Malaysian sculptor collects scrap metal, transforms them into artwork


Nizam showcases his innovative sculptures, each piece telling a unique story of transformation. Photos: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

Nizam Abdullah, 43, is always on the lookout for reusable items at junkyards or scrap metal shops in the Klang Valley. The award-winning sculptor believes each discarded piece holds the promise of a new life.

"Recycled art extends beyond simply repurposing paper or waste to benefit the environment. It encompasses the utilisation of objects sourced from scrap metal shops to craft unique artworks, transforming discarded items into pieces of artistic expression.

"Each recycled material undergoes a thoughtful sourcing process, considering its unique characteristics and potential influence on the creative process. The idea is to give a second life to scrap metal," says Nizam during an interview at his studio in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Nizam breathes life into discarded metal, creating captivating artworks that redefine recycling. Nizam breathes life into discarded metal, creating captivating artworks that redefine recycling.Nizam, who gained entry into the 2022 Malaysia Book of Records for the Tallest Hanging Sculpture (150m high, 2,000kg in weight) In A Residential Building, advocates for a shift towards sustainability in the industry. He emphasises the importance of our collective responsibility to the environment, striving to strike a balance between artistic expression and ecological consciousness.

"Sustainability is a crucial aspect of my artistic process. The motivation stems from a desire to contribute positively to the environment," explains Nizam, who has collaborated with a hotel in Kuala Lumpur to transform salvaged materials into sculptures.

Nizam joins a few homegrown artists who are doing their part to minimise carbon footprint. In Klang, Selangor, there's sculptor William Koong, who also uses discarded metal to create artwork. Up north in Penang, there's installation artist Tan Lay Heong, who uses materials from reusable waste like used cardboard, plastic bags and fans for her projects.

'Sustainability is a crucial aspect of my artistic process,' says Nizam.'Sustainability is a crucial aspect of my artistic process,' says Nizam.

Embracing sustainability

Tucked in the industrial enclave of Kampung Subang in Shah Alam lies Nizamsculpture Studio, which Nizam founded 12 years ago. It is easy to miss the place as it is nestled inconspicuously beside furniture and welding shops.But stepping inside reveals a treasure trove of creativity.

At the entrance, large metal sculptures of ants and figurines greet visitors. There are also many commissioned works for private collectors, hinting at the calibre of Nizam's craftsmanship.

Once inside, the studio comes alive with an array of stunning art pieces crafted from recycled materials.

Metal orchid structures crafted from repurposed metal emanate a delicate beauty.  Metal orchid structures crafted from repurposed metal emanate a delicate beauty.

Orchid structures fashioned from recycled metal exude a delicate beauty, while whimsical metal fishes, crafted from washers, catch one's eye. The barn door leading to his office is made out of recycled items like washers, steel netting and cast iron grilles, and assembled with artwork that resemble disc brakes.

In making his artwork, Nizam incorporates 60% recycled metal alongside 40% store-bought items. The recycled items also include old bolts, nails and steel discs.

"At the junkyard, I select items that inspire a vision, bypassing typical scrap metal. First, I sketch my ideas, then gather materials from the junkyard and hardware store.

'Sometimes we don't see the beauty of things until we assemble them into a cohesive artwork,' says Nizam. 'Sometimes we don't see the beauty of things until we assemble them into a cohesive artwork,' says Nizam.I experiment with various materials. The challenge lies in finding items with impactful significance," says Nizam, who clinched the 2022 Malaysia National Business Award for Arts and Lifestyle.

Metal is Nizam's preferred material, valued for its durability, versatility and unique aesthetic. Incorporating industrial parts adds layers to the artistic value of his creations, narrating stories of repurposing and transformation.

"Sometimes we don't see the beauty of things until we assemble them into a cohesive artwork. By breathing new life into discarded scraps, we can increase the value of ordinary objects,” says Nizam, who holds a Fine Art diploma from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Cyberjaya, Selangor.

His interest in sculpting began in childhood, fuelled by a curiosity for dismantling and reassembling toys.

At Nizam's studio, recycled materials find new purpose as works of art. At Nizam's studio, recycled materials find new purpose as works of art.

This early fascination with materials eventually led him to pursue fine arts, where he majored in metal sculptures with a minor in painting.

"Sculpting became a career choice for me because I found joy in manipulating metal, expressing my creativity through three-dimensional forms," says the father of six. Nizam has been working with metal for over 20 years. Besides bronze and stainless steel, he also works with fibre glass.

Over the years, he has produced many Instagram-worthy sculptures in public spaces including Kinetic Sculpture at Educity, Iskandar Puteri in Johor, Seahorse Sculptures at Queensbay, Bayan Lepas in Penang, and Escofet Xurret at the River of Life in Kuala Lumpur.

Nizam's whimsical fish sculpture highlights the beauty and creativity of sustainable art.Nizam's whimsical fish sculpture highlights the beauty and creativity of sustainable art.

By showcasing the diversity of handmade creations, including recycled metal items, he aims to broaden the appreciation for local artistry.

"Creating personal artwork is challenging but it requires introspection and authenticity, pushing boundaries beyond public expectations.

"I enjoy the creative freedom in art, unlike the constraints of graphic design. Fine art offers a borderless platform for problem-solving and lifestyle expression, fostering innovation. I scour the area for overlooked recycled materials, transforming scrap metal into new forms – a process aimed at revitalising discarded objects and promoting sustainability."

Nizam (right) is dedicated to transforming scrap metal and found objects into revitalised artwork. Nizam (right) is dedicated to transforming scrap metal and found objects into revitalised artwork.

He adds that beauty is subjective, and in recycling, art finds beauty and sustainability in repurposed materials.

"I aspire to leave a legacy that transcends artistic impact, contributing to a broader appreciation of art, especially sustainable art, in Malaysia."


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