Thursday, July 31, 2008

Last Day of Penang Heart and Soul Exbt.

For the past two weeks or so I have been both surprised and disappointed at times, touched and despair by what i experienced having held this Solo Exhibition at the Penang State Art Gallery which to me is the crown of my long journey as an Artist cum spiritual seeker. I learned that one can never predict where the cards may fall with life ans success and failures are relative to one's innate perception. As some helped to p[oint out to me a few days ago I should not place too much emphasies upon that which is inevitable, that which is beyond my grasp of understanding or resposibility, but just to go ahead as to coin Nike's Logo..,. Just Do It!

And I have done it, I have placed myself within four years of my return to this Island home of mine on the Who is Who of the Artist Directory and in some ways have earned the respect of a few contemporary Artist in the community both the Chinese and the Malays, I have yet to meet a true blue Indian Artist. Most of my works especially the smaller pieces were sold to my pleasant surprise and there were new Art buyers that I have got introduced to who I am positive will keep me on the buying list into the future. Three News Paper articles appeared covering my show which is another added incentive towards the promotion of my works into the community.

This saturday I have been invited to have a demostration show at the Queens Bay Mall here and the possibility of selling my works there at the same time. I look forward to this as it will be yet another venue whereby I can share my talent with the general public and help to promote aesthetic awareness from among the local residents here. I have a vague idea of what i might do but will see what happens.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Only a Buddha Knows a Buddha

My Solo Exhibition was officiated by

Sometimes you meet someone who out of the blue seems to know you and all your aspirations, your trials and tribulations, what your goals are and where you are at at the moment in your life. It is like he has read you and with great intuitive perception can picture where you are headed for. One such person walked into the gallery yesterday and confronted me, I call him Mr. Saw. He works as a Remiser for an Investement Bank here in Penang in his thireties or early forties, speaks perfect English and very highly knowledgeable. Among other things that he pointed out to me about myself was the fact i have arrived at a point in my life where my artistic abilities is ready to explode, it is all a matter of time he said and I do need to get my enrgies together as i seemed abit low in that respect and so he suggested making me a Chinese tea that would help to get my Chi up. He also advised me to not be too bothere anymore with the lesser things in life such as worrying too much about what is obvious or clammering after hugher educational degress but just to do IT.

All these seem simple and straight forward now that i am relating it but when in actuality my meeting Mr. Saw was a blessing for it was like a Buddha meeting a Buddha and Dharma transmission took place at a certain level most probably only a practicing Zen student would undrstand and apprecite the significance. There things in life that is hard to put into words and if need b alot of its authenticity is wasted in the process. Suffice to say for me just recording it down in this manner will help me to just be able to remember the event in my later days. Moments like these reminds me of my reading G.I.Guirdjief's 'Meeting of Great Minds' where the traveller, seeker is stumbles upon a stranger and learns from him or her all that he has been asking and looking for with a few tips on where he is headed or how he should proceed from then on if he were to still continue his journey towards his ultimate goal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Penang - pictures

The island of Penang or Pulau Pinang as the malays called it originally is one of the most beautiful and dynamic places that one can choose to live on. Surrounded by water it is a major port city along the Western coast of the Malay Peninsular. In the old days Penang played a vital role as a port city with ships loading and unloading goods from all over the world.
I grew up on this island and in the early sixties had spent most of my free times on the water front where the man who adopted me was working at the Penang port Comission as a store keeper. I still remember when the first Ferries arrived from Hongkong where they were built to serve the channel crossing. I was taken onboard to the wheel house and had firsthand experience of watching the ferry dock from the bridge.
When ships arrived from India carrying such goods as onions and spices of all kinds my uncle would have one of his workers take me on board the vassel and explore the cargo holds where thick blankets of dust would float the air filled with aromatic smells of spices, onions and dried chillies.

Before the Penang Bridge was constructed the Ferries played a vital role in transporting people and vehicles across from the island to the mainland. Today most of the passengers on the ferries are those who live in the Butterworth and Prai areas or closeby Permatang Pauh. Locals styill take the ferry for nostalgic reasons and the ferry themselves have grown old and some are not running as much as they used to.

From the sea the view of the Komtar structure is symbolic of Penang. This Phalic like symbol stands tall as the first tallest structure and still is the focal point of Penangites as the center where all things began. The KOMTAR is located where Simpang Enam used to be and here there was a huge roundabout where the traffic was redirected to tha various major roads leading out of the city area of Penang Road.

The water front has taken on new faces with upgraded anchoring facility being constructed and floating restaurants lined the Quay. You dont get big ships anchoring along the warfs anymore along Weld Quay areas like it used to be, howwever now you find expensive Yatchs and luxury boats lining the newly constructed berths.

PICS. Penang

The same crow used to sit at the same spot everyday just like me looking at it day in days out, it was resting I was bored. The Island is Pulau Jerajak where the Jerejak resort and SPA is located and for which I was employed fro almost three years as the Jetty supervisor in charge of the Ferry services, namely selling ferry tickets and taking care of guests going to and from the island.

If the picture had been any sharper it would have won the Cannon Photo Competition as it has all the elements of a good well designed, well composed picture, if i may say so myself.

Notice the bird on top of the stilt sticking out of the water behind the man castin his net to catch shrimps?

Itwas a rather hazy day that too however and that could be a good excuse for the hazy picture!
I have done numerous sketches while working at the Jetty as the Supervisor and most were done on recycled phamplets of the 'Buffet Ramadan' offer for the year 2004.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Penang Heart and Soul 2

Three days left for the exhibition to be over and thus far I am quite happy with the sales of my works and the number of new acquaintences I have made both local and foreigners. One of the more pleasant surprise I had was walking into the Director of the Terengganu State Museum who was visiting the Penang State Gallery and he happened to know my twin brother quite well and imediately mistook me for my brother. After awhile i told him of my propossal of oppening an open studio type of activity as part of the Terengganu Museum to woo more participation from the locals in Art and various other activities and he seemed interested. I had sold a few pieces of my works so far and if all goes accordingly I have the next few months' budget safely lined up plus the fact that the Ramadan is approaching my financial woes could be lessen.

Arrived at the State Art Gallery early this moprning and met with two European ladies a Swiss and a Swede who has great interest in Art and as a matter of fact the Swedish lady is an Artist and is in the process of sttling down in Penang where her husband works for a company processing Medical instruments based in Sungai Petani. We had a good long discussion viewing my works and it was pleasant for me to be able to share with them my thoughts and ideas about my works. It was interesting to listen to them of their ideas about Art appreciation and their personal experiences with being travellers and being able to learn of others' cultural understanding from a European's point of view. Most of the discussion we had was about the multi - ethnic society of this country and how it affects Art and creativity here especially with Malaysia being a Muslim country. They were also curious about what it is like being an artist from the political point of view in this country whethr it is as strict as it is in Singapore or China when Art takes on a political expression. I told them that I am not a political but a social commentator when it comes to Art and that i like to promote solutions whenever possible through my creative actions as in painting or sketching. I try to promote a sense of collective iniversal thinking instead of trying to promot my own cultural heritage of which it hard for me to pinpoint anyway. I cannot consider myself anything but a Penang born, Malaysia Artist and as such having lived abraod for almost half my life my view of life is shrt of Global in nature and thus my sense of expression.

Yesterday being the last Sunday of the month was also the Little Penang Street Market day and i was asked to provide a children's art class as part of the activities for the day. There was a 'Kuda Kepang' presentation among other cultural entertainment and the Chief Minister made an appearence as it was also the two years anivesary of the Little Penang Project. I did a painting of the Kuda Kepand performance while it was in progress and it was donated to the troupe which was brought for the occaision all the way from Johor. It was a very impressive performance with the sound of Gamelan type of music and heavy smell of 'kemian' or insence used by the Malays as part of a spiritual ceremony and in this case the invoking of spirits for the show. It is believed that the performaers were possesed by various spirits while they performed which in actuality turned them into horses in nature. I enjoyed doing the painting and the fact that it was bought om the spot gave me a special sense of accomplishment.

In the audience was also a lady who is in charge of promotion at the Queens Bay Mall ans she asked me if i could do the same at the Mall next week end for three consequtive days and i said I would not knowing exactly what I am going to do. But as the saying goes, Carpe Diem! Seize the opportunity for it only knocks once and it is for a reason. So the next few days I will have to figure out how I can benifit from this venture. Needless to say the door is slowly oppening one after another for me and I believe it is just a matter of time before i can taste the fruit of my years of nurturing my abilities as an Artist. Patience! I have been told time and again and perseverence, after all what else is there to do?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I am a 'Blogger head'

I have been messing around with the blogg trying to get some decent sketches and drawing into the blogs as I had originally intended but so far my effort has been slow in coming. This blog was originally intended to include my daily works of art in any form albeit drawings painting or just photo shots I had taken. However due to my computer ignorance I have failed this more valuable part of the blog. Without the pictures it is just a boring piece of routine day to day moan and groan of life minus the excitement. I am still hunting around for someone who can really assist me in understanding how to get the pictures to my works down but in the meantime suffice it is with whatever i can accomplish on my own by trial and error.
In a few days my solo wexhibition at the Penang State Art Gallery will come to a close and I am glad that it will be over as I cannot afford running up and down trying to get things done at my own expense and sad to say that for lack of support. I am proud however that I even managed to get this far, having my face on a banner at the Dewan Seri Pinang Antrance to the Gallery and appearing in two news papers and a magazine. This my publicity stunt for the promotion of my works into the future. They are beginning to know who I am in the art scene and if I do get someone telling me that i need to asdvertise myself to sell my works, I can tell them to take a leap of faith into the Sungai Pinang River.

I woukld like to believe that everything i had done, have been doing and am doing has been preplanned in my Mind whether concious or unconciously. I feel this more eversince i had decided to keep the on going artistic journal of my life and careers, my experiences and accomplishments. This has no intention for self agrandizement but just another form of documentary Artistic presentation as an Art for Art's sake with a meaning attached, some goals or intention set into motion since its inception. The Cheeseburgerbuddha (CBB) is my alter-ego sometime taking the role of a devil's advocate and sometimes being a casula observer of life itself of what is happening in the world, the nation, the village where i am. The CBB observes with a sense of detached involvment or WU-Wei as the Zen Masters of old would have put it. Picking the Lotus so to speak, without getting the fingers wet. Living on the periphery of society, being the watcher the onlooker and making carefull documentation without fear or favor, bias or prejudiced and at the same time seeking for possible answers and solutions towards that which need assitance or ease of pain and suffering, a kindly word or a viable idea, a song or a sketch that evokes a smile, nothing very special in what I do just merely being a Cheeseburger buddha making sense out of non-sense.

CBB is my looking at my life and life in general with a sense of humor keeping my own sanity intact despite all the horrendous pains and suffering I see happening around me locally as well as Globally. I want to deperately believe that perhaps things are only happening within my own small mind and when I exit this life it will end but my obeservation of life thus far refuses me this dellusion, Iran will have her Nuclear weapon just like the rest of the Nuclear powers and Tibet will continue on being oppressed and suck dry of her spirituality by the Chinese government. Somalia and Sudan will go on with life as usual where millions are facing hunger and starvation and the US will lead the rest of the world into the unknown future where electric fences and barb wires will be a natural sight along every borders on the world despite our day and age of information technology. Here at home the country will go on with politics being dragged into the mud by minds incapable of reigning in their egotistical urges while in power all at the expense of the man on the street all in the name of 'the law' and with 'God' on their side.

What can I do to help make changes happen for the better, that this nation and her people can go on existing without the urge to commit suicide due to depression or despair? What can an artist do as an artist other than have his solo exhibitions and getting his name in the Who is Who or the local Media? These are legitimate questions that CBB eversince he was discovered some twenty odd years ago in the Town of Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA, has been grappling with without getting over presumptuous or sanctimonious about the whole thing. Through his Art, his writings, his singing and what everelse that he does as his form of self expression while he is loitering around on thwis plane before death catches up with him. It is a form of self justification as some wise men would accuse him but heck if it is, so what? It is better to try and justify one's exitance than never to make any effort even to understand why one is alive in the first place!

Is this all there Is?

While at the Peak of the Mystic Mountain and looking around me i have come to realize that it is all the same and not a thing has really changed whether one is at the top or standing there at the foot of the mountain. The baggage one has carried with one is still on one's shoulders and they are still the reminders of what or who you are or what you have perceived yourself to be. How does one change from what is into what???

Change is a turning off and on of the state of mind one is in from that which is into that which really is the state one seek to be in something or somewhere that presumably a state one desires. A state perhaps of ultimate reality or manifestation of Truth a break from this realm called in Buddhist term the world of Illusions 'Maya'. Reality is relative to each person in his or her conditioned mind and perceptions and what is real can only be real to the individual according to what his or her mind has arrived at in dealing with the nature of reality subject to the depth of understanding and deductive capabilites of the individual, the amount of knowledge accumulated and the power of direct perception itself into the nature of what is Truth. To arrive at this stage in life one has to have earned the rights of passge which in my case includes having covered enough grounds in years and space having lived on this planet with one sole desire and that is to come face to face with my own original nature in Truth.

I was invited to a press conference for the 'D-Home' society for their launching of a fundraisng drive which will take place on the 4th next month. I had donated two of my Mono prints for the occaision and these will be autioned on the date. As I sar listening to the presentation I was impressed and it was the call I had been hoping for as I had always wanted to make one form of contribution or another towards a charity of my choice and this was perfect. D-Home is an organization that is concerned with the mentally ill and those in need of some form of psychiatric aid. I might need their services in the future who can say?

My article appeared in the 'Star Papers today! WOW! I am stepping in to tyhe unknown it said taking my chances becoming a full time Artist at a time when just about everyone is telling me to get a job! Yes it is a challenge and my faults and errors, my weaknesses of the past has surfaced more than ever to discourage me from such an undertaking; there is just no livng that can be made out of being an artist these days at least no in this country. There is a lack of aesthetic appriciation and a drive away from the creative arts as superfluous or a waste of money and time. At the behest of the ruling power it is best to focus on growing things and raising fish or chickens for the benifit of the hungry nation. All these while I wonder what we have been living on and why the sudden need for much more food when the nation has not really multiplied in numbers so tremendously that we are in dire need of more to eat. The government may have its reasons other than the rise in oil and various other prices including food but this is still Maya!

Truth is we have become a nation of wasters for too long and we have squandere our wealth unrestraintly when we had more than we needed. We are a corrupted lot all of us from top to bottom and we would sell our mothers at the drop of a hat to survive or get a little more of our 'share'. One is never enough for us and given a chance we want to become not only independantly wealthy as the rights of everyone to be but we wnat to be filthy rich given whatever it takes. We will keep on building higher and higher till there no more room up there to build and we will keep on pointing our fingers at eachother when things goes wrong but the day we learn to point a finger at our own errors and weaknesses is yet to come, we still beleive we are right and being right gives us the power to waste whatever it is that our country has to offer untill our very natural resources runs dry and our hills and mountain are barren eroded to the bone while our rivers and oceans gets silted and polluted beyond return. Do we care? Hell no!

We are a nation more interested in who sodomize who and how we can manipulate our losses to make things looks just as rosy as though we are innocent and pure in our intentions. We cannot take defeat without chewing off our fingers and we cannot say I am sorry without making it sound like it is a curse. We pride ourselves for being a multiracial nation like none other in the world but we have yet to learn about our neighbor what or how their lives can be eased with our little help. Compassion and Love has become an alien word in our vocabulary and sharing and giving is a foolishness only ppreached and practiced by those who has none or little to give in the first place. So how can we ever see beauty or aesthetic awareness around us without some form of prejudiced preconceived ideas lurking behind our perceptions. Such qualities are for the intellects and the cultured few we say, for us there is only the rise in oil prices and the sodomy of Government officials in one form or another. This the legacy we are leaving our next generation along with the desicrated environment.

The fine arts may oneday be a thing of the past in the psyche of the next few generations of clones and computer nerds to be replaced by the state of the art computerized images that can create much greater illusionsa than ever before so much so the nothing in the world is sacred anymore as all can be altered to the finest untraceable likeness by the computer generated imgery. We trust what we see and pictures tell a thousand words, not so anymore, you cannot trust what you see unless you are so myopic that your perception is sorely in need of an aesthetis operation. The veils that is place upon our sense of perception and our conciousness is getting thicker and thicker and our hearts are getting blinded by layers of dellusions created for us that we have become enveloped in a darkness of our own creation, yet we still believe we are on the right track towards our salvation whatever that may be for ech and everyone of us.
The AlMIghty have mercy on all of us!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Summit of Mystic Mountain

The openning ceremony of my solo exhibition took place yesterday officiated by Encik Hanif in absence Dr. Najib Dawa the Director of the National Gallery. It was to be expected and although a little disappointed I had the feeling that this would be the case. I gave the first speach and my message to the small turn out was to point out the fact that the Fine Arts in this country is being marginalized and more often out of the picture with some institutions of higher learnings in this country. That the 'full time artist is finding it harder and harder to make a living wihtout having to take on another jobe to supplemant their incomes. I made the attempt to point out that Art is key to building up a nation that is ever original in its creative products and ideas.

Present were a number of people who patronize my art works since my first solo exhibition here, people who have been very supportive in all manners to make sure that I am able to keep on being productive as an Artist. Mrs. Ambi Devi, Joe Rosli Sidek and Leekhai are among those who were present and those not being able to make it due to other commitments that i would have also like to mention is Encik Hasnul Jamal Saidon, the Director of the Tuanku Fauziah Gallery at USM. There were a few fellow artists who were the and I received their thumbs up for the show.

I have made my mark on the Art scene in my own hometown, I have reached the 'Summit of The Mystic Mountain'. There is not much to view from the top to be greatly excited about having reached my goal but there is a sense of satisfaction nevertheless. I have stood before my peers and my children and delivered what i had committed myself to. This is another conerstone for my children to witness that their father is an accomplisher and despite the odds against him has has touched yet another level of success that not too many has in their lives. I always believe that the man is the model for his offsprings failing which the children would turn to others to emulate the good or bad habits in their lives. I also believe that one's actions and performances in life, one's success and accomplishments in life are the strongest message one can give to one's children for them to use as guidences in the lives.

I also touched the subject of why I chose to present myself as an artist is such a manner, documantation of my life through art and writing and has tus accumultaed so much over the years both in my written as well as art works. I am a seeker of Truth, my motivational force as I have always maintained is to 'Know who I am' beyond this physical existance, my 'Original Buddha Nature'. IN oreder to arrive at such a knowledge i have found that I had to unburden myself of all that which i think, all that which I had envisioned and all that my mind has preconceived of who I am. I have to unlearn, let go of and become empty of who I assume myself to be after all these years of existance. No amount of reading , no amount of listening to preachings and words of wisdom cna bring myself to catch a glimpse of my Original nature, if there is such a thing, but faith tells me that there is. Faith is a virtue i have come to grasp over the last few years since my wife fell ill and is no longer with me at least physically. This strong faith that grows daily from inside out results from all the years of soul searching, way seeking mind, the trials and errors of going through life taking what comes sometimes with pride and dignity as a man and sometimes squandering all my resistances and succumbing to weakness and vices that has pulled me towards my own self destruction.

Being a Muslim my faith in Allah, the AlMighty, Creator of the Worlds is slowly but surely taking a grip upon my soul. I may not be the devote Muslim like my brothers and sisters but i feel His prescence ever closer through every moment of my waking as well as my sleep state. I am still a student of Mahatma Ghandi in the sense that to me 'life is an experiment'. An ongoing experiment to be observed and recorded nin every possible ways and means and all the datas and informations collected are to be disected and analyzed and the conclussion arrived at is to be manifested in one form or another is my everyday life's experiences and expressions. I have been doing this almost unconciously now as though this is how I am or who I am while in this state of my life on this planet. It has brought me this far for better or for worse and I am beginning to feel the closeness of my end approaching and the beginning of the next phase openning itself before me. If I am asked am I scared of death, I would say yes only to the fact that it might be a painful process at least physically after that I am no more concern with what lies ahead of me I might even look forward to facing the after life as this one is wearing itself out in its importance and necessity. Dont misread me, I love life passionately and had lived my life as evidenced more than passionately but all great moments must come to and end and the end is only the beginning of who nkows even greater adventures, greater experiments?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Malaysia oh Malaysia

There are parts of this country that most of us who lack the desire to travel and witness for ourselves that can be very humbling to experience especailly if one is from a well to do family with all the trimmings life has to offer. There are little pockets of spaces where people dwell a very simple life catering to very limited needs to live. The rustic Malay houses along the coast of Terengganu is one of those places where today one still can enjoy the humble experience of having little and wanting less for the price of serenity and contentment. In this day and age where enough is never enough and wastage is the norm a trip into the fishing villages the litters the coastal areas along the South China sea can be and enlightening experience.
The Fishing Village at Batu Rakit or that at Seberang Takir or further north where Merang is are a few of the places one can drop by and pass the time just being aimlessly lost in time and space.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Masjid Kapitan Keling

The Maghrib prayer is in progress at the Kapitan Keling Mosque ans Rashid has left to perform his Wudu' or cleansing before the prayer ans I had just told him that i am still struggling with praying five tiems a day. So here I am doing what I have been doing whenever i am at a loss and in the twilight zone. I have been feeling like 'sitting in limbo and waiting for the tide to roll' for the last few months wondering when my life will change for the better. I worked for my cousin at the catering place stirring three pos of beaf, chicken and Dalca curries for one thousand five hundred wedding guests since six in the morning till about noon and my body is telling it. Lter in the afternoon drove to the USM Gallery hoping to do some work but did not do much other than packed my journals and the long scroll painting and headed for the penang State Art Gallery where they told me that my invitation cards for the show were ready to be picked up if I wanted to. The Gallery was closed, on a bloody Sunday! So I stopped by at my artist friend's Rashid to catch up with what is going on with the Art scene in Penang.

We taled about politics as this is his favorite subject and watched a video on the net about 'Malaya' ten years before independance the years just before the British left the country, a part of histroery which the history books today has neglected. Then we talked of life and religion where I told him of my problems and he explained to me how he got his saving grace. Rashid had gone through a rough ride most of his life too in his effort to finally become a ful time artist in his case a portrait painter. He is working on the potrait of the Sultan of Perlis at the moment and it is coming along splendidly, he might ask for 40 thousandRM for it he told me. He made 70 thousandRM on the last two potraits not to long ago and paid up his home loan ans now with this piece he hope to have a fianacial clean slate. Rashid is a kind and gentle person who speaks from his heart and it is very comforting to listen to him even if he keeps repeating the same old stories everytime we have these conversations. We are at his studio Gallery which is also the Penang Malay Artist Gallery annexed to the Karitan Kling Mosque a prominant landmark for this city.

I am getting ready to leave to pick up my daughter at her friend's house wher I had dropped her off for the day, they were going for a picnic she had told me with her friend's parents and I am very relieved as I had not been able to do much for her in terms of entertaiment. My son Karim is home as always most probably looking into the mirror every five minutes to see if his hair is in place or if he will ake it as an actor. I love them and I feel I have ot given them enough than I should. I am still wondering what had is ging on with my number one son the pilot who has stopped communicating for quite sometime now hoping that all is well with him too. It is not easy to be a parent my parents used to tell me and now i am learnig just how hard.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Freeing the Soul

The Penang, Heart and Soul exhibition is another effort at baring my spirit ans soul wide open for my own benifit in the process of self analysis or towards self discovery through Art and writing. There are as i have kept reminding myself thisngs and events in my life that I cannot fully reveal for obvious reasons one of which it might incriminate me in the court of law like getting my ass sued by some long forgotten event that might have pissed off some one beyond forgiving. But otherewise i have tried my best to tell myself of the events that I had experienced and the people whose life I have touched positive or negatively, the successes i have had and the failures I incurred just like a confessional to a non existant priest or to the Universe. I am not asking for any response from anyone and am very happy to see that my Blog is hardly visited or commented upon. I am not trying to justify my existance or why I am alive but on the other hand am trying to come to understand the whys and the wherefore, not the what ifs or the what could have been but the how to.

In a way my blog cannot help but be viewed as a didatic or even as an Autobiographical theses for those who indulge into such simmilar fruitless venture for lack of better things to do in life. If it is I am glad if it can be of help in any small way for someone else to find any small sense of wisdom to be gained from these rambblings, otherwise suffice to say that this is my own journey, the path i have chosen to untangle the tanlges of my own personal life. What is also the truth is that i enjoy writing just as much as I enjoy sketching or painting and why not? It beats the hell out of watching DVDS or reading about the political soap operas in the local News Papers.It beats the ehll out of worrying about where the next rent and car payment is going to come from or if my son is interested in school or not or if my wife will ever wake up from her catatonic state while wheel chair ridden somewhere in the State of Illinois' Nursing Home. Most of all it beats the hell out of wondering if I'd go to Heaven or Hell when I die.

Simmilarly when I am sketching or painting or doing any form of creative activity I go through the same mind state where tiem flies swiftly without my being aware that two or three hours had passed me by unnoticed and the travails of my life forgotten. This is in a sense is what i find sitting Zazen or meditation does to my mind just before i go to sleep or when I wake up every morning. meditating has become a part of my life just as much as smoking ciggarettes is and i wish i can quit the later but that is another story. The most benificial aspect of meditative effort is in getting in touch with my physical body where with every breath I conciously take in and out reveals all the aches and pains of the day's or the night's activities and am able to unleash most of the kinks and tightness that had accumulated in certain areas due to one excess activity or another. The shoulders are often the most subjected to aches and pains for obvious reasons throughout the day and usually the neck suffers from the sleeping period. Breathing is a sure way to unwind the physical contractions that we subject ourselves throughout our daily actvities whether driving or sketching. How often we forget to pay attention towards our postures in every activity we undertake and over a period of time our body athrophied especially in the areas most subjected to the activity we are undertaking. like writng this blog which causes the lower back pains and the shoulder aches at the end of the day. These can be avoided simply by taking long deep breaths and closing one's eyes to re- arrange or re-allign one's posture thus allowing for better blood circulation. The breathing exercise will bring our conciouness towards our inner being as well like getting centered again after drifting too far away from it.

This the practice primarily of Hatha Yoga and Pranayama Yoga, that of the body and breath. I have incorporated among my practice most of my adult life some form of these exersises which i find had helped me tremendosely in keeping my body and mind from getting lethargic or indollent, from drifting off into la- la- land and with the eventual ending of taking a nap or resorting to a smoke. This is an Art, this is the Art of knowing yourself just as much as writing and sketching are and the more deeper or thorough one practices these disciplines the more in touch one becomes with one's Soul and the closer one gets InSha'Allah to one's Maker. To dive deep into one's primordial state of being, the state of original nature or the state before one was conceived by the parents takes a whole lifetime of practice from avoiding the pitfalls and recharging the worn out energy supplies, from harnessing untapped anergies to being able to detatch the mind and body from the influences of the surrounding environment, this is discipline and it takes a certain amount of discipline to even begin the journey towards arriving at this just like the effort to begin a painting.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Penang, Heart and Soul

My solo exhibition is barely a week from today and i am still looking for ways to frame my works and how to display them at the Gallery. I have been through this situation everytime i had a show in the past and somehow so so far the shows came to be and most were well received by the general public. I have been asked why I have my shows, what is the purpose other than trying to make a living out of selling a piece or two to cover my costs and time and I rarely have came up with a decent enough answer. It has always been my contention that my works is an ongoing rpocess of self discovery, a journey of sorts to realize who am I and often enough this answer is met with a skeptical frown from those who are well established as Artists and Art critics. It is a cliche as I have been told a few days ago, so what is my true intention, what do I hope to gain, what is my sense of purpose? And as my former Zen Master used to ask me everytime we met, "Shamsul san, what is your original intention, your original motive?" It is like the Buddha asking what is your original Buddha Nature?

Why become an artist and living like a pauper, a parasite to society family and friends, to be humiliated and frowned upon for the lack of financial stability. Why subject myself to working at great length of time day and night creating pieces of ideas on canvass and sketch books when all around me people are struggling to stay alive day to day at the food line and welfare offices? What do i hope to prove or convice myself of with this 'cliche'? I could have made my million if I had stuck to my course of life as a sallary man eversince i had my first job in life for i was good at whatever i put my mind to. Had i stayed put like everyone else and stick to one job my whole life without making so many changes sometimes at the drop a hat. Today I on looking back in time and circumstances I realize that my life like many others like me was in my contral pretty much as I made the decissions and they were to suit what I wanted and not what was right or wrong at the time or forced tob e made by someone else or circumstance. This i beleive is the result of my practice of 'Raja Yoga' eversince i was exposed to the teachings. Although most of these events in my life were products of my thoughts and conciousness which I believe is the basic principle of Raja Yoga or Yoga of the Mind, I must admit that most of these events manifested without my consious relization or knowledge of the connection they had to my practice of Raja Yoga. It is only quite recently that I am beginning to make the connections and come to understand why and how such and such an event had taken place in my life, they are definitely not random occurances!

If there is any meaning at all to life it is to me this realization that i have very strong influence over my own destiny and what I think and wish for has great implications over what takes place in my entire life the good as well as the bad, it is all a matter of time. Having devoted long enough time contemplating and meditating throughout my life I now feel the fruittion of these practices and had I really been true to them like the Masters of old, the Great Yogis or Zen and Shaolin Masters, the Native American Shirt Wearers or the Taoist Priests, who knows where i'd be right now. But I squandered my resistance along the way getting sidetracked into the roadside attractions and sometimes getting sucked into playing the roles they had laid for me till completion before i am back on the track I had set myself through my understanding and practices. Each and every Dharma Gate upon entry has to be has to be played out till it burns itself to conclusion before the next gate opens itself for one to enter, this I am beginning to realize in my life. The more Gates we enter the more Dharma or 'Drama' we take upon ourselves and we create more and more Karmic consequences when we fail to resolve or find a resolve and free ourselves from the circumstances that had held us in captive from the moment we entered a Gate.

"Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasam gate...Bodhi Svaha!"

The Maha Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra or better known as The Heart Sutra of the the Buddha ends with this exultation pronounced as Ga-tay, Ga-tay... or gone, gone, Para-ga-tay, gone beyond...Parasam ga-tay, gone beyonf the concept of the word gone...All hail!
This i come to understand is how one has to leave a Dharma realm or any rodaside attraction tha we stumble upon or create for ourselves in this life, erassed, eradicated cleaned and purified of its tiniest stain within and without so that we enter the next Gate a clean slate just like being reborn or being, born-again. Without this 'tabula rasa'state of being we will forever keep dragging our previous existance into our future often leaving a trail of unfinished business or incomplete courses. What has become of he who claims to be my son living in Switzerland or where is my oldest boy who flies the friendly skies, where is my wife at or whatever happened to this and that unresolved issues that I had wiggled or forced to extract myself from for the past 59 years? I am still carrying them all on my back in my subconcious mind whether i reallize it or not. It is no doubt that my back hurts and mind is overburdened with a hosts of ghostly images that haunts me in my waking hours and in my sleep. It is no wonder that I find myself wandering down empty roads and blind alleys notr knowing where or what is happening to me often times and blaming God and the rest of humanity for my ignorances.

What has all these got to do with being an Artist? or having an Art Exhibition?

My works may not adorn the walls of prestigeous Galleries or end up in some filthy rich Art Collectors' storage room and I never and will not paint or create works simply to please another's Ego, but my works are being created in the process of trying to destroy mine. If there is an intention or goal to why I have these shows it is to be able to share myself, my searcha and quest towards a 'Right Understanding of Who am I". Right Understanding is the first of the Buddha's 'Eight Fold Path". In everything i do every move i take, in every though that is manifested in my mind I strive to act with right understanding, however I am subjected to human frailties or weaknesses just like everyone else and often enough have made one move too many in ignorance. Thus like everyone else I am stuck in this realm wheeling and dealing my way through to survive and make into the next realm albeit the 'Alam Kubor' or Alam barzakh, the grave or the pergetory, heaven or hell whichever lay in store for the likes of me or if not I might end up returning as a bitch being so sexually driven that i have been throughout this life. The only way to be able to share this journey with those who are receptive enough or those who comes knocking at my door is to expose myself and the best way i know is to have a Solo Exhibition at the Balai Seni Lukis Pulau Pinang or the Penang State Art gallery.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

House Keeping

Arrived at my 'Studio' annexed to the back of the Museum Gallery USM and for lack of better things to do decided to do some house cleaning in the general area. I have a little problem with messy environments especially when it takes just a little effort to get the place together into a more presenttable area. It is hard to accept the genral attitude of letting the environment go to hell by littering and hapzardly discarded materials after being used. This is an institution that champions the sciences and the environment in particular but this is seldom relfected when one takes a closer look at the backyards of some of the buildings around the campus. What would Mr.Brown and the likes of him who originally had designed and set up this whole facility in the early days of the development of the general area in Penang. This however is not the only location that is neglected in the whole Island and if one wanders around one can loose onself into garbage depression. It is sad that we humans has the tendency to create so much garbage out of our sense of being creative, that while create so many great and beautiful things for ouselves we have the tendency to leave it up to others to clean up after us. often enough you will find some good and reuseable materials thrown away along with the waste.

In education it is imperative that the idea of picking up after oneself is being instilled into the student's minds right from the onstart of the first project they undertake. The classroom or studio or lab should be maticulously clean prior to the students entry and this fact should be pointed out to the students so that they have a very good idea of how they should leave the place at the end of the day. Just as parents moan and groan at their kids about cleaning up after themselves teachers and employers too should insist upon this habit of making sure that the environment in which they operate is treated with great respect before and after use: this is the first principle of Safety at Work.

One of the lessons that I learned having lived in Japan for three year is the fact that the Japanese are very particular about their work area being presentable and not cluttered. Except for a few individuals who personally leave their work area as they prefer it to be regardless of its state, just the way they like as they can find what they are looking for desoite the mess kind of attitude, the general public frowns upon messiness. Perhaps due to the lack of space for themselves due to the lack of land areas the Japanese maintains a high efficiency in the landuse and the respect for space. A clean well ordered environment reflects upon a mind simmilar in nature, messy space messy mind.

Working for three years as a Health and Safety Officer for three different comapnies at the Petronas Refinery Project in Kerteh, Trengganu and later in Gebeng,Pahang, I practiced this principle when executing my responsibilities at the sites. Iinsisted upon good housekeeping as a priority for every project that I took care of. It worked as most of the workers understood my intentions and saw the wisdom of this principle which resulted in no accidents and smooth flow of work while I was the Safety Officer. It is often overlooked that good housekeeping is like keeping ones home in good order to avoid clutterings which inevitably leads on to accidents or other negative effects like the breeding of mosquitoes and the destruction of good amterials due to wetness or exposed to the elements. Good House keeeping also ensures the proper flow of traffic and excess and egress when times of emrgencies demands for a safe passage through the area. It is needless to say that cleanliness is next to Godliness in all circumstances whether in like or in the hereafter.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ng Bee Solo Exhibition@ Gallery Seni Mutiara

The usual 'Artists' crowd was at the oppening of the Ng Bee Solo Exhibition plus of minus a few and i made one or two more new acquaintances involved in the Art Scene. Ng bee's pieces were very captivating in style and the balance of colors and lines,solids and spaces and they are mostly abstract paintings originating from sketches as their sizes are a factor to be considered whether they are sketches or to classified as paintings, if one is into classifying things in life. I like his works and I enjoy th artist as he seemed real and down to earth, its hard to come by genuine items these days with alot of pseudo Artists who have gained their fame and fortune through the ability to master a technique just like and electrician or a plumber has mastered his tools and techniques of trade.
What entails an Artist in my book is off course not what Artist is for most others as it is as relative an issue as asking the question of, Who am I? On this subject i had a good dialogue with and Chinese Artist whose seemed quite well known among those present but whose name had skipped my mind. He reminded me of my Art teacher the late Reza Piadasa in character and in opinion and from having had this conversation I deduce that he was just as intelligent. These in my opinion are characters who have earned the rights of passage in being who they are and will take no nonsense from anythin or anyone when it comes to what they are good at, which often times is about covers the whole spectrum of life itself. I enjoyed being grilled over my cockaninny ideas about my take on why I do Art the way that I am doing it now. No holds barred, like what the hell do i know about living as an artist?
It was enlightening to listen to someone who is above himself for a change as he was genuine in his expression and doubtless to say I learned a few good tips from a master in the Art of 'Being' and Artist in these days and age. Our conversation got around to Religions and Zen in particular and the whole 'cliche' as he puts it about seeking for the answer to the question on who you are ans so forth. I agreed with him all along as it seemed that was what was called for at an Art oppening. I avoided telling him that Abstract Art is a Cliche and for that matter being an Artist is a cliche but that would have led into futher discussion which might end up into a free for all at the Gallery. I took his lambasting with a grain of salt as I have heard many times before these kind of condescending sentiments from thase who hold themselves above others. Despite getting my ego trounced and my self esteem drowned, I had a very thorough understanding of who I am and where i am at at the moment in time. He brought himself down when he decided to criticize Islam for prohibiting alcohol and how he admired the Bengladeshis for being more liberal at their drinking habits, he might have visited Bangladesh. This point made it was time for the conversation to come to a close at least before the subject of four wives and Fasting came up.

I worked for my cousin Salleh the past two days as there was a good amount of catering orders for the weekend and so I made a hundred which should cover the week for all three of us. My kids and i have resorted to Maggi Noodles soup for the last few days. Not bad, but Maggi is not good as staple diet anyone can tell you that as the ingredients contains too much chemicals in the form of preservatives. Get a job! Someone is screaming tn the back of my head. Quit moaning and groaning there those much worse off than you and thank your lucky stars that you are living in a country where there is no natural disasters worth taking notice of except for the politically man made. These are rambblings I remind myself as the title of the blog suggested when I got off writing and they are what they are, not for anyone to read much less make any comment, but if anyone insist on taking a poke at it well take a closer look at the finger poking and make sure that it is pure of any stains of flaws and faults. This is my road to find out and my path to discover just as the Zen master would have suggested, this is the burning ball of steel at the pit of my stomach upon which I meditate upon each breath of my 'way seeking mind'. If anyone stumbles upon this blog and decides to waste their time reading it and by chance they come to learn a lesson or two from it for themselves, Hellilooyah!

My upcoming show at the Penang State Art Gallery is happening soon. It start on the 16th of July and ends on the 30th. The official launching date will be on the 19th of July and it will be officiated by the present Director of The National Art Gallery, Prof. Dr. Najib Dawa who was fomerly the Dean of the Fine Arts Department at USM. The show will mmainly display the one hundred feet long sketch in black and white of the Georgetown are in Penang. People and buildings, historical or otherwise, stree corners and foodstalls, all the fmamiliar places where most Penangites would readily recognize. Its a documentary kind of exhibition which also will display a selection of my sketch books from years gone by till up to date covering the three major countries and events in my life of Malaysia, The US and japan. It will also include some monoprints and sketches done on canvas to fill up the walls.
I look forward to this show and most probably it will be my last effort at having solo exhibitions in this country as simply put I cannot afford the time much less the money. I am thankful to my Lord for having given me the Grace to have come this far in my Art. It will be a dream fulfilled in some small way and another accomplishment thAT i can share with my loved ones, fellow Artists and family and friends wherever they are. For the skeptics, this is just another justification of my existance laid out in style and recorded for far of how near am I?