Tengkujuh @ Artelier

Beautiful renderings of nature are considered a mockery to contemporary art, but deserve its own category in the local art canon, where a resourceful and peaceful environment has greatly enriched many Malaysian lives. Zainal Abidin Musa escapes his day job to paint monsoon storms on the peninsula east coast, employing an impressionist approach that captures the “Tengkujuh” season. This outdated mode projects a persisting attribute that illustrates effectively long spells of rain, especially in the dissolved scenes painted on linen, a fabric that deteriorates fast in humid weather.  Sketches made for this series indicate a high level of technical skill, and are rightfully exhibited alongside a body of work which spans five years. Blue and yellow pastels on brown paper draw one stunning river panorama, while purple watercolour clouds enchant with its transparent qualities.

Pagi di Seberang Takir (2013)

Curator Azzad Diah Ahmad Zabidi describes Zainal’s weekend trips in translated prose, “(a)s a visitor it is certain that his experience differ from those of the local residents...” Completed in the studio (more Degas than Monet), the artist’s passion to capture natural landscapes fortunately includes human figures, which “…is just symbolic to the situation – to express the emotional atmosphere of the moment.” Silhouettes of men resting inside wooden huts are unsentimental, its vagueness necessary to portray people gathering because of forced proximity and time’s passing. Another interesting perspective is to capture an industrious moment, like the man crouched beside a small fire, smoking muntjac meat as rain pours outside. Contemporary impressionist painting may be romantic, but its approach can still remain relevant outside luminous landscapes.

Menyalai Pelanduk, Batu Rakit (2012)