A chance to explore a rarely-seen collection of Malaysian print art


At the exhibition, the earliest of the prints is by Latiff Mohidin titled 'Mindscape' (1974), the first of two tranches, the latter being in 1977. Photo: AP Art Gallery

As you walk into AP Art Gallery, a large etching entitled I Want To Be A Bridge by Rahime Harun welcomes you.

The late Rahime (1954-2008) was once the former National Art Gallery director-general, an art administrator, collector, artist/writer and father.

His daughter Nazura, who is co-founder of Manggis Group and manager of the AP Art Gallery, is happy to greet visitors and share incredible stories of her parents, Rahime and Zarina Ariffin, and what life was like growing up in the three-storey shophouse that has been transformed into the gallery today on Jalan Negara in Taman Melawati, Selangor.

“I used to see these works that my father had acquired as a collection of paintings,” shares Nazura over a coffee at the quaint Folk Kofii cafe annexed to the gallery.

“But now I see it as a collection of meaning. As I uncover each painting, I make new discoveries, and new light is thrown on each one. Every painting has a story to tell,” she adds.

Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubair’s 'Words…Endless Words III' (etching, 1976). Photo: AP Art GallerySharifah Fatimah Syed Zubair’s 'Words…Endless Words III' (etching, 1976). Photo: AP Art Gallery

AP Art Gallery was set up in 1985 by Rahime, but went through a long hiatus after he died in 2008. Last year the gallery hosted the Object Matters: Emancipating The Collection Of Rahime Harun curatorial research project, examining the discourse on art collection, and the significance of the “object” in a collection.

This year Nazura has unlocked I Want To Be A Bridge: A Journey Of A Print Lover, an exhibition featuring Rahime’s print collection with works dating back to as early as 1974. Showcasing over 50 works, the exhibition gives you a glimpse into Rahime’s vision as a print enthusiast, and through his journey not just as an art collector but as a mover and shaker of the printmaking practise in this country.

“It took us some time to put everything together,” explains Nazura about the exhibition.

Juhari Said’s 'Suzana' (woodcut, 1990). Photo: AP Art GalleryJuhari Said’s 'Suzana' (woodcut, 1990). Photo: AP Art Gallery

“During the MCO and lockdown (periods) there was a process of discovering the individual works and reconnecting with the artists. Many of the pieces date back to the 1970s so I had to look up the artists and learn more about the pieces.”

The actual preparation, curating and getting the pieces up in place took about two months and the exhibition was launched last month. It provides a look at Rahime’s complete print studio vision, including an apprenticeship programme and the launch of his dream AP Studio press house.

You’ll find works by a strong stable of 53 artists including the likes of Ahmad Khalid Yusof, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Deborah Klein, Eng Tay, Ilse Noor, Ismail Zain, Juhari Said, Khalil Ibrahim, Long Thien Shih and Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir, among many others.

“One of the reasons for having this show is because printmaking isn’t all that appreciated by artists these days. Many would rather go for canvas and contemporary instead. But from this exhibition you can see that printmaking techniques were often used by number of very senior artists way back in the 1970s,” shares Nazura.

Ali Mabuha’s 'City Life' (silkscreen, 1992). Photo: AP Art GalleryAli Mabuha’s 'City Life' (silkscreen, 1992). Photo: AP Art Gallery

“I felt it was important to share this with the public, and to continue my father’s legacy. He wasn’t just passionate about collecting art for himself. One of the things that gave him most pleasure was being able to share it with others. He was always building bridges between art, artists and people.”

Nazura, a TV producer by profession, is full of little anecdotes about each painting, often armed with warm, personal stories of growing up in the gallery-home among a slew of artists, apprentices and art. She is enthusiastic about making art accessible to all.

“My father was once that bridge to many. And we hope this exhibition will create new bridges to the public, we hope it inspires students and fresh, young artists. Maybe by seeing some of these works and understanding the narratives behind them, people will be inspired, get fresh ideas and start new conversations.”

Nazura says that some of the works by the artists featured here are rare like Sulaiman Esa’s Waiting For Godot.

“There are also senior artists such as Raja Zahabuddin, Ismail Zain, Latiff Mohidin, Mustapa Ibrahim, Ali Mabuha and Zulkifli Dahlan whose works from the 1970s and 80s may have only be viewed by young art students today in their textbooks.

"It would be really beneficial for them to come to the gallery and see the physical pieces up close and in person.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the gallery has organised art talks and knowledge-sharing sessions, and has plans for more shows next year, including joining forces with younger artists for a show in conjunction with International Women’s Month in March.

Every month, AP also has a “KongC Manggis” session during which speakers from multi-disciplinary genres, including performing artists, poets, writers and musicians, are invited to share.

I Want To Be A Bridge: A Journey Of A Print Lover is on at AP Art Gallery until Dec 31. There will be a gallery tour on Dec 18 (11am and 4pm). More info here. Call 011-2362 794.

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