Joget Scene 1960s (digital print on recycled paper, 2015) by Kide Baharudin.
“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” That closing line from Robert De Niro’s underrated directorial debut The Bronx Tale (1993) is something that resonates deeply with Romaizie Mustapha, the founder of Dumpster gallery, which is the latest fixture on Publika’s hipster Art Row in Kuala Lumpur.
He has that piece of film dialogue proudly plastered on his shop’s front window. “I’m always keen to discover the raw talent out there,” says Romaizie, better known as Rom, in a recent interview at Dumpster. “If you have an artistic inclination, maybe it’s time to pursue it. Don’t sleep on talent,” he advises.
The 30-year-old entrepreneur, or pop culture enthusiast, as he describes himself, worked in the advertising field until 2011. Rom then left to set up trendy antique shop, Outdated, in Kuala Lumpur, which carried a distinctive flavour of rustic Malaysia. Last October, he moved on from antiques to concentrate on marketing homegrown art, particularly from unknowns.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a degree in fine art. Creativity shouldn’t be confined. It’s up to new alternative spaces to allow individuals to develop careers outside of the (art) gallery system. Anything is possible with art,” he asserts.
Rom, equipped with practical skills in marketing across borders and a passion for the creative pursuits, drew up the plans for Dumpster in March this year.
Dumpster, which opened its doors last month, houses an assortment of original print works, screen-prints, bags and clothes, all supplied by relative unknowns in the art scene.
“You can call it a design gallery or design store, but not an art gallery,” says Rom, who hails from Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan.
The gallery, according to Rom, presents a unique, new model in legitimising newcomer artists so often seen exploring options like art bazaars and online art sales.
“There have been people from all sorts of career backgrounds – barista, animator, graphic designer, advertising – submitting their art work. We started with the names we got now because they were the ones who actually delivered their pieces on time,” says Rom, who added that the artwork exhibited has to feature a certain sense of Malaysiana.
“We are particularly keen for the artwork to be proud messengers of our heritage and culture.”
For instance, Rom got to know about Penang-born, Kuala Lumpur-based artist Nazrin Latipi’s art through his frequent postings on a Facebook art group page.
Nazrin, 22, who is a qualified architect, took the opportunity to exhibit his works at Dumpster when he was approached by Rom.
“I got my art on the wall. That’s a start. I guess my monochromatic pieces (acrylic on canvas) are very different from the lively print works available now at Dumpster.
“But I’m glad Rom picked up on my works, which tell little stories about Kuala Lumpur and how the city is a blur of progress and nostalgia. I wanted to capture that mood,” says Nazrin, who is planning a Malaysian punk-related print series next for Dumpster.
Other highlights at Dumpster currently include Kide Baharudin’s prints on 1960s life in his hometown in Kuala Pilah, along with his Kuda Kepang Hipster and Gerak Tari Melayu works, while Lina Tan’s Core-lumpo series focuses on street level Kuala Lumpur, and Oz Ishak’s art print A.Ramlie And The Rhythm Boys turns up the volume for his pop yeh yeh heroes series.
“A. Ramlie’s music has transcended generations and remains hip, particularly now with the added interest in pop yeh yeh culture and vinyl. We want people, especially youngsters, to know this music icon. I was told that even the music veterans appreciate our effort to re-introduce this legend,” says Oz, 25, who is an animator.
Is Dumpster strictly for local artists? Or is it open to foreign artists? “We are open to foreign artists as long as the content is Malaysiana. We are happy if any foreigner is interested in joining our movement to preserve Malaysian culture and history.”
The gallery’s focus is handsigned (digital) prints, which come in editions of 10 and 50 copies, and priced between RM250 and RM600. The secondary market value for prints is still negligible here and serious art collectors tend to snub digital prints. But Rom isn’t disheartened.
Dumpster’s role, as he says, is to cater to a new and curious audience keen on purchasing art.
“Yes, we did have one art collector who walked in and bought prints in large quantities.
“But our main focus is on people who can’t afford art pieces in normal art galleries. We want to make collecting prints a trend. Instead of buying prints from a Scandinavian home furnishing giant, why don’t we give our local artists a chance?” concludes Rom.
Dumpster is located at Lot 53, Level G2, Art Row, Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Open daily from 10am to 9pm. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Call: 012-302 3170. Browse: www.dumpster.my. Dumpster re-opens on July 21 after Hari Raya holidays.