Tribute to artist lost to Covid-19

Nasir loved to experiment; here he used ink and coffee to paint this 2020 piece titled ‘Kaseh’.

FAMILY members and friends of the late artist Nasir Nadzir shared memories of him during a posthumous exhibition of his best artworks.

Many teared up as they recalled the Kepala Batas native’s bubbly personality and his talent as well as passion for wildlife conservation.

Nasir passed away on Jan 24 due to complications arising from Covid-19. He was just 31.

The exhibition was supposed to be his first solo show.

Titled “Nasir Nadzir, In Remembrance: A Celebration of His Life and Artistic Journey”, it was held at The Art Gallery in Bellissa Row, Pulau Tikus, Penang and featured 20 pieces of his work.

Gallerist Tan Ee Lene said it was Nasir’s dream to have a solo there.

“We talked about it but he needed more time.

“Unfortunately, he left us before we could put it together.”

But Tan and Nasir’s friends were determined to fulfil his dream.

Working through the uncertainties posed by movement restrictions amid the pandemic, they organised the event in conjunction with the artist’s birthday month.

His father Nadzir Ali, mother Fahimi Naimah Ismail and siblings Nizom, Najmudeen, Ali and Fatimah were present for a private viewing a day before it officially opened.

Nizom, a personal trainer, said: “When we were kids, we drew funny and cute cartoons in our exercise books.

“Nasir always had a passion for art. Even though his studies and career took him elsewhere, it was something he yearned to return to.”

Nasir had qualifications in aircraft maintenance and worked in the oil and gas industry.

But while working on a pipeline in Terengganu, he fell through a crack to a platform four metres below.

That proved to be a turning point; he decided it was time to venture down a different path.

Nasir channelled his talent to drawing wildlife, producing incredibly detailed sketches and paintings of animals in their natural surroundings.

Familial bonds were also a recurring theme.

In the exhibition literature, Nasir was quoted as saying that he decided to focus on wildlife as a reaction to being constantly surrounded by man-made structures.

“Painting wildlife was a distraction from my mechanical surroundings.

“I believe in change and the human capacity to make things better.

“I hope my art can help improve awareness of the need to preserve our environment and Mother Nature.”

The highlight was “Tam in Remembrance” which depicted the last-known male Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia.

Curator Ivan Gabriel described it as Nasir’s “very own Mona Lisa”.

Ivan arranged the exhibits in chronological order so viewers would get an idea of Nasir’s artistic evolution.

He started with pencil and ink, then moved on to other mediums such as coffee and correction fluid.

One titled “Of Hopes and Dreams” is incomplete.

The artist had drawn the face of a monkey but its body remains rough pencil sketches, raising the question of what might have been.

Another incomplete acrylic piece, “The Drunken Tiger”, is believed to be Nasir’s last work.

It shows the endangered Malayan tiger he was working on until his sudden death.

Nizom said: “He had sent us a selfie the day before, telling us he was okay and resting.

“It’s hard because we never got to say goodbye.

“The pandemic prevented us from going through the normal processes of mourning.

“So this show is a way for us to come to terms with his passing.

“My fondest memories of Nasir are all the meals we had together. He was a foodie and loved ayam penyet.”

Ivan too gave a heartfelt tribute. “I will never forget his giant smile and his willingness to share.

“He was a kind soul who touched many in the art world and beyond.”

The exhibition also included an installation that recreated Nasir’s home studio space, flanked by a painting of his mother’s cat Tengku Abu and the koi fish the feline loved to stare at.

The exhibition was supposed to run until May 23 but was cut short because of the movement control order.

However, art lovers can still view it virtually via the gallery’s Instagram or Facebook (@theartgallerypg) page for updates on possible extensions of the show.

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