The works of two promising young Malaysian artists are brought into the spotlight, during a pair of simultaneous exhibitions taking place at a gallery in Kuala Lumpur until the end of February.

Azizi Latif and Sabihis Mohd Pandi, winners of the prestigious UOB Painting of the Year competition, are the first artists to be featured in their ongoing Young Talent exhibition series.

“Both artists, who are very talented, were classmates in the same batch during their years studying in UiTM. These exhibitions, which will be on different floors of the same gallery, are like a showcase of how far they have come since then,” says curator Sim Polenn.

“Both artists have specialties of their own. For Azizi, he is outstanding because he is probably the first person in Malaysia to use his quilling technique to create his works. And Sabihis’ work with woodcut blocks involve a lot of passionate work.”

According to Sim, it was very important for galleries to support young artists.

“Young artists are future leaders. In this current economic situation, they are also selling very well! Because they are young, and graduated not long ago, their large prints are relatively cheap, and so a lot of people are drawn to them,” he adds.

This is the last exhibition that will be held at Curate Henry Butcher’s present location, before their upcoming move to a new premises.

Azizi Latif

Azizi Latif, one of the winners of the prestigious UOB Painting of the Year competition. Photo: The Star/Art Chen

While Azizi and Sabihis come from similiar educational backgrounds, the style and feel of their works, however, are a vast world of difference. Azizi’s art is representational collages of famous personalities in the local and international scene, many of them carrying an air of tranquility to them. Sabihis’ pieces, on the other hand, are elaborately detailed woodcuts, some seeming rather dark, that depict allegories of social issues.

The ground floor of Curate Henry Butcher is showcasing 17 pieces of Azizi’s works, from some of his early abstract pieces to his recent series of intricate collages, which celebrate icons of the art world.

Walk through his exhibition, and you will no doubt recognise influential local figures such as Datuk Mohd Hoessein Enas, Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal and Redza Piyadasa, as well as international legends such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Fernando Botero. Japanese artists are also featured, including a tribute to Yoshitomo Nara, which is done in his famous cartoon style.

“I chose to make portraits of these artists as I am inspired by their success. They have overcome great difficulties of their own to get to where they are, and so are like mentors to me,” says Azizi, 28. The artist added that the works were also a depiction of his artistic journey, which has been fraught with challenges. At the beginning of his career, he had faced major financial difficulties, as well as a lack of support from his family.

Nevertheless, he persevered, to the point that the Curate Henry Butcher gallery recognised his fighting spirit, and agreed to represent him.

“The important thing is to never give up,” adds Azizi with a smile.

Azizi is the first young artist to be represented by Curate Henry Butcher. The Klang-born artist was the winner of the Silver Award (Established Category) at the UOB Painting Of the Year 2015.

His works are done through an innovative quilting technique, which involves meticulously arranging many densely folded or rolled paper strips, before adding paint to them. It can take from a week to a month to complete a work: quite an achievement, especially when you consider Azizi did all the work with only one hand: he lost his right hand in an accident involving a meat grinder while he was four.

Another striking thing to note is that unlike most exhibitions, there are no labels or descriptions on any of the portraits, to tell you who they are of. This, the artist says, is a deliberate choice.

“It’s my hope that this will create conversations among the people who come to see this exhibition,” he explains.

The works of Sabihis, on the other hand, can be found on the upper floor of the Curate Henry Butcher gallery. Most of the art here are older works featured in previous art shows, which the artist said represented some of his best works.

Most of his woodcuts are striking and somewhat unnerving at the same time, each spinning a tale of its own. What Dunno, for example, looks like a still out of a dark fantasy movie, representing a skeletal, crowned man who is missing his arms, riding atop a bull.

“Some leaders, although they are in power, they don’t do anything, and just let things be,” says Sabihis.

Not all his works, however, explore such weighty themes. One of his pieces, Sumo pays tribute to sumo wrestling, a sport the artist has always been fascinated by.

Sabihis, 28, who hails from Muazam Shah, Pahang, was the winner of the Bronze Award (Established Artist Category) at the UOB Painting of the Year (Malaysia) in 2014, and the recipient of the Malaysian Emerging Artist Award in 2013. The artist has been widely acclaimed for his creative methods in printmaking.

Some of the most striking pieces in his show, however, are a set of works created to protest the demolition of National Art Laureate Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal’s public sculpture Puncak Purnama by DBKL last year. It features a pair of sinister looking creatures, and is titled Buta Seni Tak’pa Jangan Jadi Penghancur Seni (You Can Be Blind To Art But Don’t Be Its Destroyer).

“I was disappointed to hear the news (of the destruction), and I created these pieces to protest this. As an artist, I thought if it could happen to that famous work, it could also happen to my work someday,” says Sabihis.

The Young Talent shows are on at Curate Henry Butcher in Seni Mont Kiara, KL until Feb 24. The gallery is open daily from 11am to 7pm. For enquiries, call 03-6206 2282 or e-mail info@curate.com.my. Visit: www.curate.com.my.