What do you do?
I am a self-taught painter. I make colourful and playful abstract paintings.
What's your background?
I was born in Penang and grew up in the rich tradition of a Malaysian-Indian heritage. My mother tongue is Tamil. I received primary and secondary education in a public Malay-medium school in Malaysia. English was taught as a second language. I spent a year in Australia as an exchange student under the American Field Service Exchange Program. I obtained a High School Certificate in Victoria and went on to study law at Leicester University in the United Kingdom. I was admitted to the English Bar as a member of Lincoln's Inn. I worked as a lawyer in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne before quitting practice to pursue my passion for art.
How long have you been painting full time?
I've been painting sporadically throughout my legal career and full time for six years. It has been my childhood dream to have a career as an artist.
Have you had any formal training in art?
I have had a modest amount of instruction on contemporary painting techniques during a short course at the VCA in Melbourne.
How would you describe your work?
The work reflects an inward journey towards self-knowledge and spiritual awareness. The painting process subdues the analytical mind and creates a conducive space for introspection. The key concept explored is the source of existential experiences. I seek to better understand whether life is an objective reality or a subjective dream based on desires and fears—superficial and innermost. In other words, is experiential reality a reflection of our thoughts and beliefs? I pen my introspections as poems and self-musing quotes. Although the writing is not paired with the paintings, it remains an indivisible part of the creative energy that produces the artworks; the two components are inextricably intertwined. The paintings mirror the evolution of my inner world—all known and unknown aspects.
How do you make your paintings?
A big part of this process involves intuition. I paint when inspired to do so. Inspiration comes in the way of a thought or feeling that prompts me to express what is going on inside me in a non-objective way using only my imagination. I do not look at works by other artists for a creative stimulus. The compositions, colours, and motifs flow intuitively from within onto the canvas. I paint using a limited palette of six colours (one warm and one cool of yellow, red, and blue). I add white and umber to desaturate, tint, or shade the colours. I begin with a simple shape or colour and allow the painting to take a life of its own by following inner promptings on what to do next. I have no clue as to the final result. The shifts and changes in my style happen organically,
Which artists and styles have influenced your work?
The early painting style was influenced mainly by South East Asian textile and Australian Aboriginal art. As the style took shape, my attraction to the Bauhaus and Surrealism movements and painters like Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, and Joan Miro exerted influence on the development resulting in simplification and a shift towards geometric forms, biomorphic shapes, purposeful colours, and lyrical lines while preserving a naive untutored approach to making the paintings.
How does your work fit in with the history of art practice?
My work is a blend of modern and contemporary art. The paintings show different influences from the modern art movements such as Suprematism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, and Surrealism that dominated the Avant-Garde period (1910-1930). The writing that breathes life into the paintings is reflective of contemporary artists like Cy Twombly who used written text, myths, and poems as a conceptual foundation for their abstract art; although, in my case, the writing is not shared publicly.
How would you like the audience to respond to your work?
The colourful, playful, and naive paintings are intended to reach out to the inner child in the audience. Each piece is a marker on my inward journey towards balance, peace, and harmony. Through my work, I invite the audience to turn within and investigate to what extent their conditioned thoughts and beliefs (some of which date back to childhood experiences) influence their present perception of reality. I would be pleased if those who come into contact with my work took a little time to contemplate these three questions by diving into their feeling, as opposed to analysing: 'Does this art engage my attention?'; 'What do I see?'; 'How do I feel?' The colours, shapes, and lines in the paintings have a soft language, but only a quiet mind can hear their whispers.
What art do you most identify with?
I love all forms of artistic expression. The artworks could be realistic or abstract; it's not so much the genre or level of skill, but how an artwork speaks to me that really matters. I like some artworks for their aesthetic qualities and others for their imaginative or intellectual content.
How would you describe your attitude or approach to creativity in society?
Creativity is woven into everything that we see, hear, and do. Art is creativity in its purest form. By making time for art in whatever form, one can find relief from the tedium of everyday life and find balance in a world unduly focused on material pursuits that are not emotionally or spiritually fulfilling.
Why don't you name the paintings?
The paintings could be seen through the eyes of a child or an adult. A child sees things as they are and intuitively feels the visual stimulation from what appears before them. An adult, however, tries to make sense of things through analysis and their perception is more likely to be influenced by names and descriptions. By giving the paintings a nondescript title, I invite the adult audience to forgo analysis and enjoy the visceral experience by allowing their inner child to come out and play. A child is always present and engaging. When we see things with a childlike perspective, we experience life in a state of faith, curiosity, and playfulness.
What is the purpose of repetition in your work?
In my work, repetition represents rhythm and movement in what is seemingly a random juxtaposition of shapes, colours, and lines. Some artists might find repetition a challenge because they perceive it to be boring and lacking in creativity. I am, however, of the opinion that it's not possible to explore the depth of one's creativity when there are constant changes in direction.
What’s integral to the work of an emerging artist?
I believe it's consistency. Artists who consistently produce artworks that exhibit focus, personal voice, and aesthetic sensibility show a strong commitment to their practice; they have the potential to gain a devoted following and pique the interest of serious collectors.
What’s your strongest memory of childhood?
I grew up in a working-class neighbourhood comprising children of different ethnicity. My parents could hardly make ends meet; so, I was left to my own devices for fun and entertainment. Fortunately, my hometown is in and amongst nature: tropical jungles, undulating hills, waterfalls, streams, and lakes. My fondest memories are of time spent outdoors just being a playful and adventures kid. I am still that kid at heart who can be quite mischievous at times.
Is the artistic life lonely?
In my view, solitude does not equate to loneliness. On the contrary, it's my belief that spending time on your own is healing to the soul.
How has embracing spirituality as part of the art practice impacted your or life and lifestyle?
My life has not changed much except for becoming more aware of my habitual thoughts and beliefs. Other than that, I have not developed a different moral code or indulged in abstinence. I still enjoy all the pleasures that life offers and have my ups and downs like everyone else. The only difference between then and now is that I am awake and have a better understanding of how I create my experiences—good and bad. I do not see spirituality and materiality as being mutually exclusive; it's about striking a balance between the two in order to experience a joyful and peaceful existence. I do not believe that spiritual awareness leads to a stoic life; on the contrary, it has liberated me from misconceptions and fears, which in turn, has given me a renewed sense of freedom.
Existence is made of light and shadow aspects; one is needed to experience the other. The two aspects balance each other out to complete the cycle of existence. We need to embrace the duality of life without judgment or resistance. Any form of judgement only dissects and divides what is already complete and whole. We also need to constantly remind ourselves that we are spirit having a human experience in the material world. When we forget our spiritual identity, we become attached to experiences and get confused and overwhelmed when things come to an end, as all experiences are inherently transient and would eventually come to pass. With spiritual awareness, we can minimise mental suffering.
Click HERE to see my perspective on the flow of creative energy that forms existential experiences.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I hope to consistently produce and exhibit new work.
What does being an artist mean to you?
To me, being an artist is about doing what you love and experiencing inner peace, joy, and contentment. I wish to live in the moment by flowing with the natural unfolding of life and by being grateful for all my experiences. With respect to the audience, I hope my work encourages them to give a second thought to the proposition that everyone is creating and experiencing their own subjective reality. Once we awaken to this realisation, we can no longer play victim to circumstances and can begin to take control of our thoughts and beliefs to create the desired experiences.