THE late Wan Nong Abdul Rahman is widely acknowledged as the founding father of modern Malaysian batik.
As a tribute to his contributions, Maybank’s Balai Seni Art Series 2019 is showcasing 43 artworks by nine batik artists who were all influenced by Wan Nong.
Maybank Foundation chief executive officer Shahril Azuar Jimin said “Painting Batik: An Exhibition and Tribute” is the very first batik exhibition to be held at Balai Seni Maybank.
“We hope that this platform will propel our batik artists to continuously contribute to the art scene and conserve our national heritage, ” said Shahril.
Wan Nong introduced modern Malaysian batik techniques in the 1970s, after returning home from Britain where he had studied textile design.
“He took inspiration from the techniques of three different countries.
“First was the knowledge of textile design he had learnt in Britain; second was the use of stretchers from Japan, originally used in the making of the kimono; and lastly, canting (pen-like tools used to apply liquid hot wax) from Indonesia to create what we call Malaysian batik today, ” said one of the featured artists, Mohamed Abdullah, who goes by the name Mat Dollah.
“Malaysian batik was born here in Selangor before other states like Kelantan and Terengganu adopted the batik technique that we use today, ” he explained.
“Not many know Wan Nong is the biggest contributor to the Malaysian batik scene, ” he added.
Another artist, Hishamuddin Ahmad, talked about the notable differences between modern Malaysian and Indonesian batik.
“The placement of the fabric during drawing is different; Indonesians hang their fabric and draw right on it while Malaysians stretch the fabric using a stretcher and are free to glide and draw on the fabric, ” said Hishamuddin, who added that the stretching method allows the artist to create gradients on the fabric with dye.
Hishamuddin was among the artists who had learnt closely from Wan Nong for three years after leaving secondary school in 1976. He has created over 10,000 works as a batik artist.
Showing mastery in realistic visuals, some of his artworks in the exhibition centre on animal themes, especially the Malayan tiger.
Hishamuddin’s artwork created in 2010, “Save The Tiger”, catches one’s eye as it could easily be mistaken for a painting of fine art on canvas.
He took three weeks to complete the batik drawing on linen, using 16 layers of dye and wax to create the right tones and perfect the image.
When asked about the hidden value it holds, he said, “One day, this might be the only way for the generations to come to look at the Malayan tiger, ” noting these animals were in danger of becoming extinct due to poaching.
Ahmad Fauzi Arshad’s artworks are vibrant and have a youthful theme.
“Gadis & Heliconia” shows a girl in baju kurung lying in the tall grass field with a swarm of butterflies.
In 2009, the fusion batik on canvas piece received compliments when it was exhibited in Taipei, Taiwan, as many visitors thought the work was made by a young artist.
“Heliconia (also known as lobster-claws) is my favourite subject to work with, ” Fauzi said, adding that most of his pieces also involve a variety of natural elements.
Two of his brothers, Amir Arshad and Azhar Arshad, were also among the artists exhibiting their work with their own niche batik themes.
Their late older brother, Khalid Shamsuddin Arshad, was the one who had learnt from Wan Nong and the knowledge that he gained was eventually passed down to his brothers.
Four other artists whose works are being exhibited are Abdul Rahman Abdul Rani, Ahmad Tajuddin Ahmad, Fauziah Yahaya and Siti Hasmah Taiban.
This exhibition is also known to be the very first time Wan Nong’s legacy and successors have gathered together to showcase their artworks.
All batik artworks displayed are for sale, with prices ranging from RM1,500 to RM20,000.
“Maybank’s Balai Seni Art Series 2019 has held over seven exhibitions this year, six of them being in Balai Seni Maybank and one at the National Museum of Singapore, which attracted 22,000 visitors, ” Shahril said.
Maybank Foundation aims to hold another set of exhibitions next year, continuing the corporate social responsibility project for the Maybank Group.
The exhibition, which ends on Dec 6, is open from 10am till 5pm and 11am till 4pm on Saturdays at Menara Maybank. Admission is free.
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