in time in Chronoland.”

Yusof Gajah

Bulat Series – Time Flies

Born Mohd Yusof bin Ismail in Johol, Negeri Sembilan, his famed moniker refers to his predilection for elephants which feature constantly in his works.

The Singapore-educated Yusof received art training at Sekolah Seni Rupa Indonesia and Akademi Seni Rupa Indonesia in Yogyakarta.

His renown stretches far across the world, having shown at prestigious shows in Norway, Sweden, Indonesia and Japan. In 1996, he won the top prize in the Noma Concours Children’s Picture Book Art Competition in Tokyo.

At first glance, his vibrant style is easily recognisable, from its vivacious colours and strokes to the whimsical treatment of its subjects. This naive or child-like style is deceivingly simple but each composition is unplanned yet purposeful.

“I’ve always enjoyed my life as a child. I had a lot of freedom then – you did anything, you don’t think about consequences. And so when it comes to my art, it is the same. My philosophy is to keep it simple and to be like a child. I just follow my heart,” he explained.

For Art Of Time, he introduced a new addition to his Bulat Series called Time Flies. The bulatan (circle) represents creativity moving and the earth, with time represented by a menagerie of animals and their respective lifespans.

Tham Siew Moi


A self-professed “kampung girl”, Tham’s supportive mother was one of her most important motivators, enabling her to achieve a scholarship to the Central Academy of Art in Kuala Lumpur.

Since graduating in 1993, Tham – who was born in Segamat, Johor – has featured in various solo and group exhibitions, with the most recent being Thought Of Art, a solo show at Jeth Art Gallery, and at the Incheon Global Arts Exhibition Korea in 2015.

Tham’s favourite medium is oil paints although she has dabbled with watercolour a few times. Her control and play in texture, depth and dimension result in exquisite still life paintings, rich and vivid in colour and imprinted with references to the surroundings and the cultural influences she grew up with, from Malaysian flora and fauna to Peranakan tiles and batik prints.

Mohd Yusof Abd Wahid


A native of Klang, Selangor, Mohd Yusof has had a flair for telling stories through pictures since his primary school days.

Art runs in the family, so his talent was highly encouraged with his closest mentor being his uncle, the late Tuan Idris Salam, a founding member of art collective, Angkatan Pelukis Semenanjung.

He spent 35 years at Utusan Melayu where he started out as a commercial artist.

Mohd Yusof eventually rose the ranks to art director and head of the design department.

Now a full-time artist, he favours nostalgia, imagery that transports viewers back in time and reminds them of who they are and where they came from.

Abu Zaki Hadri

Time Complexity

An architect by training and profession, abstract painting and sculpture are his favoured forms of expression.

Born in Taiping, Perak, Abu Zaki often plays around with various mediums in a single art piece.

His career began in 1996, studying under his uncle, the late Mansor Hj Ghazalli, one of the greatest watercolourists in Malaysia.

He further honed his skills under the tutelage of architect and artist Zaini Zainul. He has participated in the Langkawi Art Biennale 2014 and in group exhibitions Breakthrough in Kuala Lumpur and Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Building Bridges at Gallery Mona in Tokyo.

For his Art Of Time creation, he takes inspiration from the steampunk movement, depicting time in motion.

Zarina Abdullah

Beauty Of Time

Zarina’s compositions are recognisable by the vibrant intensity of colours and deliberate brushstrokes.

She focuses on figures and expressions, her paintings a visual rendition of a life lived. She has a fascination with the aged, emphasising details like laugh lines and wrinkles which she feels are the various stories in one person’s life.

Zarina feels that society in general pays too little attention to them and she wants her paintings to make people remember those who have raised them and moulded them.

The figures and faces you see in her paintings are based on people in her life.

An artist by training and an educator by profession, Zarina Abdullah holds a Bachelor’s Degree (hons) in fine arts from UITM Shah Alam. In 2002, she won the Grand Prize Nokia Art Award and has also participated in international projects including painting on the cruise ship Pride of America in Bremenhaven, Germany in 2005, and the Korean Art Festival in 2004.

Past, present, future

A dance based on clock-like movements, the purpose of Clockwork is to find that balance between tradition and modernity. Photo: Swiss Watch Gallery
A dance based on clock-like movements, the purpose of Clockwork is to find that balance between tradition and modernity.

A dance based on clock-like movements, its purpose is to find that balance between tradition and modernity. It progresses until they are harmonious and runs “like clockwork”.

Hence, the exploration for Clockwork is based on the concept of watch-making set in a past-present-future timeframe. Some choreographic elements are also derived from actions inspired by the sands of time in an hourglass and the swinging pendulum, indicating that time is constant and therefore change is constant.

Clockwork is choreographed by Fauzi of Aswara Dance Company.
Clockwork is choreographed by Fauzi Amirudin of Aswara Dance Company.

The piece starts with several duets happening simultaneously; each duet shows the process of making the watch, depicting the construction of the idea of time passing but also the construction of tradition of timekeeping.

Dancers are on the sides of the performing space and move gradually to the centre. One side of the space will represent Tradition while the other represents Modernity.

Clockwork is choreographed by Fauzi Amirudin of Aswara Dance Company. His works revolve around old-fashioned aims – melding movement to the rhythms and dynamics music, demonstrating a masterly understanding of his craft.

Born in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, Fauzi holds a diploma in Dance and Bachelor of Dance (Choreography) Hons from Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan.

He is a much sought-after talent who has worked with producers of national and international festivals including NCCA International Dance Festival (the Philippines), Dance Festival RASAS (Singapore), Dancing to Connect (Battery Dance Company, New York) and musical theatre Randai Kasih Menanti and Ibu Zain.

Accolades include three gold medals at the World Championship of Performing Arts at Los Angeles in 2011 and a Boh Cameronian Arts Award for Best Choreographer in a Mixed Bill in 2014 for his work in 2x2.

Clockwork dancers (Regina Toyad, Joanna Tan, Tan Shioa Por, Joelle Jacinto, Tan I-Lyn, Lee Jia Xi and Joyce Chan) come from Balletbase.

The Klang Valley-based amateur contemporary ballet company was established in 2006 by choreographer and dancer Bilqis Hijjas.

Comprising a group of dancers with classical ballet training, the company has gained renown for staging works by local and international choreographers and achieved international acclaim with its appearance at Singapore Dance Week 2010 and Pastakom in Indonesia in 2008.

Untold stories

Yong sees her art as the beginning of untold stories.
Scheers enjoys playing around with a variety of media.

Illustrators Lisette Scheers and Ellie Yong were roped in to render their expressions of time on site at the Art Of Time exhibition.

Scheers is the founder and owner of creative agency L.Inc, an artist and designer by training.

Born in Singapore, she has lived most of her life in Kuala Lumpur and most of her design work for her firm and Nala, the lifestyle brand she founded, are laced with references to Malaysia’s melting pot of cultures.

Her main goal has always been to make the world more beautiful and she aims to do so by introducing design and artwork that is fresh, interesting and inspiring.

Ever experimental, Scheers enjoys playing around with a variety of media, from pencil sketches and watercolour paintings to detailed silk screens and designs in Chinese ink.

Yong, meanwhile, is still in the early stages of her art career. Having acquired a Diploma in Art–Illustration (Entertainment Art) from The One Academy in 2014, she has since been developing her skills towards a career in animation.

Her images often exude a touch of fantasy as if the artist had produced them in a dream-like state. She wouldn’t argue as she finds twilight hour being her most inspirational. She sees her art as the beginning of untold stories that she would eventually expand on when she goes full-time into filmmaking and animation.

The Star Media Group is the official media partner.

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