Off Walls Off Pedestals

I Spoke At Zainal’s Reception of Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories

Posted in My Artist-Friends by tsabri on February 23, 2010

In 2006, Zainal ( asked me to curate his landscape paintings into an exhibition. The exhibition was titled as ‘Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories’, held at the Loft Gallery and organized by ArtSeni. I introduced Zainal and the exhibition:

Ladies, gentlemen and friends, good evening. Please allow me a few minutes to introduce this exhibition. But first, I must say thank you to the organizers, the Artseni gallery, and the artist, for giving me the opportunity to say a few curatorial remarks about the exhibition, titled as Sunrise on the Water and Other Stories, by one of our promising artist, Mr. Zainal Abidin Musa. Congratulations to Zainal.

Now, this exhibition of about 26 paintings is a result of the artist’s endless endeavor and passion in painting his favorite subject-matter or theme, the landscapes. It is interesting to note that, whilst many of his contemporaries and the younger artists are working and exploring with the styles of like abstract or semi-abstract, the American Abstract Expressionism, Conceptual Art, Installation Art, and the international or contemporary art trends, Zainal chooses to quietly paint the pictorial compositions of the landscapes.

And for us, the audience, it is equally refreshing to appreciate that, evidently, there are a few underpinning thoughts for us to consider in reading these paintings or this exhibition. One: There are echoes of the age-old ‘Mimesis Theory’, where questions like, should art imitates nature, and how should artists represent nature? and what are the artist’s roles in a society?, came into our discussion. Two: There are traces or reminiscences of the 18th/19th century French Impressionism’s style, particularly that of Claude Monet or Pissaro, the theory of light and colors as well as painting techniques, all these came together for our consideration. And three, there is a historical reference of significance with our own Modern Malaysian Art history of the 1930s and the Merdeka Period, where the pioneering artists, like Hussein Anas, Abdullah Ariff, Yong Mun Sen, the Nanyang painters and others, were painting the landscapes of our land.

These three premises of thoughts, if I may say so, merge together and are developing in the paintings. They are like seeking our attention and justifications as informed audience. Apart from the paintings, these thoughts are also developing in Zainal himself as the artist, motivating, encouraging and gaining his confidence in his artistic pursuits. When prompted with playful questions like; why are you painting landscapes, is it a bit outdated, who wants to see landscapes now? Zainal chooses to be himself, or in other words he is telling us that he wants to paint as he pleases and as he wishes. He seems trying to be sincere in his artistic ambitions, painting as his emotion flows.

Now, in this exhibition, the landscapes become memories. They are reflections or references to our very own days, some scenic spots somewhere, the sunrises and sunsets on particular beaches, and the chirpings of the birds _ all these made us to understand, made us to know that there is an everlasting beauty in nature. There are always lessons for us to learn from nature.

And with that, I wish you all happy appreciating. Thank you.

Zainal Abidin Musa, Water Lilies in Janda Baik, 64 x 57 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2006


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