"The Gifted" art exhibition showcases talents of artists with disabilities

Photos By Art4Love

Ironman gets a Malaysian twist (with KLCC in the background) in this painting by Kirtanraw Subramaniam.

Deaf artist Candice Singha Wong is all excited and counting the hours before her acrylic painting, Destination To The Summit, goes on display at Art4love’s The Gifted art exhibition in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

“Hopefully, art lovers will like my artwork, which depicts the climb up to the summit of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah. It took a month to complete the painting. I hope I can reach the peak one day, ” says the KL-based painter in an e-mail interview recently.

In the span of 13 years, Wong has participated in four art exhibitions. These events mean a lot for the 43-year-old hearing-impaired artist as it enables her to demonstrate her artistic strengths, and earn a decent living.

Candice Wong with her painting, Destination To The Summit. 'Through art, I am able to express my feelings and vision, ' she says.Candice Wong with her painting, Destination To The Summit. 'Through art, I am able to express my feelings and vision, ' she says.

Wong is one of the 26 artists with disabilities who are exhibiting their art pieces at The Gifted. Some of them are autistic, disabled or mentally challenged. A number of these gifted individuals were diagnosed with Down Syndrome or Asperger’s Syndrome; some had suffered a stroke.

Wong is among thousands of individuals with special needs who use art to communicate with the world. Although deaf, she has never let her disability dampen her spirits to soar to greater heights.

“Through art, I am able to express my feelings and vision. Exhibitions of this sort provide me with the opportunity to showcase my talent. I hope people can see me as a passionate artist, despite my physical limitations, ” says Wong, who studied fine art at SMK Vokasional in Shah Alam. She further honed her painting skills under homegrown artist Raja Azhar Idris.

Despite her flair for art, Wong still struggles to eke out a living through her artwork. She is like many disabled people who have problems making money due to mobility issues and sensory difficulties.

Understanding the plight of talented artists with disabilities, the kind founders of Art4love have gone the extra mile to organise The Gifted. Their hope is to thrust Wong and other disabled artists into the limelight.
Art4love isn’t a foundation or organisation. It comprises four friends – Datuk Khairul Yusni, Shaik Rizal Sulaiman, Datin Marina Su and Datin Catherine Lai – who have come together for a good cause.

“The four of us are art lovers. We saw the potential in these individuals. We decided to create a platform where they can promote their works.

"We hope this will motivate other special needs children and adults to further tap into their hidden talents. We also encourage people to come forward and support this good cause, ” says Shaik Rizal.

The art exhibition is a non-profit initiative where 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the artists.

Popular Malaysian foods are featured in Nur Fariza Hassan's artwork.Popular Malaysian foods are featured in Nur Fariza Hassan's artwork.

To select the artists, Shaik Rizal had worked with curators and art collectors.

Shaik Rizal thinks the art pieces being showcased are amazing, and believes people would be surprised at how beautiful some of the pieces are.

“It clearly proves that art has no boundaries, regardless if an artist is born normal or with a disability. The purpose of the exhibition is to highlight their talents. They can excel like other professional artists.”

Unlike others, this art exhibition doesn’t have a specific theme. Given that each artist has their own strength, Shaik Rizal and his co-founders have selected artworks that best represent the artists’ distinctive styles.

The artists are between 17 and 45 years old.

Check out the artwork by painter Nur Fariza Hassan, who was born with a genetic disorder known as mucopolysaccharidosis. Her paintings depict Malaysian favourites like nasi lemak and traditional kuih.

Cat lovers might like autistic painter Tan Seng Kit’s depiction of furry felines. Meanwhile, one of Ahmad Danial Ahmad Kushairi's paintings is inspired by butterflies.

Cat lovers might like Tan Seng Kit's multi-coloured artwork on felines. — Photos: Art4LoveCat lovers might like Tan Seng Kit's multi-coloured artwork on felines. — Photos: Art4Love

There’s also deaf artist Zulaiha Zulkaply’s mesmerising black and white oil on canvas, Senja Satu Persinggahan (A Visit In The Evening).

Other artists to look out for include autistic artist Yuri Azzari Yuri Zaharin’s abstract art pieces, and Siti Aishah Yaakob’s batik canting work, painted using her feet.Her feet are the means by which Siti Aishah Yaakob does her batik canting work.Her feet are the means by which Siti Aishah Yaakob does her batik canting work.

Art pieces are sold between RM750 and RM25,000 depending on the complexity of the work. Some art pieces may seem a tad pricey but Shaik Rizal says there are several factors that determine the price.

“Given their disabilities, the level of difficulty is far more than for other normal artists. This should be taken into account. Many of them have no means of livelihood. They are very dependent on their art and this can be considered a job to them.”

Some of the artists have to travel a great distance for the exhibition. For instance, Kirtanraw Subramaniam, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is leaving his hometown of Sungei Petani, Kedah, with his father Subramaniam Bandiloo today for this special event.

At the exhibition, Kirtanraw, 25, will showcase his acrylic painting, Ironman In Kuala Lumpur. It depicts the popular Marvel comic hero hovering above the bright lights of KL city centre amid skyscrapers.

“Ironman is Kirtanraw’s favourite superhero. He is always inspired by this fictional character’s strength and power, ” said Subramaniam, 54, adding that it took Kirtanraw a month to complete the painting.

Subramaniam is grateful that the individuals behind Art4love have organised this exhibition. He hopes it will pave the way for gifted individuals to build a career and live independently.

“While art is a form of therapy for children with autism, it enables them to earn a living too. In the span of 10 years, Kirtanraw has managed to sell about 300 pieces of his artwork and the money is kept in his savings. Hopefully, the funds can be used to assist him when my wife and I are no longer around.”

The Gifted by Art4love takes centrestage from March 5-8 (10am-6pm) at White Box, Publika in Kuala Lumpur. For more details, call 012-380 1010. Alternatively, browse The Gifted by Art4love on Facebook or thegiftedbyart4love on Instagram.

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