Saturday, October 19

Future of Sabah artists ‘bright’

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Awang Damit and Jennifer (standing, fourth left) with local artists who were presented with certificates of participation.

KOTA KINABALU: The future of Sabahan artists is bright as there have the advantage of supporting infrastructure to help them gain proper exposure in maximising their innate potential, according to a renowned veteran artist.

Kuala Penyu-born artist Awang Damit Ahmad, who has made a name for himself in the international art scene in over 30 years in the field, said there are many talented artists in Sabah and that here, there is an active art gallery to help provide them with good exposure.

He said local artists in the Land Below the Wind have access to good infrastructure, especially the art gallery, which he said is a good platform to develop their talent.

“The involvement of the Sabah Art Gallery in engaging local artists is commendable. For example, the Gallery hosts the Annual Art Selection Award, which is a good platform to discover new talent and help them refine their skills.

“There is also support from institutions, both public and private, which can accommodate local artists. And of course, there is initiative from artists themselves to propel their work to the global level, such as the local art collective Pangrok Sulap,” he said.

Speaking at his art masterclass at Sabah Art Gallery Friday, Awang Damit said he hoped to see Sabahan artists continue to flourish.

He said the masterclass is a positive effort for local talents to put themselves and their work forward, and he hope that the masterclass and similar initiatives would foster a dynamic group of artists in the future.

On the stigma of art being unable to provide for a stable future, Awang Damit said the perception had been the same from when he first began dabbling in the field, although it is more positive now.

Many assume that pursuing art could not guarantee stability, but Awang Damit said many professional artists, who studied the craft at the tertiary level, had been able to make a name for themselves internationally.

“So the perception has changed, more or less,” he said. “Now, there is talk about the art market both locally and internationally. There is a bright future there and there should be no reason for parents to discourage their children from pursuing art.

“Maybe some only see art in the form of drawing, but art covers a broad spectrum; there’s art in metal sculpting, ceramic, design – all these involve art and the returns are encouraging.

“In the art market, money exchange can go up to billions in a day. Each time there is an auction, the returns are lucrative.

“Perhaps in the past, art was more idealistic and romantic but now, there is a commercial value due to demand. There’s definitely a positive space for artists to pursue the field.”

Of course, Awang Damit said there is a need for local artists, especially budding amateurs, to venture out of their comfort zone by gaining experience away from their hometown.

There are many talented artists, he said, but some need fine tuning as they possess natural talent, but sometimes lack knowledge.

“Fellowships, workshops and such are a good way to meet artists from other cultures and learn from them. Sabahan artists should definitely go out for exposure, as it would enrich their art and themselves as an artist,” he said.

A practitioner of the abstract expressionism genre, Awang Damit Ahmad has had his work exhibited in notable galleries locally and internationally, namely in China, Singapore, Europe, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Argentina and Iraq, among others.

His works are renowned amongst art collectors and are sold for hundreds of thousands ringgit at auction houses globally, at rates of approximately RM6,000 per square foot.

From July 1 to 7, the Sabah Art Gallery in collaboration with Awang Damit, is organising an art masterclass with 20 carefully selected local artists to share experiences and produce art.

Sabah Art Gallery director and curator Jennifer Linggi said the programme is one of the initiatives of the Gallery to nurture the potential of budding artists to take a step further in the field of visual art.

She expressed confidence that the masterclass would pave the way for workshops, art talks, solo exhibitions and more, where local artists would have the chance to learn from veterans with years of experience under their belt.