As Malaysia’s Independence Day draws near on August 31, a group of Malaysian artists can reflect that this year, they reached a new milestone in their artistic journeys.
For the first time, the Matahati group of artists exhibited their works in the United States. The exhibition “Matahati ke Matadunia: Malaysian Contemporary Art to the World” was held in May through June in Santa Monica, near Los Angeles California. A forum and several workshops with American artists were also part of the whole event.
The event also marked a milestone for Fausin MdIsa, a Malaysian designer, artist and entrepreneur, based in California. His vision is to bring Malaysian contemporary art to the United States, and it took him two years of organization to finally put it all together.
The Matahati group is known in Malaysia and in the region as an influential group of artists whose technically accomplished works feature personal narratives, commentary on social issues, history and identity, often daring and thought-provoking. The artists who brought their works to the United States are Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Ahmad Fuad, Ahmad Shukri, Hamir Soib and Masnor Ramli Mahmod. Each has his own unique style.
Fausin considers the exhibition a success on several levels. “The art enthusiasts in California were pleasantly surprised to see not only the mastery of techniques by the artists, but also the themes and the global issues that they express in their paintings,” he adds.
At the opening, many of the guests were intrigued by Fuad’s “To Whom It May Concern”. In this painting, a crowd holds pictures of Obama facing a backdrop of historical figures, both inspiring and notorious, such as Ghandi, Churchill and Stalin. Fuad explained that people all over the world, not just in America, were excited at Obama’s election. At the same time, the backdrop of faces symbolizes the question which path of leadership will Obama take. History meets uncharted waters, and the world watches with hope or cynicism.
The guests were impressed by the depth’s of Fuad’s questioning and the historical sweep of the image.
Bayu’s portraits evoked this reaction from an art enthusiast: “As an artist who works with charcoal, I find his manner of using this medium to be very creative. There is a palpable sense of passion and an inward quest in his portraits.”
“At the same time, exposure works two way,” says Fausin. “Just by being in a different environment and getting feedback on your work contributes to the growth of an artist.”
The exhibition will be going to another American city next year, and onwards to other destinations. After all, Fausin and Matahati believes that art is a universal language, with the power to unite us globally.