Artist seeks ‘garments with memories’ for his next project

'Egn' with some of the items of clothing he intends to incorporate into his next artwork.

KOTA KINABALU: A wedding gown would be one of the garments featured in Harold "Egn" Eswar’s next project, for which he aims to create an art piece featuring clothes that hold memories.

The Malaysian contemporary artist, who also works in the administrative division of City Hall here, plans to submit the artwork in the upcoming Karya Perdana Tahunan Negeri Sabah (KPTNS) contest.

He has started collecting clothes with sentimental value from friends and is calling for individuals here who would like to donate theirs.

“There are like multiple memories associated with locations when you wear a particular item of clothing, and maybe love for those places.

“Some clothes might eventually get worn out and just used at home.

“(The piece) is like telling the story of an item of clothing, 'saya sehelai baju', something like that.

“It is just fascinating to understand that this piece of clothing can represent so many things and (just) one thing at the same time,” he said when contacted recently.

He said he preferred clothes that are no longer usable, even neckties, scarves and handkerchiefs, and intended to document the stories behind each particular garment from the donors.

“If the clothes used to belong to someone who is no longer with us, I assure you that these materials will be respected... I will not rip or cut them up.

“They will be sewn together with other clothes though, and painted on too,” he explained, although he did not elaborate on what the end product would be.

He said he was creating this piece as a continuation of his spatial biography documentation (spatial biodoc) art series.

“The spatial biodoc is a newer type of art that many have yet to understand.

“But as I studied architecture before and do architecture-based works like structural drawings, the movement restriction during the Covid-19 outbreak gave me time to figure out how to combine my artistic experience with my professional work.

“The first such piece was during KPTNS 2020 when I submitted a graphic mapping of my grandmother’s house in Keningau with accompanying information that ‘unlocked' memories of what happened there,” he explained.

Egn further extended the series by participating in the Julius Baer Next Generation Art Prize organised by the leading Swiss private banking group, where he submitted a more developed piece from the initial building plans of his grandmother's house to become one of the finalists.

“It got attention and I got calls from Qagoma Gallery, Brisbane where they wanted to buy the artworks, which are the extended building plans showing the family house in Keningau as well as the family house in Labuan with a description of in situ experiences,” he said.

Since then, he had crafted more spatial biodoc pieces including online works commissioned by the Japan Foundation.

Asked what he aims to achieve, Egn said he hoped his contributions to the contemporary art scene here will pave the way for more widespread recognition of artists from Sabah.

“I hope the art scene here can also see art creation as some kind of documentation. The progression of our art scene is a reflection of how society thinks.

“I am not against purists doing scenery and landscape (paintings), but if we are stagnant in our creativity, we would be stuck there. We should see what other elements we can highlight.

“At the same time, I hope Sabah has more workers in the arts, not just artists but people involved in (the field) like writers, curators, critics and conservationists, as well as more galleries.

“We are lacking in this especially those (who can evaluate) Sabahan art, how do they (local artists) fare internationally. Where do we stand? If we know, then we can work from there,” he added.

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