REVIVING ‘THE GODDESS’ IN NADIAH BAMADHAJ’S WORK


ART captures the essence of life by expressing emotions through colours and shapes, sparking emotions and fostering connection without words.

In this year’s World Art Day theme “A Garden of Expression: Cultivating Community through Art”, Galeri Khazanah celebrates the artworks by Malaysian artist, Nadiah Bamadhaj.

Dewi or “Goddess” is Nadiah’s 15th solo exhibition that was held from June 17 until July 31, 2023, at the Jendela Institute, in conjunction with ArtJog 2023, an art festival she co-curated with Hendro Wiyanto in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The exhibition, presented by Kuala Lumpur-based A+ Works of Art, showcased a series of charcoal and gold leaf-on-paper drawings, and sculptures with identifiable forms, such as a braid, talisman and pelvic bone, as well as abstract shapes suspended from the ceiling.

It was an exploration “to build a new realm, a new world” as it was Nadiah’s first introduction to using unconventional media like lamps, stainless steel slings, buffalo and goat hides, in producing these large-scale illuminated installations.

Dewi is described as: “Drawing from Indonesian postcolonial ideologies and studies of Javanese mythologies.

A selection of Nadiah’s Light in Landscape Study and Sculpture in Landscape Study (2022) that were featured in the Dewi exhibition at Jendela Institute, Yogyakarta.A selection of Nadiah’s Light in Landscape Study and Sculpture in Landscape Study (2022) that were featured in the Dewi exhibition at Jendela Institute, Yogyakarta.

“What initially began as a search for the power she lacked in these narratives, evolved into a discovery of the power that she had.

“Nadiah chanced upon the goddess figure of Durga, a subject whose historical portrayal evidences the gradual patriarchal portrayal of complex female characters.

“Across her representation in Javanese, Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan contexts, Durga morphs variously between symbols of creativity, abundance, light, death, power and anger.

“The artist saw in her figure an embodiment of paradoxes, not in dualities but as a combination of many elements inside one female being.”

One of the sculptures, titled Lanang Pijar (2023), composed of goat hide, resin, patina cast brass and light measuring 250cm by 75cm, features two components attached through a hook and stainless-steel sling, suspended from the ceiling.

The top part comprises patina cast brass formed as a silhouette of a goat’s head with the tip of its horns covered in gold.

The lower part of the sculpture –attached to a sling that supports it mid-air–depicts an illuminated elongated dome, its translucency suggests the fragility of an eggshell wrapped in pieces of goat hide.

Nadiah stated: “A portrait of my son, Lanang Pijar, cloaked in goat fur but not enough to cover his light.

“And myself, the horned mother, ever alert in the care of her son.”

A prolific artist

Based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, since 2002, Malaysian artist Nadiah was born in 1968 to a Malaysian Muslim father and a New Zealander mother of Scottish descent.

Trained as a sculptor in New Zealand at the Canterbury School of Fine Arts, she creates collaged drawings of a specific technique developed over many years, also termed “sculpturesque drawings” by curator Grace Samboh.

The gallery is honoured to be the custodian of Nadiah’s digital prints from her fifth solo exhibition, Keseragaman, organised by Richard Koh Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, in 2012.

Two of the four artworks by her in Khazanah’s collection, Menyembunyikan Gajah Di Balik Nyiur (2012) and That’s All That’s Left (2012), were featured in Galeri Khazanah’s second virtual exhibition titled The Colour of Life: Exploring Kaleidoscopic Narratives.

Nadiah standing next to The Whip (2023), a sculpture that represents “the strength of stainless steel, and the femininity of the braid, expressing resilience and power, extenuated by light from which all is born”.Nadiah standing next to The Whip (2023), a sculpture that represents “the strength of stainless steel, and the femininity of the braid, expressing resilience and power, extenuated by light from which all is born”.

The third artwork, Lompat, Lompat, Lompat Apek Lompat (2012) after the song lyrics from the classic film Ali Baba Bujang Lapok, 1961, is in Galeri Khazanah’s third exhibition, Embracing the Beauty Within: Unleashing Imagination.

The fourth artwork, I Can Read Your Pulse from Here (2012) is featured in the latest curated exhibition, Harmony and Contrast: Honouring the Past, Celebrating the Present, Shaping a Vibrant Future.

Between 2012–upon the creation of the digital prints series featuring miniaturised elements of architecture–and 2023 when Nadiah’s creative output expanded beyond the realm of history, space, personal relationships, and social and cultural studies, it became apparent that her explorations of subject matters and methods of presentation that were important to her and her surroundings have progressed significantly.

Khazanah’s art pieces have been acquired gradually since its inception in 1994, and the collection serves as a fragment of the nation’s institutional memory.

Galeri Khazanah aims to preserve and conserve these historical gems and to offer the global audience a glimpse of the nation’s cultural heritage through the perspective of Malaysian artists.

The fourth virtual exhibition is now online from April to October with the curation refreshed every six months.

I Can Read Your Pulse From Here, 2012: Nadiah’s piece is part of a series of digital prints that miniaturise elements of yogyakarta’s Kraton architecture and is on display at Galeri Khazanah’s virtual exhibition Harmony and Contrast.I Can Read Your Pulse From Here, 2012: Nadiah’s piece is part of a series of digital prints that miniaturise elements of yogyakarta’s Kraton architecture and is on display at Galeri Khazanah’s virtual exhibition Harmony and Contrast.

Exposure to emerging artists

Apart from the virtual art gallery, there is also the Khazanah Nasional Associate Artist Residency Programme (KAAR), which aims to expose Malaysian emerging artists to the international art scene for a 12-week residency at Acme Studios in London, the United Kingdom.

Each year, the programme provides up to two artists with a secure, practical, work/live studio accommodation and a programme of artist support and professional development.

To date, Khazanah has ten alumni KAAR artists with the last cohort members, Joshua Kane Gomes and Mark Tan completing their residency in 2023.

This year, two new artists will stand a chance again to be selected for the KAAR programme in September 2024.

As Khazanah celebrates 30 years of Advancing Malaysia, its continuous mandate in “Advancing Malaysia” aims to build capacity and spur vibrant communities for the benefit of Malaysians.

It is proud to be a passionate advocate for the preservation, appreciation and recognition of local arts, heritage and culture.

Visit Galeri Khazanah’s fourth virtual exhibition Harmony and Contrast at www.galeri.khazanah.com.my and follow its Instagram page @galerikhazanahofficial

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