Despite delays, Malaysian painter finally opens her gallery with exhibit of women artists


Artist-turned-gallerist Amy Hashim says opening up Art Realm Gallery felt like a natural progression to work with artists and art communities. Photo: Amy Hashim

For stay-at-home mother Amy Hashim, running a gallery on the second floor of her house in Subang Jaya, Selangor was never the end goal.

After practising as a full-time artist for eight years and running Amy Hashim Art (AHA) Gallery for four years, the Kelantan-born painter felt it was high time the gallery expanded beyond her home.

So last October, together with her retired husband Azmi Tun Abdullah, Amy co-founded Art Realm Gallery (ARG) in Kuala Lumpur.

“Yes, it is a little step outside our home-based gallery but I feel this is a natural progression.

“We felt that we have the experience after running a self-sustained business for eight years, ” explains the mother of three, whose previous exhibitions include Rarrwwww (2020), Traversing 175 Art (2020) and The Soul II (2019).

  Artjamila’s 'Teapots, The Pleasant Taste Of Tea, Series 12' (acrylic on 3D canvas, 2018). Photo: HandoutArtjamila’s 'Teapots, The Pleasant Taste Of Tea, Series 12' (acrylic on 3D canvas, 2018). Photo: Handout

Since late 2017, when Amy completed her own AHA Gallery at home, she has been considering getting involved in the broader art scene.

This new ARG space (130sq m), located at Plaza Damansara, Damansara Heights in KL, offers her that opportunity now.

“We wanted ARG to be a place where we can rest, relax and enjoy art and the art community on a different level.

“To do that, we knew we had to create a new dynamic company and a conducive platform for the art community to visit, participate and collaborate. Our tagline ‘Where feeling rest and art nest’ was created with that intent in mind, ” says Amy, 50.

ARG is divided into three sections. Art Space is the main area of the gallery, where the exhibitions will be held. If you keen on art-based retail, the Art Store is a merchandise stop featuring scarves, handmade craft and stationery with designs from the gallery’s art collection.

  Marisa R Ng’s 'Remember The Good Times' (oil on canvas, 2021). Photo: HandoutMarisa R Ng’s 'Remember The Good Times' (oil on canvas, 2021). Photo: Handout

The Art Class is a glass room integrated studio space. When the public health guidelines allow for art lessons and talks to continue, this space will be made available to the public.

The gallery is currently hosting Suri 1.0, its first ever group exhibition featuring 20 female artists.

Due to the pandemic restrictions, Suri 1.0 initially ran as a virtual exhibition on the gallery’s social media pages which included info on the artworks, a video interview series with the participating artists and a tour of the gallery.

With the Klang Valley now in the conditional movement control order phase, Amy is relieved that she can head back to work and see to the running the gallery soon. It will be a careful restart. Amy adds the gallery will now be opened to the public (by appointment only) from March 8.

“The (pandemic) situation is challenging and can be stressful but we try to respond to it best possible, ” says Amy.

Zurin Shaari's 'Having A Cup Of Coffee I' (pencil and natural ink on canvas, 2021). Photo: HandoutZurin Shaari's 'Having A Cup Of Coffee I' (pencil and natural ink on canvas, 2021). Photo: Handout

Suri 1.0 features 40 artworks consisting of paintings, prints, collages, embroidered stitches, industrial waste and mixed media.

“We picked the name Suri, which is lifted from the word permaisuri, to reflect the great role and strength women play in our lives, ” says Amy.

The participating artists – from diverse age groups – are Dr Aishah Latif, Alice Chang, Aminah Abd Rahman, Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri, Elly Nor Suria, Habsah Abang Saufi, Hidawati Amin, Maba Jaffar, Marisa R Ng, Melanie Pa, Nora, Poojitha Menon, Roselin Yusof, Rositah Ibrahim, Rozlina Khairi, Dr Shazmiza Hassan, Shazlin Jalil, Shima Abu Hazim, Syida Zainal and Zurin Shaari.

What is clear in this group exhibition, says Amy, is the significant similarities between these female artists, namely their confidence, courage and strong spirit to achieve personal excellence through their artistic practices.

One such talented artist is teenager Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri (aka Artjamila), an artist with autism. Last May, Artjamila’s tribute to frontliners painting won first place in a poster-making contest organised by Artdialogo Asia in collaboration with The Children Are Painting The World Social Fund.

For Suri 1.0, Artjamila contributed her Teapots, The Pleasant Taste Of Tea, Series 12. It is an acrylic painting brimming with Artjamila’s playful and whimsical touches.

Shima Abu Hazim's 'House Monuments Series I' (acrylic, 2021). Photo: HandoutShima Abu Hazim's 'House Monuments Series I' (acrylic, 2021). Photo: Handout

Zurin’s highly-detailed pencil and ink work is another a unsung highlight, especially with her hidden animal characters.

Ng’s abstract art is also a strong presence in this show, with her thick sketchy textures shining through.

Amy is grateful for the public support shown to this show, especially with National Laureate Datuk Prof Dr Siti Zainon Ismail dedicating a poem for the Suri 1.0 exhibition recently.

As the vaccine rollout kicks into gear, Amy hopes that the pandemic situation will improve in the coming months. Her gallery space, she maintains, is about conversations and connecting with artists and art communities.

“ARG will continue to open up opportunities to the art community to participate, collaborate, contribute and grow.

“We want to be beneficial for talented people to nest and grow with us, without boundaries, longer, ” she concludes.

Suri 1.0 is on at Art Realm Gallery, Lot 81-1, Plaza Damansara in KL until March 30. More info here.

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