Here are Malaysian artworks that celebrate the Deepavali spirit

Syed Thajudeen’s 'Festival Of Lights' (oil on canvas, 1996). Photo: Syed Thajudeen

Today, Hindus around the world celebrate a joyous Deepavali.

Though the global pandemic has made it a subdued affair, this still remains the Festival Of Lights. This is the time to celebrate light overcoming darkness.

With new clothes, mouth watering dishes and a great time spent with family and friends, this is definitely a precious Deepavali to cherish all that is good.

But Deepavali could also mean many other things. Here’s how a few Malaysian visual artists have interpreted the Festival Of Lights through the years.

Syed Thajudeen’s Festival Of Lights (oil on canvas, 1996)

This oil painting by veteran Malaysian artist Syed Thajudeen Shaik Abu Talib is a memorable one from his 1990s catalogue.

With his familiar surrealist figures, seen in many of the Penangite’s paintings, and a deeply textured and romantic treatment, this artwork looks like it could have been plucked from the pages of an ancient Indian manuscript.

The 77-year-old’s usage of bright colours evoke a state of rasa that transports the viewer to an otherworldly realm where only light exists. No wonder this artwork is called Festival Of Lights!

Sandran Krishnan’s An Ocean Of Memories Family Reunions (acrylic on canvas, 2020)

Sandran Krishnan’s An Ocean of Memories Family Reunions (acrylic on canvas, 2020). Photo: Sandran KrishnanSandran Krishnan’s An Ocean of Memories Family Reunions (acrylic on canvas, 2020). Photo: Sandran Krishnan

This is not exactly a Deepavali work, but newcomer artist Sandran Krishnan shares the importance of a family reunion with this Cubist-inspired painting done during the early pandemic months in Malaysia.

After all, what is Deepavali if not sharing a meal together, spending time with loved ones and strengthening familial bonds.

If Covid-19 had taught us anything, it is the importance of family in dark times.

Victor Chin’s Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam (watercolour, 2006)

Victor Chin's watercolour work of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam in Jalan Tun HS Lee in KL. Photo: FilepicVictor Chin's watercolour work of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam in Jalan Tun HS Lee in KL. Photo: Filepic

Visiting the temple for worship is customary during Deepavali for devotees. But with the conditional MCO being enforced, places of worship are temporarily closed in the country. Hindu temples are allowed to be open for a few hours on the first day of Deepavali, with strict SOP in place.

This watercolour work by veteran artist Victor Chin offers an optimistic reminder that things will get better soon. It is a soulfully vibrant and colourful artwork, depicting devotees at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam in Jalan Tun HS Lee in KL.

This artwork was part of the Sacred Structures: 10 Years Of Temples exhibition and book project in 2014.

Datuk Lat’s Happy Deepavali (cartoon strip from Berita AmBank Group, 1987)

Datuk Lat's Deepavali cartoon for Berita AmBank Group in 1987.Datuk Lat's Deepavali cartoon for Berita AmBank Group in 1987.

There is no shortage of Lat cartoons when it comes to Deepavali. But his commissioned works are rarely seen by the masses.

This 1987 work appeared in the in-houseBerita AmBank Group publication in September 1987. This work is a great reminder of how Lat has a knack to remind us about our sense of community in Malaysia and the shared joy of experiencing each other's festive celebrations.

Let's hope we can all get back to such muhibbah scenes in 2021.

Two Young Dancers (silver gelatin print, 1970s)

Two young dancers (silver gelatin print, 1970). Photo: Ilham GalleryTwo young dancers (silver gelatin print, 1970). Photo: Ilham Gallery

Snapping a photo is just a click away these days. Our social media gets flooded with photos of celebration during festivities.

But decades ago, taking a photo was a costly affair and required you to get it done at a (photo) studio, unless of course you’re wealthy enough to own your own camera.

This also made it a special occasion for the family to dress up and commemorate the festive season.

This 1970s photograph, courtesy of KL's Ilham Gallery, is part of its current Bayangnya itu Timbul Tenggelam: Photographic Cultures in Malaysia exhibition at the gallery.

Stephen Menon's Whispers Of Ganesha (watercolour on paper, 2019)

Stephen Menon's Whispers Of Ganesha (watercolour on paper, 2019)Stephen Menon's Whispers Of Ganesha (watercolour on paper, 2019)

Printmaker Menon rarely works with watercolour, but he has been busy using with this medium for the ongoing Sacred Structures: Artistic Renditions Of Hindu Temples In Malaysia And Singapore project (by Prof Dr Krishna Gopal Rampal).

Menon's beautiful watercolour rendition of Lord Ganesha was done by referencing a statue at the Korttu Malai Pillayar Temple, Pudu in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Lord Ganesha is one of the most beloved deities in the Hindu pantheon, says Menon. "He is known as the the remover of all obstacles, and this work of mine is a deep tribute to him," adds the artist.

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