Cover From left: A commissioned piece by Erica Eng; 'The Hypnotiser' by Fadilah Karim; a close-up of 'Stalking Neighbour's Cat From Balcony' by Venice Foo; 'Forces' by Mulaika Nordin

These up-and-coming artists talk about what it means to create in the current climate, navigating uncertainties that come with the global pandemic, and rapid digitisation

1. Venice Foo

Based in Sabah, Venice Foo is a self- taught mural artist who had taken to needlework after realising her knack for the medium. And while the idyllic landscapes of Sabah is one of the artist’s key inspirations, Foo experiments with the tools she has on-hand, and even crocheted a large rainbow-inspired yarn installation called After Rain for an exhibition last July. The art symbolised her hope for beautiful things to come after enduring the pandemic.

The artist is currently working on her next yarn installation as well as her first solo exhibition.

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Being a full-time artist in the digital age is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it pushes me to be thoughtful while curating and planning my creative process. On the other hand, I question myself and feel a certain pressure to consistently deliver work I personally deem 'good enough’. Truthfully, it can kill my joy in creating but I try my best to maintain a balance, and enjoy the process as much as I can.
Venice Foo

2. Fadilah Karim

Showcasing her 10-year journey as an artist, from a young woman to a mother, Fadilah Karim’s A Decade 2010–2020 exhibition featured over 50 of her works and an additional 90 from her catalogue raisonné. The muted, earthy tones of each painting are a sombre reminder, or a gentle glimpse, into the artist’s psyche.

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Today, we’re pretty much forced into a situation where we feel the need to keep pace with whatever’s going on out there. And while I hope to have my work physically displayed, I think there’s potential in virtual exhibitions. It gives a platform for both artists as well as galleries to be more active in the digital space, and perhaps fill the technological gaps that are sorely needed when it comes to the creative industry.
Fadilah Karim

3. Mulaika Nordin

The 17-year-old made headlines last year as the youngest Malaysian artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Art Gallery. Centred around her personal growth, A Thousand Days of Change is Mulaika’s first-ever exhibition, which includes 40 of her best abstract expressionism works from 2016 to 2018. And while she’s pivoted to showcasing her work on her own website, the artist, at the time of our interview, was also working on finishing her studies in high school as the pandemic had all but delayed her finals.

While (the screen) will never replace the experience of seeing artworks in person, online exhibitions are necessary for the time being, especially for people who want to catch up with the latest works. It's also the perfect platform for both local and international creatives alike to support one another.
Mulaika Nordin

4. Erica Eng

Twenty-two-year-old Erica Eng is the first Malaysian to win an Eisner Award for her debut webcomic, Fried Rice, which was also nominated for Digital Book of the Year at the 2020 Harvey Awards. As a storyteller, she loves to tell stories close to home and Fried Rice centres around a small-town girl from Batu Pahat and her effort to apply to study at an art college overseas—a story not unlike her creator’s.

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To be honest, there are times where I do feel like I have to keep up the pace when it comes to digital content creation. Who would want to read my five-page comic when there’s a new Netflix series every week? Plus, I consider myself a slow worker. Not terribly slow, but slow enough to feel like I’m not keeping up the pace. But I’d rather spend time crafting something worthwhile and I don’t regret not working on the weekends. So while it can be tempting to succumb to the pressure to perform, I try not to do so.
Erica Eng
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