Alena Murang hopes ‘Colours of the Highlands’ well-received by art lovers

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One of the main focus of Alena’s ‘Colours of the Highlands’ painting exhibition is ‘The Storyteller’ measuring over two metres in width. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (March 16): Kelabit sape songstress Alena Murang is hoping that her first painting exhibition ‘Colours of the Highlands’ at the Hoan Gallery at La Promenade Mall here will be well-received by art lovers from all around.

When met by reporters today during the media preview of the art exhibition, Alena said she considered the exhibition to be an effort to re-highlight Kelabit’s heritage through her own memory.

Apart from that, she also said that she embroiders what she describes as contemporary Kelabit stories on her canvas in her paintings which resulted in beautiful pictures centered on the culture of Borneo indigenous people.

She said all of her works with over 50 paintings will be exhibited at the gallery from March 18 to April 30.

Working with the owner of Hoan Gallery, Hoan Kee Huang, for the exhibition, she also revealed that the paintings displayed there are priced between RM3,000 to over RM25,000.

“The paintings that will be exhibited include figure paintings from the early 2010s, large portrait canvases completed in 2018 as well as paintings depicting the traditional Kelabat swirl motif known as ‘Arit’.

“All the paintings on display are for sale. Although it is a bit difficult for me to let go of them due to me feeling emotionally attached to them, I nevertheless hope that they will all be sold during the exhibition,” she said.

Among Alena’s favorite paintings, titled Pu’ Ayam (Dear One), which she painted with acrylic, charcoal, pastel on canvas in 2022. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

When asked, she revealed that her artistic talent was encouraged by her European mother who saw her inclination towards art when she was still a child.

Alena also revealed that after leaving her corporate job in 2013, she obtained a Visual Arts Certificate at La Salle College of the Arts in Singapore before participating in group exhibitions in Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur and Kuching.

Several large paintings by Alena were shown during the media preview as she also took time to explain her artworks to members of the media present during the event.

Among those expected to be the main focus during the exhibition is a seven-foot-tall painting called ‘The Storyteller’, which she painted in 2017.

“‘The Storyteller’ is a work that one must not only see but hear as well in order for it to be appreciated, because one must hear a recorded audio showing the process of me speaking and learning about Kelabit songs from the elders at my father’s village, while looking at the piece,” said Alena.

Alena explains to reporters on one of the paintings which features a traditional Kelabit motive known as the ‘Arit’.

Meanwhile Hoan in a statement said that he wishes to see Sarawak’s artists develop in the national and international arena.

“Alena’s talent shows great potential. I think Alena’s show will prove to be one of the most impressive openings for any artist in Malaysia in the near future. Of course it will be remembered as one of the best painting exhibitions in Sarawak at the moment,” said Hoan.

Admission to the ‘Colours Of Highlands’ painting exhibition is free, and for more information, go to websites www.hoangallery.com or www.lapromenademall.com.my.