This exhibition is dedicated to my dear friend Nasir Nadzir, who passed away very suddenly from Covid-19 earlier this year. I’ll be honest; this is the hardest article I have ever had to write and so in order to do him justice, I decided to go to the park and immerse myself in nature while I wrote it, because Nasir loved nature so much. Nasir was one of the kindest most gentle people I have ever known. He was always eager to learn and improve with the curiosity and tenderness of a child, and you can see these aspects of his personality in every pencil and brush stroke in this exhibition.
This is Nasir’s first solo show and so it is a delight to see so much of his work together, lovingly curated by his friends and family to remember him. As an artist he was just starting his career and was already being recognized as a great artist by many including the National Gallery, and the host of this exhibition, The Art Gallery in Belissa Row.
As you walk into the gallery, you are greeted by a painting of his mother’s garden. Ivan Gabriel, the curator, has placed it there as he wanted to welcome everyone with flowers and the joy they represent. Nasir’s mother has a beautiful garden, about which I spoke with him many times, and he told me that this was a huge inspiration for him. He stated once that:
“When I became interested in art, I decided to focus on wildlife mainly as a reaction to my previous working life, where I was surrounded by endless man-made structures, machineries, and refineries. Painting wildlife was a distraction from my mechanical surroundings which is not concerned with environmental issues at all. I believe in change and the human capacity to make things better. I hope my artworks can help improve people’s awareness on the severity of this pressing issue of preserving our environment and Mother Nature.” – Nasir Nadzir
Moving into the gallery, on your left, you can see some of his older work. Most of this is already sold to collectors worldwide, but there are some beautiful langur pencil drawings for sale. Close to these is a snake so hyper-realistic that it could be a photograph, but if you get really close you can see the pencil marks. When he drew this, Nasir was encouraged by his dear friend Ee Lene (who is the owner of this gallery) to move into other media, and stretch his skills further, and from there you are able to see on the opposite wall, where the development into acrylic paint took him, and it is magical.
The golden elephants are so glorious that no matter your taste in art, it is impossible to dislike them. There is a touch of Klimt within in the golden grass, and the elephants look so real you could hug them. These paintings on this wall were mostly made during the 2020 lockdown and you can see just how prolific he was in that time. However, some were never completely finished, and you can see an absence, particularly in the tiger painting, where he would have put his brush but never had the chance. Whilst at the private view we discussed his process and curator Ivan Gabriel told us how Nasir had been painting this tiger upside down and he couldn’t work out why. As an art teacher myself I know that that technique is to help someone forget the subject matter and focus instead on sections of dark and light, thus taking away the overwhelming feeling of “I must draw a tiger that looks like a tiger”. This emphasized to me that Nasir was always learning and always finding new ways to improve his work, and certainly this tiger is stunning.
I must also mention the beautiful corner that of the room that represents his home. A gorgeous painting of Abu the family cat, and a koi pond that the family have, combined with an installation of his materials on a desk with chair. A touching almost museum like element to this show, that adds to the narrative of his remembrance.
Lastly I must also mention the highlight of the show, “Tam In Remembrance”. A painting done in 2019, this huge work shows the last male Sumatran rhinoceros rambling through the forest with dappled light reminiscent of Max Lieberman and Manet’s impressionist paintings. With this painting, and so many of his others, Nasir wanted the world to see the beauty of nature, and recognize that it needs to be protected. Every brush stroke, splash of light and dark, every wrinkle of the skin in this painting, shows his reverence and adoration for the natural world, and this translates so well through it us. It is rare that artists can express so much in just a brush stroke, and that is why he was, in my opinion, a master.
In keeping with the title of that painting, this exhibition was titled “Nasir Nadzir in Remembrance”, and it is definitely worth the visit as we may never see this many of his works together again. Nasir’s message was to love, protect and value nature, and this exhibition says that loudly and proudly. Not only is his work beautiful, but he was a beautiful person too, and this show exhibits that in a wonderful way.
Nasir Nadzir, In Remembrance: A Celebration of his Life and Artistic Journey is at The Art Gallery Penang, Bellisa Row Level 4, 268-4-8 Burma Road, until 23rd May 2021, from 2pm to 6pm Fridays to Sundays. All visits by appointment only. Contact Ee Lene 012 – 604 1434 for an appointment. Web: www.theartgallerypg.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheArtGalleryPg/ In the event of an MCO please refer to https://theartgallerypg.com/exhibitions/nasir-nadzir-in-remembrance/ or https://www.facebook.com/TheArtGalleryPg for more details.
By Lusy Koror