Based in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, illustrator Nadhir Nor ventured to Kuala Lumpur for a residency with Rimbun Dahan. Surrounded by traditional architecture and generous spaces for all types of artists to create work, this space aims to support Southeast Asian artists, especially the creatives from Malaysia.
Nadhir, 24, dabbles in various forms of expressing his visual curiosity - from a mural commission for Urbanscapes in 2016 to designing journals for Journalife in 2017. Most recently, you might have seen him in Singapore as part of the Illustration Arts Fest 2018. He has a particular interest in all things otherworldly - mythology, ancient cultures - and what their relationships would be with the current modern society we live in.
He was Rimbun Dahan's resident artist for August to September this year. For his own exploration of pushing his art further, he explored how to bridge his works together with traditional media - specifically with the physical aspect and the textures that traditional works have to offer. In terms of subject matter, he dived into local cultures' fictional folklores. It is almost like going back to the past and shedding new light on these familiar myths from his point of view. A reminder of the magic in the every day, perhaps.
Nadhir shares with us the works he created while on his residency with Rimbun Dahan. All the works are done in watercolour, a traditional medium that breaks away from his usual use of pixels and digital media, but quirky and beautiful all the same. Will you still be able to look at the plants around you in the same way after viewing his works?
What draws you to the otherworldly in your own art practice?
I've always been fascinated by things or stories we're told but never seem to be able to properly understand, like folklores and spirituality. There's a certain magic to how our ancestors decided to bind a lot of these little things into the way we live and see things and now, with modernity creeping in I can't help but feel that goes away a little. With my own practice, I aspire to bring that little magic, otherwordliness back into my own work.
How much does modernisation and globalisation affect your work?
As a 'millennial', modernisation and globalisation definitely affected me and how I look at my work as an artist. Globalisation definitely united us in its own way and hopefully made us more empathic towards each other but the more I grow as a person I also realise the cultural erasure and western-centrism that heavily comes with it. Once everything in the world is forcefully conflated into a single language, it definitely tends to get icky easily and as an artist, that is a constant battle that I hope to always be aware and careful about when it comes to exploring my work.
Share with us your residency experience at Rimbun Dahan.
The thing about Rimbun Dahan is that a single google search would already, immediately, get you all infatuated with it but to actually have the opportunity to stay and explore my work here is something else. I've always been in love with plants and nature, so to surround myself with them every single day has been just breathtaking. It gives you so much space to explore things at your own space and comfort but it is also always just pulsing with so many beautiful animals and people. Rimbun Dahan feels so quiet yet it is also so alive at the same time and I just love that.
What has the process been like - exploring ways to bridge your works back to traditional media?
It has been so therapeutic and exciting, really. I've always been so stuck with just pixels and the virtual world in the ways I've explored my previous works, so to actually use my full sense and just walk out in the garden or swim in the pool next to my studio to get my charge of inspiration has been just lovely. I enjoy seeing the textures and irregularities in handling the traditional media again so far and I'm excited for more to come.