It is obvious that Nadhir Nor has a way with words as much as he does with images. When he describes his two-month residency at Rimbun Dahan in Selangor last year, the imagery unfolds like reading a storybook.
“The place just pulses with life. I have never felt calmer than when surrounded with beautiful people, animals and plants, all with their own stories to share. Even on the quietest days, I could hear the forest chirping and conversing in its own way,” he says.
It was in such a setting that he picked up his paintbrush and lost himself in soft watercolour washes. He came up with 20 pieces during his residency, but continued working on the series up till today.
The result? A collection of paintings with quaint little creatures, all green tendrils and leaves and petals, in a world of their own.
“The concept and story revolve around the idea of passivity, vulnerability and their relationship with us finding our hidden potentials and opportunities. It is a world where emotions and nature are interwoven, to imagine what it would be if our surroundings show as much emotions and are as vulnerable as we can be as human beings. It is about seeing ourselves in even the littlest things that surround us, that had always been there with us since the beginning of time,” he explains.
The 24-year-old illustrator from Sungai Buloh, Selangor, has always been fascinated with folklore, spirituality and magic; he believes that there are messages from our ancestors written between the lines here.
“I feel like I am connecting with my distant familial connections, but I am also playing a guessing game with what secrets and truth they have been waiting for us to decipher,” he says.
This dreamy, magical world is evident in this newest collection of work, which is now on display at his Masih Segan exhibition at GM Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur till Jan 10.
In conjunction with this showcase, he will be releasing an art book, titled Segan, which features his works and ruminations on what shaped them.
Fans of his work will no doubt be aware that a selection of art pieces are currently at display at the 108 by GMBB Project, a three-month art fete that runs till Jan 10. Masih Segan is an extension of this showcase.
Last year, Nadhir was in Singapore for the Illustration Arts Fest, and the year before saw him designing journals for Journalife. In 2016, he was commissioned to do a monochromatic mural at Urbanscapes.
He has fingers in many pies, but recent years have seen him dabbling mostly in digital art.
So Masih Segan, with its watercolour focus, marks a rediscovery of sorts – and it sure looks like he is taking to it like a duck to water.
“I love how soft watercolour can be, how beautifully tricky it is to control. I can definitely try and emulate the effects watercolour gives digitally, but truly, it is the experience of seeing the watermark seeping through and the hues slowly blending in real life that is just irreplaceable,” he muses.
Masih Segan is a world that feels like a quiet, whimsical one, that is hidden from full view.
Nadhir hopes the experience of the exhibition will encourage people to find magic in their daily, mundane lives, and to seek experiences and stories in even the most seemingly inconsequential things.
“I hope my work provides a space, and offers comfort, to those whose voices are not easily heard. For them to be creative, vulnerable and to inspire others to tell their stories too,” he shares.
At one point in the conversation, Nadhir calls himself a storyteller.
“I am an illustrator, but ‘storyteller’ sounds like a fun one to be cheesy with too,” he says.
But more than being cheesy, it speaks volumes about his ability to weave magic with both words and pictures.
Masih Segan is on at GMBB, 2 Jalan Robertson in Kuala Lumpur from Jan 5 to 10. Opening hours: 10am to 10pm. There will be an artist talk at 2pm during the opening reception on Jan 5.