On his Rimbun Dahan residency experience
Based in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, illustrator Nadhir Nor ventured to Kuala Lumpur for a residency at Rimbun Dahan. Surrounded by traditional architecture and generous spaces for all types of artists to create their craft, this space aims to support South East Asian artists, especially creatives from Malaysia.
Nadhir, 24, dabbles in various forms of expressing his visual curiosity, from a mural commission for Urbanscapes in 2016 to designing journals for Journalife in 2017. Most recently, you might have seen him in Singapore as part of the Illustration Arts Fest 2018. He has a particular interest in all things otherworldly — mythology and ancient cultures — and their relationships with the modern society.
The illustrator was Rimbun Dahan’s resident artist from August to September this year. As part of his effort to push his art further, he explored how to bridge his works with traditional media, specifically with the physical aspect and textures that traditional works have to offer. In terms of subject matter, he dived into the fictional folklores of the local cultures. It is almost like going back to the past and shedding new light on these familiar myths from his point of view. It is a reminder of the magic in the every day, perhaps.
Nadhir shares with us the works he created during his residency. All the works are done in watercolour, a traditional medium that breaks away from his usual use of pixels and digital media. But they are quirky and beautiful all the same.
Will you still be able to look at the plants around you in the same way after viewing his works?
What draws you to the otherworldly in your own art practice?
I’ve always been fascinated by things or stories we’re told but never seem to be able to properly understand, like folklores and spirituality. There’s a certain magic to how our ancestors decided to bind a lot of these little things into the way we live and see things. And now with modernity creeping in, I can’t help but feel that goes away a little. With my own practice, I aspire to bring that little magic, “otherwordliness”, back into my own work.
How much do modernisation and globalisation affect your work?
As a millennial, modernisation and globalisation have definitely affected the way I look at my work as an artist. Globalisation united us in its own way, and I am hopeful that it has made us more empathic towards one another. But the more I grow as a person, I have also come to realise the cultural erasure and Western-centrism that heavily comes with it. Once everything in the world is forcefully conflated into a single language, it definitely tends to get icky. And as an artist, that is a constant battle that I hope to always be aware of and careful about when it comes to exploring my work.
Share with us your residency experience at Rimbun Dahan.
The thing about Rimbun Dahan is that a single Google search would already, immediately, get you all infatuated with it. But to actually have the opportunity to stay and explore my work there was something else. I’ve always been in love with plants and nature, so to be able to surround myself with them every single day was just breathtaking. It gives you so much space to explore things at your own pace and comfort, but it is also pulsing with so many beautiful animals and people. Rimbun Dahan felt so quiet, yet it was also so alive at the same time, and I just loved that.
What has the process been like, exploring ways to bridge your work with traditional media?
It has been so therapeutic and exciting, really. I had been so stuck with pixels and the virtual world in the ways I explored my previous works. To actually use my full sense and just walk out into the garden or swim in the pool next to my studio to get my charge of inspiration was just lovely. I have enjoyed seeing the textures and irregularities in handling the traditional media again, and I’m excited for more to come.