In a digitalised world, the art industry has to explore new ways of connecting with audiences. As art and culture go virtual, digital spaces are providing broader inclusivity and accessibility by bringing visual experiences that are both emotive and inspiring to viewers across all borders.
Delivering beautiful stories and narratives while capturing history, emotions and experiences is what Khazanah Nasional aims to achieve with its virtual art gallery, Galeri Khazanah, which was designed by local architecture firm Fei Architect. Now in its second edition titled The Colour of Life, this newest virtual exhibition pulls together 65 artworks by 40 modern and contemporary Malaysian artists. Bold and vibrant, the collection showcases the artists’ personal interpretations of nature, socio-cultural perspectives and folklore narratives.
Guests can immerse themselves in the diverse artworks while being serenaded by the orchestral strains of Seri Mersing, which was composed by ghazal pioneer Pak Lomak and arranged by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s Ahmad Muriz Che Rose. The intertwining of visual art and sound evokes a sense of pride and appreciation for the richness of the arts, history, culture and heritage.
Continued efforts by Khazanah to cultivate heritage appreciation via the digitalisation of art through Galeri Khazanah’s digital platform will help ensure that the country’s valuable visual arts — and the skill sets required to create them — are not lost to future generations.
Giclee Art founder and Galeri Khazanah collaborator Wesley Wong is excited about the opportunities presented by digital platforms. “It opens new possibilities for artists to create and display their work,” he says. “Technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality could become more prevalent as mediums for creating and experiencing art. It also provides greater access to anyone who wishes to know about our art history and culture.”
Wong photographed and digitalised all the artwork and sculptures from Khazanah’s private collection, including those on display in The Colour of Life. These art pieces, curated by art consultant Sarah Abu Bakar, can be viewed in Galeri Khazanah’s five thematic virtual reality spaces: the Lobby, Traditional House, Peranakan, Pavilion and Glass Room.
Painter, curator, writer and educationist Noor Mahnun Mohamed is among the artists featured in this particular exhibition. Widely known as Anum on the Malaysian art scene, she holds a Master of Fine Arts from Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Braunschweig, Germany. Her works range from figurative to still life, featuring domestic objects and depictions of flora or fauna against a backdrop of geometric patterns.
Her painting titled How to Make Soap Bubbles, of soap and a spray bottle, can be viewed in the lobby of Galeri Khazanah. “The title itself suggests an instruction on how to make soap bubbles; a combination of soap and water,” Noor Mahnun says. “But it also questions how to make soap bubbles as the spray bottle is missing the trigger.”
Fellow artist Justin Lim expresses himself through paintings, installations and mixed-media works. His artwork, The Guardian Lions 1 & 2, was created during the Khazanah Nasional Artist Residency Programme in 2013, which was hosted by The Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, China, and is on display at the Pavilion Room of Galeri Khazanah.
“I remember it being -8 degrees outside with heavy snowfall throughout the month, and outside at the entrance to my studio compound stood two large Chinese guardian lions,” he reminisces. “These lions are typically presented in pairs at many entrances, symbolising protection and a balance of yin and yang. Outside my studio door also stood several eucalyptus trees. During the winter, the bark would peel and create these amazing patterns and shades of colour. I remember being quite taken with these trees that they kept appearing in my works even after residency.”
Khazanah may be the government’s strategic investment arm, but its aspirations go beyond investments. A passionate advocate for the preservation, appreciation and recognition of local arts, heritage and culture, the sovereign wealth fund also seeks to nurture local emerging talent as part of its nation-building efforts through its Khazanah Nasional Associate Artist Residency Programme (KAAR) under the Khazanah Residency Programme (KRP).
This three-month upskilling and growth development programme provides international exposure to its participants, who are entrusted, upon their return, to impart practical knowledge collected throughout their residency to the next generation of artists.
Mark Tan, who is among the artists in KAAR’s 2023 cohort, appreciated his time in the programme. “The most effective part of the residency for me was the studio visits. Throughout the residency, I was given six sessions of studio visits whereby six different industry professionals (artists and curators) would drop by my studio at different times and I would get a one-to-one critique session with them,” he says. Feedback aside, the Kuala Lumpur-based multi-disciplinary artist believes the connections he made will come in handy as his journey as an artist progresses.
Fellow cohort member Joshua Kane Gomes loves the idea of bridging the gap between people through art. Often working with evocative sculptures and installations, this creative says the main highlights of his experience with KAAR were meeting local art professionals and seeing the works of artists that he admires. He also marvels at the scale of some exhibitions. “It’s interesting how, due to the size of the art scene in London, the various circles barely intersect, so the people we meet often have very different experiences and insights to offer — not just regarding art-making but also career paths and sustaining a practice too,” he shares.
As a strategic investor that seeks to deliver sustainable economic and societal values for the nation, Khazanah is committed to giving back to society and the country to create a better future for Malaysians. Its efforts to create societal value are part of its “Advancing Malaysia” strategy to build capacity and foster vibrant communities. By preserving and cultivating appreciation for the nation’s history, arts, heritage and culture, it believes it can help create a sense of national pride for Malaysia’s current and future generations.
Explore mesmerising visual narratives by artists including Fatimah Chik, Nadiah Bamadhaj, Yee I-Lann, Rozana Mohamed, Dr Choong Kam Kow, Syed Bakar Syed Salim, Long Thien Shih, Kamal Mustafa, Dr Zakaria Ali and many more.