Nineteen years on, art gallery Pelita Hati is still game for bigger challenges.

The story of how art gallery Pelita Hati came to be starts with a young artist named Raja Shahriman Aziddin and his artwork. In an incident that happened 20 years ago, he delivered some sculptures to a gallery but the curators didn’t quite know what to do with them. The sculptures were a little strange, they said. Too daring. Too experimental. So for “safety reasons”, they were placed in temporary exile in a dark space under the stairs.

When the news arrived to his sister, she wasn't happy. A biochemist by profession, Tengku Elina Aziddin and her former university mate Yeo Eng Lam put their heads together and came up with a plan. “When they saw what Shahriman had to go through as an artist new to the art scene, they thought it was high time for them to open an art gallery of their own,” relates Pelita Hati managing director and Tengku Elina's husband, Raja Annuar.

The initial idea was to create a space to manage her brother’s artwork. But when Shahriman’s friends – also fresh graduates – approached them to ask for help as well, they realised there were many other artists who faced the same plight. They now had a bigger task on their hands.

An artwork by Sukor Romat on display at Ilham VII – Steampunk group sculpture exhibition at Pelita Hati last year. 

Pelita Hati was registered on May 19, 1995. It opened its doors to the public for the first time with an art installation exhibition titled Part Of The Whole. Pelita Hati was first based in Tasik Titiwangsa in KL before moving to Bangsar in 1998.

“We are adventurous, we are daring, we are edgy. We like to try new things and venture into uncharted territory. We like to do things that people don’t normally do. That’s how we have always been,” says Raja Annuar. “And from day one, we have always championed the work of new and young artists.”

When asked what he considers the gallery’s biggest achievement, he says that they are proud to have helped many artists in their career, including Kelvin Chap Kok Leong, Haron Mokhtar and Hamidi Hadi. “We gave many of them their first push, helped them with that first step in getting their foot in the door. We consider ourselves very lucky that we were able to do this with the help of friends and family.”

In its early years, Pelita Hati focused on young and upcoming artists. Then it ventured into sculptures, now one of the staples of the gallery. Every year since 2007, the gallery holds an annual exhibition titled Ilham that features quirky sculptures ranging from the strange to the fantastical, and the creepy to the cool.

“The next thing are are going to go into is senior artists who are not really well-represented,” shares Raja Annuar, adding that the gallery had gone through four logo changes, six venues, and have worked with over 900 artists.

Sculptor Raja Shahriman Aziddin’s career has been tied closely to Pelita Hati’s rise as a long-standing gallery that celebrates daring local art. 

Raja Annuar, managing director  of Pelita Hati, says that the gallery will continue with its adventurous outlook and reach out to edgy artists.