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Sunday, 4 December 2011


Before I start to meander, allow me to congratulate and thank the National Visual Art Gallery (NVAG) for organizing a long-overdue event, ART BOOKS FAIR at its premise. I might be wrong here, but I think this is the first time such an event was organized by and at the NVAG.

I love books, so I went to the fair with lots of anticipation and excitement. I was partly forced to be be at the fair too, because USM had a booth that featured books published by the Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah (MGTF) USM, The School of the Arts and USM Publisher. Since I was involved under several different capacities in most of the showcased books (as a project director, editor, and for some books, author), I felt more than obliged to be there.

I was there partly also to see Ali 'Mabuha' Rahamad's homecoming solo exhibition(which by the way, was refreshing to view). Unfortunately, I could only offer this charismatic 'otai' (master) a cigarette (he asked from me) and let him enjoy his day (or destroy his lung). I was busy having a discussion with a friend anyway. Ali also appeared to be occupied with the opening issues with Nur Hanim and Hashimah, so better let them be.

Not that I enjoy official oPENING of a show, which sometimes can give me a bad headache (pening or bad energies). But at least I could poke fun, crack jokes and exchange jabs with old friends (and make new ones). Andy, Arham and Pejol, all teaching at ASWARA (not Aswarai Rai, but Akademi Seni dan Warisan Kebangsaan) were there to hear my rantings. Pejol (hope that's his name) is married to my ex-student at UNIMAS, Nur Syazleen, who is now heading the Photo Department at UNISEL (Universiti Industri Selangor). My eldest daughter is at UNISEL taking photography as her major. Small world.

Then there was Pak Pin (Ariffin Ismail), my 'mahaguru' when I was a student at UiTM. I signed my book "Ripples in Fukuoka" (RIF) and gave to him. Pak Pin seems to stay young and active, perhaps he got a new booster!

In the midst of hearing the VIP guest Ng Yen Yen delivered her speech (for several times she referred to NVAG still as Balai Seni Lukis Negara), U-Wei shared with me few bullets that he could not shoot during the panel discussion few weeks ago on Pak Leman's "Raja'ah". I signed and gave my book RIF to him. I did the same for Elias Yamani, Pejol and few others.  I threw few jabs to Zuriyadi (NVAG staff who looked like a CIA agent) while enjoying a good and positive vibe from Aisyah's beautiful baby.

I met Azhar Manan and his wife Rosiah. We talked about the wave of 'phd' pursuers and academicians with a 'dr' (in the arts) that are increasing in many public universities. Where were looking for them in the fair. Where are those doctors?

Saubin was there too, not surprising since I know that he is also a book lover. Intan was there to remind me of a performance by a visiting artist from Latvia (who is a resident artist at HOM). Fathul told me that how lucky he was to be taught by 31 kids (well, actually that was his way of telling me how he has been enjoying teaching kids at the NVAG). He is getting married next year. Alhamdulillah. 

Yusof Gajah and wife were there too, of course with their beautifully illustrated children books. Ruzaimah and Engku (Raja Aminullah) of the RA Gallery were also around to take care of their books. I managed to grab Engku's "Minda Tertawan" and asked him to sign it for me. I strongly recommend all to buy and read the book.

I bought few books, one of which on Ibnu Arabi. Another one is a book on Mysticism of Amir Hamzah's Poetry by Salleh Yaapar. I also bought books from UPSI, especially those on research methodology. There is a book on how to build a Malay house at the Perpustakaan Negara's booth, but it was only for a showcase display. Perpustakaan Negara had decided to put a woodcarving demo instead of showcasing and selling books. Weird.

I already have most of the NVAG's books, especially those with my essays in it. For the past 20 plus years in the art scene, I think I've curated only two shows at the NVAG - "First (probably the last) Electronic Art Show"(1997) and "Takung" (2004). Curating is tiring so better go for quality than quantity. Both shows have a special place in my heart. But I've contributed few essays for few other exhibitions, and is very thankful for that. The most memorable ones are for "Timeline" and "Syed Ahmad Jamal - Pelukis". I've done translation too, most notably "Ubuntu" and Jolly Koh's catalog on a drawing show.

I planned to stay longer but had to go to meet up with another 'mahaguru', Amron Omar. I was invited to write an essay for his show next year. Better see him personally to receive his current vibe. I also promised Anni to see her show at HOM the next day, so I better see Amron earlier (to avoid chatting until 4 in the morning). I need to be 'alert' when meeting Amron, especially since I have to write and contribute an essay on him for his solo exhibition catalog. 

I've been involved under many different capacities when it comes to publishing art books here in Malaysia. Publishing books have many intrigues, tangible and intangible. So many stories to tell, so many trumpets to blow (tempting though, especially if one is desperate enough to be a 'hero'). 

But don't let me start on this. I can go on like a grumpy old fella forever. At this age, I would prefer to retain mental and emotional sanity by focusing on 'real actions' rather than compulsively (or aimlessly) complaining (or worse, ranting). 

So many people now can come up with endless list of what I call 'problem statements' when it comes to writing and publishing art books (and of course, organizing an Art Books Fair too), but so few are willing to commit, be responsible and start kicking, doing something about them. When it comes to actually doing something about certain 'problems', many just simply hide or run away with so many disclaimers. Sometimes, even those who appear to be the most 'vocal' end up doing nothing except continue to bicker endlessly.

I went to the book fair at the NVAG with high expectation. Unfortunately, I left with a lingering bits of disappointment. 

Anyway to be fair to the book fair, I will wait till my mind and emotion are more at peace first, before writing about it. I want to avoid from merely bickering (too much of it on the internet already).

Till next blog entry, salam.


  1. The voice of the doer is priceless, and will be challenged by "problem statements." I believe the rich soil is sometimes aided by manure, LOL.

    Thanks for the write-up on the "National Visual Art Gallery (NVAG)ART BOOKS FAIR." If I was there,I believe I would have been in the intellectual pool of brotherly discourse with you on what literature was available,what support was given, and how creative were artists in constructing hand-made books, but more importantly, enjoying another dimension of our art community. My respect for your thoughts comes out of the deep commitment you will give to a honest assessment of the creative world around you, which is combined with your compassion.

    I am looking forward to your continue discussion on the NVAG Art Book Fair. This is a topic worthy of our attention. Peacefully, Najjar

  2. Najjar and Woei, thank u. Will post some of my observations in later entry.