Women’s Work — Exhibition at Rimbun Dahan

Women’s Work — Exhibition at Rimbun Dahan

‘Cluttered’ by Yau Bee Ling, yearlong resident artist in 2005.


Angela Hijjas looks back on 26 years of hosting women artists in residencies at Rimbun Dahan. The exhibition Women’s Work will be on display in the Underground Gallery at Rimbun Dahan from 13 September 2020 onwards.

A woman’s work is never done, and it’s a good thing too, as they bring dedication and total commitment to whatever they do, whether raising a family or embarking on a more individual path. Over 26 years, Rimbun Dahan has hosted many women artists, but there have been significantly more men, so we made a commitment to rectify that by being more aware that women generally don’t push themselves out into the public eye so much, despite being just as powerful as artists.

Our first Malaysian woman, in 1996, was the late Renee Kraal, extremely self effacing, quiet and thoughtful, and she invited her former teacher, Enid Ratnam-Keese from Australia to be her partner in our paired Malaysian/Australian residency for the year. Unfortunately, Enid’s expectations of sustaining the roles of student/teacher were unrealistic, and the two women went separate ways, as one would expect, each producing a body of work that reflected their vastly different views of the world: Enid angry at almost everything, while Renee sought peace and quiet to draw and paint. Unsurprisingly, there were spectacular fireworks at the end!

This was not a good beginning, but I learned a lot about how one should and shouldn’t “manage” resident guests. We continued on with Helen Crawford and Chong Siew Ying in 1999. Helen had trained as a sculptor, Siew Ying was a French-educated painter newly returned to Malaysia who wondered if she could develop a career for herself back in her home country. By the year’s end, Siew Ying had relaxed into a new approach to painting, borne by the liberation of enjoying her practice and being back in Malaysia, despite missing Paris. Her joyous laughing portraits struck a huge response from art lovers, and her show sold out, launching a successful career that allows her to support herself from her professional practice, the dream of every artist. Helen too was delighted to be in Malaysia: liberated from the necessary part-time work she had done in Adelaide, here she could concentrate on her practice. She built an installation of Malaysia’s ubiquitous pink plastic take-away bags at a local playground adjacent to the pasar malam, starting a connection with the kampong around us, as our neighbours watched and wondered why artists do such strange things. The piece of hers in this exhibition causes some anxiety for our many student visitors: an obviously dead body, life sized, hanging as if on a butcher’s hook, and suspended over a mirror. As the students crowd around and look down into the mirror, they realize that their friends are now upside down… momento mori.

Noor Mahnun Mohammed, Anum as she is known everywhere, was in residence for the following year, 2000, with Australian Gary Proctor, and they both pursued their own objectives with no expectation of doing anything together. Anum, like Siew Ying, was a returnee from Europe, having lived many years in Germany. Her return was precipitated by her father’s death, and she too wondered if she could settle back in Malaysia and develop her own practice. She has since been embraced by Malaysia, as an artist, a teacher and an engaged mentor of students and younger professional artists. She managed the residency for us at Rimbun Dahan for many years, nurturing a special generation of young talent.

Margot Wiburd, from Australia in 2001, had worked with filmmakers but was looking for time for her own practice. Her search for quiet is reflected in her pastel pieces that grew in size and confidence during her year with us.

Also in 2001, I was approached by Nadiah Bamadhaj who needed studio space to prepare for an exhibition that Galeri Petronas had agreed to host. “1965 – Rebuilding its Monuments” was a multi-faceted mourning of the events of that year in Indonesia, when hundreds of thousands were killed by the military, supposedly rooting out communism, but really settling old scores and intimidating the population through terror, with the knowledge and support of Western powers. Her charcoal works on paper were the beginning of a commitment to this medium that she has made her own over the years.

In 2003, we had local sculptor Jasmine Kok Lee Fong, who hailed from nearby Kundang but had studied in London, and Scottish/Australian painter Anne Morrison and her husband Troy Ruffels from Tasmania. Jasmine wrestled with huge marbles that Hijjas acquired from local suppliers, with the help of her contractor father who shifted them around for her. Her work has been in the herb garden ever since, reinforcing the sense of peace she was seeking to portray. Over that year, we had great industry in the studios, and we realized the benefits of having more people rather than less.

In 2005 we again had three year-long artists plus one: recently married Choy Chun Wei and Yau Bee Ling, and Tony Twigg from Australia with his wife Gina Fairley, a gallery professional who self started a new career as an arts writer while at RD, going to every gallery and exhibition in KL and Manila, meeting artists and visiting their studios, developing a particular expertise in Southeast Asian visual arts. We recruited her to write part of the monograph we prepared for Hijjas’ practice, and she went on to a career as an arts writer back in Sydney, while maintaining her links with Asia. Bee Ling, with a studio of her own, stretched big canvases that she never had space for before, and went on to fill them with the crowded details of a woman’s life, using her time to produce wonderful works that expressed her world at that point.

In 2007, we had Gabrielle Bates from Sydney, paired with Ahmad Fuad Osman, who spent his year commemorating the 50th anniversary of Merdeka. Gabrielle worked on her painting practice choosing as her subjects female goddesses and the women in our compound, like Bilqis, Anum and Donna Miranda, a noted contemporary performance artist from the Philippines, marking her subjects with symbols of their identity; in Donna’s case she is clothed in a web of tiny tropical flowers.

Two Tasmanian women in 2008, Megan Keating and Lauren Black, shared the residency with Justin Lim. Megan’s fine and subtle aesthetic coalesced around the landscapes she found in Malaysia, more oil palm and less forest than she had anticipated, and she nailed our consumer culture and lack of concern about forest loss in beautiful lush paintings. Lauren by contrast, as a botanical artist, met many botanists here and finally was able to follow some into the forest to secure subjects for study. But she was also looking to expand her career into a more contemporary expression, in which she took plants to stand for specific aspects of Malaysia’s history.

In 2009 we hosted Samsuddin Wahab, and a couple from Sydney, Monica Behrens and Rochelle Haley. Monica had been selected for the residency, but over their year I came to appreciate Rochelle’s work more. Rochelle looked at detail and dynamics, making some beautiful works of tiny subjects and working with dancers to map their movements on paper. During that year, we rebuilt the Penang house on site, and they used it for an intriguing installation within it. Paris-based Malaysian photographer Diana Lui was also at RD for a short residency the same year and left for us the photograph of our stately, lightning-shattered durian tree, our oldest tree, and an important garden landmark.

Jessica Watson and her family came to RD from Sydney via Sweden in 2010, and lived and worked for the year in our kampong house, Rumah Uda Manap, while Kojak was in his studio. Jessica’s embroideries are stunning transformations of craft into art. As with many of the Australian artists, she developed relationships with other artists and galleries in Malaysia, and the three small pieces in the show are from an exhibition in Penang the following year. Her dragon flying over Georgetown is one of my favourite works, reminding me of the Penang years when Hijjas and I built the Penaga Hotel while Jessica was in residence.

Claire Healy, with her partner Sean Cordiero, came to Rimbun Dahan with their two small children in 2013, when Sabri Idrus was the Malaysian resident artist. I had seen Claire’s and Sean’s exquisite minute cross-stitched tapestries of explosions of fossil fuels, and marveled at the transposition of such an undervalued craft into a vehicle for art and political comment; that is their hallmark. During their residency they made life-sized Lego figures of animals ‘skewered’ by IKEA furniture: wildlife reduced to mindless decoration for mass consumption. The couple appeared to work seamlessly, with their kids recruited to sort the mixed boxes of Lego that arrived regularly in exchange for Lego of their own, so it was a genuine family enterprise that made the juggle of family life and art practice look so easy.

In 2010, we initiated a residency in Penang at Hotel Penaga, and hosted about 30 artists there until we sold up in 2017. Represented in this show of those Penang artists is Sangeeta Sandrasegar, an Australian whose family is of Malaysian origin, whose paper cuts explore her own identity against those Malaysians she met in Penang.

Australian mosaic artist Helen Bodycomb, who had been with us in the Open Residency programme in 2006, in which international artists financed themselves to join our community, returned in 2009 with friends, to make a mosaic wall for the Penaga, in recognition of Penang having supported and commissioned artists and artisans over the last century to embellish its buildings. Helen’s piece in this show was made for our annual fundraising show for WWF, Art for Nature, in 2006. Cathy Brooks, too, was self funded, and came from Adelaide with her poet husband Mike Ladd in 2009; she layered silk screen prints with silhouettes of bits of rubbish collected by the roadside, rhythmically repeated to transcend their origins and become beautiful cultural and architectural representations of Kuala Lumpur. Louise Saxton, was with us in 2006 (our vintage year, as Anum pointed out) and her installation of recovered embroideries pinned to tulle looks quintessentially feminine, but the actual subject of the piece is the empty centre of all that hand stitching where the Rafflesia is outlined but vacant, just as the largest flower in the world is missing from our national iconography. Lindy Lee, 2006, now a sought-after sculptor and installation artist from Sydney, wanted to stay in Southeast Asia for three months to experience living in Asia. She is renowned as an influential art teacher, but now also has architectural-scale installations in many Australian cities. Her work at RD compares the rigidity of accurate, formal representation against the random forces of nature that shape us.

Asialink, based at the University of Melbourne, was a valued partner from the nineties, and sent hundreds of artists all over Asia for three-month periods. Asialink artists in this show include Sally Heinrich of Adelaide, a creator of beautiful children’s books who painted the superb “Princess Wonky in the Painted Palace” and lived in our kampong house with her two children. Julie Ryder explored and tested some of our plants for textile dyes and Anne Neil used discarded construction formwork as the base for assemblages of found objects.

2013 was the last of the year-long residencies sponsored by Hijjas’ architectural practice, but we still offer shorter residencies to Malaysian and Southeast Asian artists, to bring our focus on neighbours a bit closer to home. In 2015 we invited Malaysian Azliza Ayub to stay for a year-long period with a solo exhibition at the end. Her work used found discarded objects, like plastic water bottles that were everywhere in our kampong, transforming them into beautiful assemblages that transformed our gallery. However, preparing for the show while simultaneously caring for her family of four young children took its toll, a telling example of the stresses of juggling home and practice that are particular to women. After the show she disappeared and sadly we don’t have any of her work to show. Nor do I have work from Indonesia’s foremost performance artist, Arahmaiani, who stayed for 6 months in 2005, preparing for a solo exhibition at Valentine Willie’s gallery. I do have a small piece from Mella Jaarsma who also prepared at Rimbun Dahan for a show at Valentine Willie’s in 2004. Mella founded the first artists’ residency programme in Southeast Asia, Cemeti, with her husband Nindityo Adipurnomo, in 1988, in Jogjakarta. I was glad to reciprocate for her inspiration.

The shorter residencies for up to 3 months attracted applicants from Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam; we also had residencies for choreographers and writers. Zun Ei Phyu of Myanmar is a particular favourite, a qualified doctor turned painter, she was also an accomplished paper cutter; she came to RD in 2014 with her friend Sandar Khaing whose large bold nudes couldn’t be exhibited in Myanmar. Both were stretching boundaries: Zun Ei by embracing her future as artist rather than doctor, and Sandar challenging the restrictions of a traditional society. In 2015 we had a young Australian artist, Jen Tyers, who painted exquisite watercolours of landscapes in the RD gardens, and studies of Dipterocarp seeds; many of these are on display in the Kasturi Resort, our new hotel at Pantai Cendor on the East Coast. Indonesian Ruth Marbun’s watercolours from 2019 also marked a significant residency. Ida Lawrence, another Australian but with Indonesian parentage, had spent time in Bali with her father’s family, absorbing artistic and cultural influences.

Malaysians Wong Xiang Yee and Chuah Shu Ruei shared an exhibition in 2018. Again, as in many previously paired exhibitions, each came with very different approaches to their practice, but by having time and space to work independently they both developed in their time at Rimbun Dahan, as did Anniketyni Madian of Sarawak, who spent 6 months with us in 2014; a major work of hers is not in this show as it too is hanging at the Kasturi Resort.

Melissa Lin was with us in 2014, and her quest was more spiritual; to quote from her statement: “Art for her is a process of becoming and of encouraging the intrepid traveler on the way to wholeness and experience, not only for the individual self, but also for the health of the community and collective.” I would not describe art in that manner, but I respect her point of view; I think for women who have a desperate urge to create work that reflects and engages the world around them, they have a strong instinct to grasp every opportunity they have to realise the work they think about as they do their everyday endless tasks for family and community: a residency is time for yourself, to develop your ideas and skills, to meet people with similar concerns, and maybe learn from each other or work together.

There have been many more women at Rimbun Dahan whose work I couldn’t show, particularly that of dancers and choreographers; sadly we can’t stage a retrospective of all the dance events Bilqis organized here, but there was often a rich crossing of boundaries between dance and art, most memorable in the work of Zun Ei and Rochelle Hayley. The range of form and expression of all the women is remarkable, and personally they resonate with me far more than the rest of the Rimbun Dahan collection. I have long wanted to hang this show and I feel it is a triumph of diversity, of how selflessly women artists share their worlds, whether it’s the exposed vulnerability of Megan Keating’s ‘Song Cycles’, or exploring the meanings of practicality and spirituality; but overwhelmingly, it is sheer beauty that allows the works to transcend to a higher level.

2020 has been a strange year for everyone, but at Rimbun Dahan we have had a chance to evaluate what we have been doing for the last 26 years and plan for the future. The lockdown enabled me to replan the garden, to renovate the kampong house and refurbish the hard landscaping, so that we can ensure that Rimbun Dahan continues to be a resource of creativity, dance, art, botany and architecture for Malaysia into the future.

Shadows That Flourish – A Solo Exhibition by Kim Ng

Shadows That Flourish – A Solo Exhibition by Kim Ng

Rimbun Dahan presents

Shadows That Flourish

a solo exhibition by Kim Ng

DATES: Saturday 11 July to Sunday 2 August
[CLOSED on Friday 31 July for Hari Raya Haji]
OPENING HOURS: Weekends 10am – 5pm; Mon to Fri by appointment only (Whatsapp Angela at +6012-210-4229).
ADDRESS: Km. 27 (entrance before Lorong Belimbing), Jalan Kuang 48050 Kuang, Selangor
Admission is FREE.
You are also welcome to walk around our indigenous Southeast Asian garden and view our heritage houses during your visit.

About the Exhibition

Influenced by living habits and the environment that we live in, Kim Ng’s work has a strong connection to social experience, human conduct and memory. He collects an abundance of abandoned objects from the street for their aesthetic values and possibilities, taking pictures of the marks, textures and graffiti left by men and nature. To him, those are gestures of storytelling in their pictorial and physical forms. Those traces also indicate the behaviour left behind by someone or something that held the story of the past.
The artist residency in Rimbun Dahan provided Kim Ng the opportunity to explore and investigate, rather than being tied down to a fixed direction of excessive production. His exploration in various materials and art forms is related to his experience in art-making. A new level of sensitivity towards the materials and forms has been established during his stay in Rimbun Dahan which allowed him to delve into a much deeper aesthetic awareness through further exploration and encounters with various materials and visual propositions.
Shadows That Flourish pulls together Kim Ng’s six months of explorations into a finale and is presented in the Underground Gallery at Rimbun Dahan. Artworks are divided into three types: unprimed canvas buried in the ground or cement, speaking to the transformation of material essence into something that signifies the rural and the urban, and ceramic sculptures and installation works that express nature and social phenomena in a metaphorical way. His colourful mixed media and silkscreen prints on canvas convey a complication of emotional feeling towards the environment. The series of found objects keep track of the authenticity of the materials and their origins, reiterating the existing history of the materials beyond their surface values, and rebuilding their meanings from the past for new interpretations. Much of the thinking process of his art-making was associated with the subject matter, materials and forms, attempting to build a dialogue with the viewers through the visual presentation, and evoking different senses of experience through a variety of materials.
Kim Ng is sensitive to the fact that each different material and form has their own voices. He does not particularly highlight the making process through his works, but from the processes of making, he creates symbols and meanings for further communication and dialogue, contributing to the sensual reading of the work on a personal level when one confronts them.


Read more about the artist and his residency at Rimbun Dahan >>

This exhibition is supported by Dasein Academy of Art.
To request a copy of the electronic catalogue, please email Kim at kng341@gmail.com.

You Belong to Night by Wong Xiang Yi & Rojak Aesthetics by Chuah Shu Ruei, Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2019

You Belong to Night by Wong Xiang Yi & Rojak Aesthetics by Chuah Shu Ruei, Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2019

Rimbun Dahan presents You Belong to Night & Rojak Aesthetics, a two-woman show by Rimbun Dahan Yearlong Resident Artist 2018, Wong Xiang Yi and Rimbun Dahan Half-year Resident Artist, Chuah Shu Ruei.

Xiang Yi contemplated her relationship with nature, her tools and practice, questioned the elements in her works as a means to convey her messages to the audience and reinterpret the ‘female gaze’. “The medium or art form that an artist uses should be chosen because it is the best way to convey a message or idea. The best form must make a huge impression on people, but an artist should never fool the audience by creating form with no meaning.” The works in this series entitled You Belong to Night let the audience see the the youthful bodies through the artist’s eyes, in a dreamy and illusory effect.

Shu Ruei accumulated data and input from her collaborative projects with local communities and other artists which resulted in four installations that explored notions such as “the ideas of multiculturalism, interconnection, collective authorship/ownership, ever-changing composition and the relations between centre/periphery and art/craft”. The artist wants the audience to “feel comfortable, included and also to have a sense of belonging to, with and of the artworks” when they come to view the exhibition.

DATES: Sunday 20 January to Sunday 3 February

OPENING HOURS: Weekends 10am – 6pm; Mon to Fri by appointment only (email Xeem Noor at arts@rimbundahan.org)

Admission is FREE. You can find the Facebook event page is here.

At 9 am on 3 February, Angela Hijjas will be conducting a tour of Rimbun Dahan’s grounds and traditional village houses.


Residencies in Review – Malaysian Artists

Residencies in Review – Malaysian Artists


Rimbun Dahan’s permanent collection consists of selected works from all the residents artists who have stayed for a year long residency, and for whom Rimbun Dahan hosted exhibitions. The current show is exclusively works by Malaysian resident artists throughout the twenty-four years of Rimbun Dahan’s Residency program. As many of our artists have become important arts personalities, this exhibition is a journey through a crucial period in Malaysian art history.

DATES: 1 & 2 December 2018, Saturday & Sunday

OPENING HOURS: 10am-6pm on both days

Admission is FREE. Refreshments of homemade nutmeg sodas and crispy fried bananas will be served.

There will also be a free guided tour of Rimbun Dahan’s gardens and traditional village houses at 10am on 1 December conducted by Angela Hijjas. Please click here for our Facebook event page.

Rimbun Dahan is also a part of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur (GWKL), 29th November – 2nd December 2018, a dynamic celebration of aesthetic and cultural diversity across Malaysia’s capital city.



Material, Order & Chance by Zulkifli Lee, Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2017

Material, Order & Chance by Zulkifli Lee, Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2017

Rimbun Dahan presents Material, Order & Chance, a solo exhibition by Rimbun Dahan Yearlong Resident Artist 2017, Zulkifli Lee. In the well-trod tradition of past resident artists, Zulkifli has taken inspiration from the natural and built environments of Rimbun Dahan and the results are textured, detailed large canvases and surfaces with geometric designs and compositions influenced by the repetitions and colours that occur in the landscapes he has been immersed in for a year.

DATES: Sunday 26 November to Sunday 10 December

OPENING HOURS: Weekends (26 Nov, 2 & 3 Dec, 9 & 10 Dec) 10am – 6pm; Mon to Fri by appointment only (email Syar at syar@rimbundahan.org)

Admission is FREE. For the event page on Facebook please click here.

There will also be a free guided tour of Rimbun Dahan’s grounds and traditional village houses at 9am on 10 December, conducted by Angela Hijjas.

Rimbun Dahan is also a part of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur (GWKL), December 8 – 10 2017, a novel, annual 3-day celebration of aesthetic and cultural diversity in Malaysia’s capital city.

One Day Installation of Works by Haffendi Anuar and Veronika Neukirch

One Day Installation of Works by Haffendi Anuar and Veronika Neukirch

At the end of their four month residency in May 2017, Haffendi Anuar and Veronika Neukirch briefly displayed their individual works and collaborative work in the airwell of our underground gallery. The play of different materials, dimensions, and angles made for a very interesting, short-lived installation. Photos courtesy of the artists.

Everlasting Love by Azliza Ayob, Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2016

Everlasting Love by Azliza Ayob, Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2016


Rimbun Dahan presents Everlasting Love, a showcase of recent works made by Malaysian artist Azliza Ayob who, in her 16 year career, has worked in many mediums such as collage, painting, sculpture, and installation. She has spent her year in residency exploring the possibilities of creating art from discarded and unwanted daily items to sustain and survive in the field that she loves most, which is making art. The exhibition also ties together the themes of labour, community, tradition, and sustainability.

DATES: 27 November – 4 December 2016

OPENING HOURS: Weekends 10am – 6pm, Monday to Friday by appointment

Admission is FREE. For the event page on Facebook please click here.

There will also be a free guided tour of Rimbun Dahan’s grounds and traditional village houses at 9am on 27 November, conducted by Angela Hijjas. Our other current resident artist, Si Jie Loo, will also be having an open studio 10am to 6pm on Sunday, 27 November.

Nature plays a strong part in her work and like many previous Rimbun Dahan resident artists, Azliza took inspiration from the surrounding grounds and the various types of flora and fauna growing in the gardens, using her time cleaning the lawns in front of her cottage to understand different types of leaves. In that process, she also got acquainted with the inorganic things accumulating (and “growing”) within the grounds as well as in the surrounding village. Azliza started out with one studio and a small collection of plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). One year on, the scale of her work has required her to utilize two studios to house pieces made from an estimated 2000 PET bottles and other materials. The bottles were either handpicked from the roadside and the trash or donated by fellow artists, friends, family, and eateries and shops from Kuang all the way to Kuantan.

“I am fascinated with the transparency of PET bottles,” says Azliza. “I’m fascinated by its longevity and how it’s so easily accumulated to the point where it is ‘haunting’. [Through working with the material], I became more sculptural. The process is so tedious, but the result is satisfying.”

Azliza learned various traditional crafting techniques from a young age and put this knowledge to use to both figuratively and literally weave together her unconventional and modern materials into softer forms, organic shapes, and detailed sculptures and collages. She has used plastic bottles in an interactive site-specific installation titled For Our Daughters (2011), glitter to fill thousands of mushroom forms and pink rain drops for her residency exhibition at Fukuoka Art Museum in 2012, and paper collages in her 2014 solo at Wei-ling Gallery, All That Glitters. New materials joined her repertoire in making work for Everlasting Love.

“I made weavings by substituting plastic strips, wires and wire mesh for traditional mengkuang, I incorporated glass and plastic beads, rhinestones, oil paints mixed with spray paints, recycled printed items, glitters, stuff from local hardware stores and all-in-one convenience shops. The materials [I use] must be considered trash, unwanted, or too ordinary and unimaginable to create art, it must show the laborious process of art.” She supplements these with the inclusion of a more sentimental material – batik cloths from her own personal collection, mostly wedding presents from her mother-in-law’s Kelantanese family. Ordinary perhaps, but certainly not trash or unwanted. “These batik cloths have gone through and withstood the vigorous activity of a mother, wife, artist, and best preserved in art.”

The use of everyday materials was both a matter of principle and necessity. Azliza says, “I find being creative is somehow connected with being frugal. Working with limited finances is possible with good interpersonal skills and when you work together in a supportive community. In this way, I think of creating art as a way to empower our economy, to live cleaner and greener, to help us think of sustenance and sustainability as a way to maintain our freedom (to love, to be, to do).”

Rimbun Dahan is also a proud participant of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur, a festival tour of the rich and innovative arts and culture scene of the city happening 25 – 27 November 2016.

Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur 25 to 27 November 2016

Priceless: Featuring works by 2015 resident artist Al-Khuzairie Ali

Priceless: Featuring works by 2015 resident artist Al-Khuzairie Ali

PRICELESS Web header

Rimbun Dahan presents Priceless, showcasing works made by ceramic artist Al-khuzairie Ali during his six-month residency from July to December 2015, where he explored the concept of human connection to the external world (an ongoing focus in his work) through the subject of animals. The external world overflows in Rimbun Dahan, a green lung home to a variety of wildlife, tucked away from the bustle of the city. Within the grounds humans, animals and plants alike live under a canopy of branches, leaves and steel beams, providing fruitful intersections of the organic and the constructed. This setting provided the perfect incubator for the artist and his explorations.

Khuzairie hails from Pahang, home of the largest portion of Taman Negara, one of the oldest rainforests in the world. This sense of place informs his connection and exploration of the natural world time and again – from his studio in Puncak Alam he began to think of what used to be lush, thick jungle disappearing under development and construction, habitat disappearing under greed. “I look at the hideous side of the human character which has an impact on other beings in the ecosystem,” says Khuzairie of his inspiration. “We know that some animals are threatened with extinction but the modern world focuses on the importance of money and this has many people losing their judgment and ignoring the nature of life.”

We invite you to visit the exhibition and experience Al-Khuzairie’s work as well as the surroundings that made the work possible.


Weekends 10am – 6pm, Monday to Friday by appointment
16 – 24 January 2016

Admission is FREE.

Rimbun Dahan is also hosting our annual dance event, Dancing in Place, a series of site-specific contemporary dance performances by dancers from all over Asia, on 16 and 17 January.

There will be a guided tour of Rimbun Dahan’s grounds and traditional village houses at 9am on Sunday 24 January, conducted by Angela Hijjas. For the event page on Facebook please click here.

YEAH: solo exhibition by Azam Aris, officiated by Angela Hijjas

YEAH: solo exhibition by Azam Aris, officiated by Angela Hijjas

In 2012, Malaysian artist Azam Aris (also known as Helmi Azam B. Tajol Aris) underwent a year-long residency at Rimbun Dahan, working both on paintings and three-dimensional work. On August 5 2015, his solo exhibition YEAH opened at HOM Art Trans and was officiated by Angela Hijjas. The text of her speech is below.

Killer On The Road (Storm), 2015 Acrylic on canvas, 156 x 162 cm​

Killer On The Road (Storm), 2015 Acrylic on canvas, 156 x 162 cm​


Thanks to HoM for the invitation to speak tonight at the opening of Azam Aris’ new works. I would like to take the opportunity, first of all, to express my appreciation for all that HoM, the House of MataHati, has done over the years in supporting young artists by giving them an opportunity to mix with a broad range of people and influences, and to explore new ideas in a very supportive environment.

I first met Azam when he participated in our Art for Nature exhibitions, where his quirky clocks were always a huge hit with visitors and collectors.  He used battery operated clock hands to animate his figures in weird and wonderful ways.

I got to know Azam a little better when he was a resident artist at Rimbun Dahan in 2012, and became very familiar with the works he made at that time.  His show at Rimbun Dahan was a great success and he contributed significantly towards our programme.  I’m sure too he benefited from the joint experience he shared with the Australian artist, Jonathan Nichols, with whom he staged an exhibition with us in early 2013.

The current works on display tonight are a surprisingly intense distillation of that past practice in which he explored the supernatural and the extra terrestrial, with a cunning insight into Malay culture and its superstitions and our quite natural fear of the unknown.

The figures in this new body of work have completely lost the individual quirkiness of his earlier works, and are repeated to such an extent that one is forced to look very carefully to search for what Azam is trying to say:  individuality and personality are squeezed out by the sheer force of numbers, and the density of his compositions is relieved only by the lightest of variations… could all this be a reflection of the current atmosphere in our beloved Tanah Air?  Who are these people and where are all these figures going? How indeed are they going to move with the fluidity of his mechanical hands, arousing the magic of the bomoh and the waving of a magic kris?  A few individuals in the mass manage to wave in desperation or jubilation, like drowning victims or audience members at a rock concert, but they retain the look of the ultimate selfie…. Repeat repeat repeat, losing their individuality at the expense of the instant gratification of a self styled and posed photo of how we want the world to see us… but unfortunately no one is looking, no one is going to see one small figure and find it remarkable, only in the massing is there something remarkable that has an energy that a single figure cannot accomplish.

I can’t help but infer some political message in these massed figures:  here we are, all crammed together, lacking any capacity to make decisions and shape our own destiny, wandering like a herd, waiting for a leader to organize us into a rational and responsible machine.  The energy and numbers are there but is it fear of the unknown that makes us reluctant to take the next step?  In a society that has known nothing else for over half a century it is always hard to see a different way ahead, but there is indeed a different road, and I hope that Azam’s figures work it out soon!

I doubt if I spoke to Azam about this he would say that he had any political agenda with these works, but in the light of these dark times it is hard to ignore.  He has looked at the dark side before in his Republic Sulap works, where mad scientists manipulated weird machines against a backdrop of outer space, and Malay bomohs looked blindly on creation while mouthing unintelligible incantations;  but with these works tonight I wonder if I am looking at some insoluble image that I have to stare at until it coalesces into an understanding that once made can never be forgotten, and inevitably the thought occurs to me that with today’s preoccupations with corruption at the very core and at every level of our society perhaps we are all complicit, every single self that is replicated repeatedly… we have stood aside for so long that we no longer have any capacity to act.  I certainly hope that this isn’t the case.

The enormous changes that the Malays particularly have had to cope with in the last 40 years have not been strong on cultural and political development.   Instead the changes that were wrought by education and urbanization, by leaving life in the kampong and substituting it with life in a condo have proved to be a little empty.  Pursuing the dream of comfort, convenience and security in the modern world is not an end in itself, we still need a sense of purpose;  and then technology stepped in with another promise: use your iPhone and experience the world, be a part of everything, in effect be a cog in the elaborate plot of buying and consuming the latest  technology; but in the end it will not change your life at all. To do that we still need our individuality and our own powers to think and act.

We have the magic of instant communication at every moment to every corner of the world, our selfies plaster our self-awareness with a sense of accomplishment that is no more real than the bomoh’s incantations. We have been hoodwinked into thinking that we have an intrinsic importance that repeated images surely validate: but communication should be a means to an end, not an end in itself, and I think these works are a poignant reminder that we are in danger of being hoodwinked ourselves.

Thank you, Azam, for these works, and for inviting me this evening, and I hope this show will give all of us the impetus to be more than just a cog in a machine.

Angela Hijjas, August 5 2015


Bricolage: Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2015

Bricolage: Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2015

Bricolage March 2015 Website Header

Rimbun Dahan presents Bricolage, a selection of works by our current resident artists from various countries in South East Asia and Asia Pacific. The exhibition combines works of varying mediums as well as varying viewpoints, showcasing the differentiated results of the artists’ time spent working and living in Rimbun Dahan.

The artists featured are: Malaysian sculptor Anniketyni Madian, Australian artist Jennifer Tyers, Indonesian poet Khairani Barokka, Vietnamese painter and sculptor Tran Dan, and Thai painter Yuwatee Jehko.

Opening Hours:

Weekends 10am – 6pm, Monday to Friday by appointment
15 – 22 March 2015


Km 27 (entrance before Lorong Belimbing), Jalan Kuang 48050 Kuang, Selangor

Entry: Free

Guided Tour

At 9am on Sunday 22nd March 2015, there will also be a guided tour of the Rimbun Dahan gardens and traditional houses by Angela Hijjas.

For further inquiries about the exhibition or the artists you can contact Syar, Arts Manager, at syar@rimbundahan.org.

For more information on the artists visit: