Cats and dogs: a group of artists pay tribute to their four-legged friends


Hisyamuddin Abdullah's 'Cat Dreams' (acrylic on canvas, 2020). Photo: G13 Gallery

Fawwaz Sukri was concerned that his beloved cat would misbehave when he brought her to an art gallery in Petaling Jaya where the FURiends: Portrayals Of Cats And Dogs group exhibition is currently happening.

But it turns out that he need not worry.

The 10-year-old ginger cat promptly went into hiding and only emerged when it was time for them to go home.

“Hatchi is used to it being just me and her at home, so I guess she felt shy in a new place with other people around. I remember she was such a mischievous kitten when I first got her, always destroying stuff in my home. But she mellowed as she got older, and now spends a lot of time relaxing and sleeping. I grew up with many cats but Hatchi is the one who has been with me the longest, ” says Fawwaz.

His painting in this exhibition, titled We Are Malaysian, is a colourful one that references The Simpsons, together with their dog and cat.

“I really love cats and dogs. Sometimes I give treats to my neighbour’s dog and now it always barks to ask for treats whenever it sees me, ” he shares.

Fawwaz’s 'We Are Malaysian' (acrylic on canvas, 2020). Photo: G13Fawwaz’s 'We Are Malaysian' (acrylic on canvas, 2020). Photo: G13

Fawwaz merges multiple narratives in We Are Malaysian. For instance, the “parents” in this painting are a nod to our frontliners and their role during the pandemic. And with a few deft strokes of his brush, the cat takes on the cuddly appearance of his own cat, albeit without her orange fur.

“There is a scene in The Simpsons where Snowball lies on Homer’s body. This reminds me of Hatchi, because she does the same. Whenever I go to bed, she lies on me and keeps me company. Cats do that when they trust you and consider you as family. She came to me as a stray kitten that my brother found on the street, and she has been my companion since. The Simpsons have a strong family bond, so what I am trying to say in my latest artwork is that we are all family. All pets, as well as strays, are part of this team, ” he says.

FURiends at G13 Gallery in PJ is an exhibition that celebrates the pets in our lives and the joy they bring us.

Over 20 artists are part of this group show, including Fawwaz, Yuki Tham, Haslin Ismail, Gan Tee Sheng, Fadilah Karim, Marvin Chan, Shafiq Nordin, Syukur Rani, and Wong Ming Hao.

Tham’s 'Always There' (oil on canvas, 2020). Photo: G13Tham’s 'Always There' (oil on canvas, 2020). Photo: G13

Through their paintings of their pets, they give us a glimpse into their furry four-legged companions and what they mean to them.

While some paintings are larger than life, like Shafiq’s The Ronin Cat or Syukur’s Adik’s Lost In Dreamland, there are a few more quietly contemplative takes, like Tham’s Always There.

Tham's oil on canvas work pays tribute to her first cat, Fifi.

“She was the first cat that I shared a connection with so that is why she is special to me. When I found her, she had an open wound on her neck and was badly injured. I had planned to look after her until she recovered, but as the days went by, I grew to love her and ended up keeping her, ” she says.

Fifi might not be with her anymore, but she still reminisces the time they spent together.

She recalls how her cat used to sit on her lap while she paints, or insists on sitting on her keyboard when she is working on her laptop.

“The cutest thing she does is to hug my arm or leg when I wake up. She isn’t with me now but I will never forget her because she brought so much joy to my life. To me, she will always be there spiritually, ” says Tham.

Not unlike Tham, Haslin taps into the memories of all the cats whose lives have intertwined with his.

Although he currently only has a grey and white cat named Abu – short for Kelabu, because of the colour of his fur – he has fond memories of some half dozen cats that came before.

Haslin’s new acrylic artwork, When He Lights It, Not Knowing It Is Special, is inspired by them.

“From their graves, I feel their reincarnations as monsters or giants who want to play again with me. It is said that cats have nine lives and I believe this is indeed true, ” he says.

He also ponders on the possibility that his dead cats disapprove of our attitude towards nature, and he imagines that they return in the form of giant mosquitoes to teach us a lesson.

No doubt, this imagery emerges from Haslin’s concern about the spike in dengue fever cases around his neighbourhood.

“But from all fears and darkness, there is also light, ” he says.

And in his artwork, he represents himself in a book form, with all the moments shared with his cats recorded in every page of the book, which emits a bright light.

“Through my work, I want to express the quirky relationships I have with cats, and I want visitors to feel the same curiosity and excitement, ” he concludes.

FURiends: Portrayals Of Cats And Dogs is on at G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya till Dec 31.

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