Malaysian Artists Who've Made Their Collectible Prints Available Online
Whether working with woodcuts or silkscreen printing, discover the work of these Malaysian artists spread across west and east Malaysia. Each with their own unique artistic voices, their highly collectible prints are also available online.
Secret Kampung House
Based in Kuala Lumpur, Miriam Omar's irresistibly vibrant work rich with textures and colours often depict Southeast Asian culture. Although Miriam's passion for arts was evident from a young age, pursuing it as a full time career took some doing, and she embarked on a career in marketing and business development for several years.
"I've always loved to draw and paint as a child but never took it seriously as it wasn't encouraged for me to do so. Even during Form 5, I had to write a letter to my school to allow me to take Art as an SPM subject. My family wanted me to work in the professional field as that was a safer career choice. I ended up working as a business developer and marketer in the arts/creative/fashion industry," recalls Miriam.
During this time, she started to draw and paint again as a creative outlet, and to manage stress and anxiety. Miriam posted some of her artwork on social media and soon began to receive commissions.
"From there I realised I could make this my side hustle, and continued to juggle both my day time job and art projects on the weekend for several years, doing portrait and fashion illustration commissions."
Her last office job was working at Janine, a luxury furniture and textiles company as an e-commerce manager. It was here that she fell in love with patterns, illustrations and textiles, and considered studying textiles in university. "I decided to pursue the arts seriously when I won an International Study Grant to study Textiles at Chelsea College of Art in London. I came back to Malaysia to launch Project MIRRO and become a full time artist in 2018."
Since then Miriam's work has grown to encompass textile design, furniture design, paintings, illustrations and wall murals. She uses acrylic paint for canvas paintings but uses a mix of Procreate, Photoshop and Illustrator for digital art.
"Nature, people and textiles and fashion are my main inspirations. I get excited about colour combinations and texture combinations too, which can also spark ideas for the artwork. I started off drawing portraits of women and fashion illustration. It then evolved to drawing abstract and landscapes, which then led to patterns for textiles and combining all of these styles and techniques into one artwork," she enthuses.
"I'm also inspired by feelings and emotions that I'd like to feel or want others to feel. Some of my artwork are created to evoke these feelings and set the mood. I'd like viewers to feel like they've stepped into my dreams."
Reminiscent of visually impactful Soviet and Vietnamese propaganda posters, Pangrok Sulap is a Malaysian collective of artists, musicians and social activists producing stylised woodcut prints with powerful social messages. Founded in 2010 and based in Sabah, ‘Pangrok’ is the local pronunciation of ‘punk rock’, and ‘Sulap’ is a hut or a resting place used by farmers in Sabah.
With a mission to empower rural communities and the marginalised through art, woodcut prints have become the collective’s main tool in spreading social messages, through large scale exhibition works as well as handmade merchandise including cloth badges, tote bags, T-shirts and commissioned banners for events. The collective are strong advocates for the DIY concept hence the slogan 'Jangan Beli, Bikin Sendiri' (Don't Buy, Do It Yourself).
While their work made the news in 2017, when one of their artwork was taken down from the Escape from the SEA exhibition in Kuala Lumpur by organiser Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur for being too provocative, the collective has continued to produce work which fulfil their artistic and social activist agendas.
They launched their website during the pandemic when art shows and gatherings ground to a halt and most businesses migrated online.
Pangrok Sulap's spokesperson Adi explains: "We felt like that the website helped us a lot during this pandemic and hope that it will also be a platform to not only to sell our merchandise, but also to share our journey throughout the years to our friends."
The collective's main medium is woodcut printmaking, and has been using it since 2013 simply because the material is easily obtainable in Sabah.
As for inspiration: "Our work often focuses on telling the narrative of rural communities of Borneo, endangered ways of life, forests, and flora and fauna and captures light hearted moments of human interaction, as well as exploring more hard hitting content such as human rights, political corruption and environmental exploitation. Created collectively by its numerous members, many hands create an aesthetically cohesive style and voice."
Pangrok Sulap's work is available on their website
Shan Shan Lim
Multidisciplinary artist and designer, Shan Shan Lim's complex and mesmerising work draws on her early exposure to multiple cultures. Now based in Kuala Lumpur, Lim studied around the globe throughout high school and university, from India to England, before returning to her home country. She currently runs Shan Shan Lim Studios which provide art and design services for a growing number of clients.
Shan Shan Lim (Photo by Amani Azlin)
In Silence We Create
Not limiting herself to a single medium, Lim loves to experiment with everything—textiles, linocut, watercolour, gouache, poster colour, earth pigments, whatever she can get my hands on. Despite this, she always finds herself returning to painting on paper or canvas, which is definitely her comfort zone.
"I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. My father is an architect and my late mother was a graphic designer so I’ve always been fascinated with interpreting life through art. There was no one specific moment that I started. I do remember drawing and painting being a refuge and a familiar safe space when I was far away from my loved ones," she explains.
"My art speaks on my behalf. It tells my stories, from the vivid memories of childhood to daily observations and colourful imagination. When I sleep, I dream in colour. Above all, my work is a dialogue between my inner child, gods and goddesses. Florals are a recurring motif in my work. To me, they represent gentle strength, hidden mysteries, humility, growth, perseverance and pure beauty. I like to mix my paints with rose water occasionally. It is my way of making the act of painting more sacred. "
A keen sense of colour and form define Sherwan Rozan's work whose rhythmic visual style makes for bold graphic statements. The self-taught graphic artist from Johor Bahru graduated with a marketing communication degree and worked in various industries such as e-commerce merchandising and fashion retailing before pursuing an art career in 2015. Since then, Sherwan has worked with countless of corporate and commercial clients both locally and internationally, producing murals, merchandise collaborations, art prints and many more.
His work usually starts off digitally on Adobe Illustrator, which is his preferred medium. From there, he looks at other mediums to materialise his work. "However, if I had to choose one other medium, it would be painting murals. I find the scale and challenges that come with mural projects to be exciting," he states. To date, Sherwan has painted murals for the National Art Gallery of Malaysia and Facebook’s regional headquarters in Singapore.
"I think my body of work kind of developed and grew from doing my own graphic design for my thrift retail brand that I started ages ago. The first thing I ever painted as an adult was a going-away away present for a friend. Funny enough, it was this small canvas painting with a red circle, yellow square and blue triangle on it," he recalls.
As for inspiration, Sherwan is drawn to overlooked details in spaces, structures and objects. "I contemplate these trivialities and conceptually construct them as my subjects in an almost compulsive manner to bring into being my own abstract interpretation. I create these metaphorical spaces and patterns as a way of inviting the viewer into my frame of thought processes and ideas," he enthuses.
"A systematic approach in my body of work would consist of de-contextualising the idea or feeling into representational elements and reconstructing them using geometrical shapes in relation to having the utmost basic level of interaction. Generally, I build imaginary frameworks in my head—it is this idea of manufacturing intention or purpose as a reminder of what is or was significant in that moment I’m trying to produce."
Lino prints depicting charming scenes of kampung life are brought to life by the expressive and intricate cuts of Shafiqah Sharom. Known as Ika, the artist was born in Penang to Johorean parents and is currently based in Seremban where she runs Kide & Ika studio with her artist husband, Kide Baharudin.
Ika started drawing as a teenager. "Back then in school, everyone needed to decorate their own table, andIi loved reading comics like Gempak, Utopia and Ujang. I chose some of my favourite characters from the comic and copied them exactly on paper. Then I laid it on the table and covered my artwork with a clear plastic," she recalls.
This early passion wasn't appreciated and Ika had to fight to change her main subject course to the Arts stream. "My teachers were not keen on this because the art class was considered the last class in my form, so I had to wait until I completed secondary school to pursue art. My parents however were very supportive and allowed me to to follow my dreams of furthering my studies in art."
As there were not many art courses, Ika ultimately studied graphic design at GIATMARA. "Most people are not keen to attend this school as it's like a community college but it had a short six month-course where they pay you an allowance. Most people go here just for the allowance but I went there because I really wanted to learn. It was the very first time in my life that I could focus on something. From there, I kept learning more and more, and finally graduated with a Bachelors in graphic design a few years ago."
In her work, Ika decided to go back to traditional lino printing techniques and is honing her skills as her work grow in complexity and range. Despite having grown up in the city, Ika's work has a strong emphasis on kampung life and cites her inspirations as fantasy, classic folk stories, women, nature and animals..
Ika's artwork is available on her website