The National Art Gallery (NAG) in Kuala Lumpur might be closed for the rest of the year, but there is a small space away from the main gallery building that is teeming with life.
The Konservasi exhibition, presented by Pelita Hati, at NAG's Creative Space features 83 artworks that bring awareness to issues faced by wildlife, mostly from a Malaysian context.
In this experimental gallery space, the animal-themed works are not the happiest to be found. In one painting, a stray tapir is lost as it wanders through a village, while another work shows the heartbreak of a deforestation and logging scene with animals displaced. It's also sad to view a pangolin painting and immediately think about illegal poaching, trafficking, and sale of the animal.
This exhibition of wildlife works are by six artists: Issarezal Ismail, Muhammad Hafiz Azizi, Mohd Syazwan Jusoh, Fairus Ahmad Yusof, Jing Chung and Siti Fariza.
“I have been reading and receiving a number of articles, news and reports concerning animals and their plight. Their lives are being threatened due to rapid development by human beings. It is rather sad and disheartening to see what has become of these animals and their habitats, all in the name of progress, ” says Pelita Hati managing director Raja Annuar.
The idea for Konservasi came gradually, over a number of years and many discussions with different artists and creative individuals.
Pelita Hati has not had an animal-themed art exhibition in over a decade. Its last one was Animalia, which was held in 2006.
In Konservasi, the artists present their take on the theme through a variety of media and techniques, including watercolour, oil, acrylic, silkscreen painting, collage, ink and impasto. There are also a few installations. All the works are done in a thoughtful manner, creating awareness and spreading the message of protecting wildlife and their natural habitats.
Raja Annuar adds that several works place these animals against the backdrop of a typical Malaysian village scene, a nod to the lost of habitat.
Konservasi's heavy subject matter is rather timely, he underlines.
“There is a need for all of us to be aware of the importance of wildlife preservation and sustainability. It is better to do it now than later. In a nutshell, it is about protecting the ecosystem for the benefit of all living beings in our world, ” says Raja Annuar.
The pandemic has also led to global lockdowns, and animals have also made the news. While people stay home, some species of animals have been reported to have come out to roam about in the empty spaces in urban areas.
“Limited human presence and activities has given the environment a chance to heal itself. So this exhibition is interestingly relevant to what is happening now, ” he concludes.
Konservasi is on at Creative Space, National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur till Oct 31. Opening hours: 10am to 4pm (Tuesday to Sunday). More info here.
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