“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam; be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
These words, written by American playwright John Howard Payne in the 18th century for his song Home Sweet Home, are still relevant today. Whether it is made of out brick, concrete, wood, or even cardboard, everyone needs a place of shelter they can call their own.
This sense of belonging is part of the reasons behind Home Is Where The Heart Lives, a group exhibition now on in Kuala Lumpur.
The exhibition features artists expressing their ideas and interpretations of the concept of “home”.
“Nowadays people talk a lot about houses being expensive. I have been reading a lot about homeless people, and my wife’s cousin has been helping out in soup kitchens for the less unfortunate. It got me thinking, for those of us who have a house and family, about how lucky we are,” says Raja Annuar, Pelita Hati Gallery of Art managing director and the show’s curator.
Pelita Hati has often been associated with young artists, and this show is no exception.
Home Is Where The Heart Lives contains the works of several young artists from Universiti Teknologi Mara, who Raja Annuar discovered when visiting a graduation show there last year – “Art is not easy nowadays, and we can help by involving them in our exhibition.”
The exhibition hosts newcomer artists like Aiman Asyran, Brenda Subal, Candy D. Sibin, Muhamad Efi Syafiq, Nabil Adnan and Rozain B. Riminggu, as well as more established names such as Anuar Dan, Haron Mokhtar, Ismail Alias, Rozlina Khairi, Irwan Idris, Yazid Alias and Jing Chung.
Aiman Asyran, 23, contributes three prints for the exhibition: All her works (such as Orchid Season In Kampung and Bloom Season In Kampung) are portraits of her home in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. According to Aiman, a nostalgic mood informs her art.
“Orchid season in my kampung is usually full of joy. The flowers will be out, and people will be exchanging and planting them. But when I go back every year, there will be people who have died. Things become more quiet, with less people, and it’s more sad. You need to appreciate the people that are all around you,” says Aiman poignantly at the gallery.
Unlike Aiman’s work, the art of Jing Chung does not feature any real-life locations. Instead the places and locations in her works such as City Life, Dwelling On Water and Summer Remembrances spring straight from her imagination.
The 44-year-old KL-based artist contributes two sets of works for the exhibition, one done in acrylic, and the other done on paper using a Chinese ink brush. Her evocative, brightly-coloured works are all done in an abstract style.
“Some people see my art and don’t see houses but maybe feel something else,” says Jing.
Working in a similar style is artist Irwan Idris, 36, who frequently uses abstract and expressionist techniques.
Like Jing Chung, his works are vividly bright representations of settings. Irwan’s works, however, seem to take on a larger scale and spectacle.
The work Untitled, for example, is an attempt to draw every building he has ever seen from memory, while I Am Here is an invitation to the viewer to understand the artist’s position and where he is coming from. His Kampung Boy and Concrete Jungle series reflects two contrasting lifestyles.
“I share my story in my work. For me, I enjoy my kampung life in Taiping [Perak]. There’s a lot of space there to relax, like you can see in my work. Time seems to pass slower there. In the city, however, things are a bit more cramped. I struggled with the environment, seeing tall buildings every day. I felt my life getting complicated. It was all very geometric,” explains Irwan.
Look carefully at the artist’s works and you might spot something interesting: each features the face of a person.
“Who gives the life or soul to a home? It’s the people. Even if you live alone, you’re the one who brings light to a place,” explains Irwan.
Rozlina Khairi’s works are strikingly detailed, realistic depictions of architecture, all done in black and white. Some of them are quite straightforward: her Home series features depictions of traditional houses from Johor, Pahang, Negri Sembilan and Sarawak.
Her Where Do You Live shows a vast city landscape, complete with a bridge on the right of the painting.
“You can live under a bridge, or in a hut in a village, or in a condo. That is your home. But just because you live in a big house, does that mean you are happier than the person under a bridge?” asks Rozlina.
“Home is something you have to appreciate. It’s a place you have to put your life and heart into. If you don’t, it is not your home,” she maintains.
Home Is Where The Heart Lives is on at Pelita Hati Gallery of Art in KL till April 30. The gallery is open from 10am-6pm daily except Fridays. For more information, call 03-2092 3380, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visitpelitahati.com.my.