Where are the new Malaysian artists?

jalaini abu hassan

Malaysia has one of the most vibrant and dynamic contemporary art scenes in the region today. This is very much evident with the mushrooming and opening of new art galleries around the country which is most prominent in major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang while there has been a growing trend of art auctions being held throughout the year.

A growing industry like the Malaysian art scene would warrant a steady flow of talents and artists who are constantly offering new and cutting-edge artworks for collectors and art-lovers alike. However, this is far from reality as the names of artists have not changed for a decade or two now.

The logic response to the growing art industry is that there should be a healthy flow of artists who graduate each year. This is one problem faced by many artists today as they lack the drive and motivation to continue pressing on after graduation.

A lot of new artists find the going getting tough after a few group exhibitions and they fail to improve after a few years. From there, they choose to take the road most travelled where they give up on their dreams and join the corporate industry.

Only a small percentage of the art graduates make it to the top

Each year, institutes of higher learning churn out artists and this is very common especially among the common names like UiTM (Universiti Teknologi Mara), Malaysian Institute of Art and many others. However, only a numbered few have continued making their mark in the art scene and survived up until today.

That is the main reason why art shows and exhibitions still persist with names like Jalaini Abu Hassan, Ivan Lam and Ahmad Zakii Anwar. Suffice to say, those artists, who today are among the most renowned ones in Malaysia having been around for more than a decade now.

The likes of Phuan Thai Meng and Kow Leong Kiang have already made their respective marks in the art scene for a long time now where their names are still considered to be the ‘best-sellers’ among art galleries.

Today, galleries are still promoting Zakii, Ivan and Shukry in order to sell more art. To say the least, where have all the new artists gone to? The answer is that they have graduated and they are still very much around.

The only problem is that they have not pressed on with their passion and after a few setbacks, they give up the fight and what is being left behind are still the artists who have been around and believed in their works in the last decade or so.

In that context, the artworks of the more veteran artists like Khalil Ibrahim, Latiff Mohidin and many others are still very much in demand. This is because up until today, there has not been any worthy replacements who are able to take over the baton from the renowned Malaysian artists.

Presently, names like Ivan Lam, Anurendra Jegadeva and Yee I-Lann who have all moved Malaysian art to the international scene are still active as they still believe in their works and passion.


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