Ashly Nandong is a thirty-year old artist from Kuching, Sarawak who joins us for three months as short-stay artist-in-residence at Rimbun Dahan.
Ahsly completed a Bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering at Swinburne University, in Victoria, Australia in 2009, returning to Malaysia in early 2011. However, it was his informal art education and exposure to traditional dance and music during his formative adolescent years that marked him for quite a different life direction. Eventually, and inevitably it seemed, what placed him firmly on this different road was his continued active involvement in the performance and visual arts, while living in Melbourne. Having been taught the sapeh lute as a teenager under different gurus, the traditional Dayak dance of the Orang Ulu and Iban people, and now as painter, Ashly crosses from performance to visual arts and back with ease.
A strong sense of his Iban cultural heritage is what binds; one medium of expression inspires the other in a non-hierarchy. Traditional motifs and metaphors make for meaningful markers and anchor him along the way in his berjalai, an ancient Iban custom of roaming or journeying in search of greener pastures of knowledge and hopefully the ‘wisdom’ that comes from hands-on experience.
At Rimbun Dahan, Ashly is given a much-needed time for contemplation in an important part of his berjalai; an introspective time to connect with his creative aspirations in response to his current ‘spiritual’ situation. Ashly is presently working on a painting depicting the Tree of Life, a motif found in Iban symbolism and in religions, mythologies and philosophies throughout many different cultures, in varying permutations.
A unifying principle that unites all cultures and religions is something Ashly gravitates towards, being very keen to understand deeper the creative force that at core animates all living entities with spirit. The living tree, rooted in earth but with branches reaching upwards for the heavens is aptly symbolic of Ashly’s current station of berjalai at Rimbun Dahan, a place of lofty trees and sounds of ancient cicadas and birdsong.