Natalie Labriola

Natalie Labriola

Natalie Labriola is a multidisciplinary artist based out of Los Angeles who will be joining us in May as our Open Residency Artist. An MFA Bard Graduate from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Natalie’s work is rooted in sculpture but includes drawing, painting, video and clothing.

My work is a material investigation into the nexus between science and magic, between medicine and art. The limits of the physical body and the universal desire for its transcendence — both in mundane and esoteric ways — serve as inspiration for my varied works. The sense of alienation produced by living in a capitalist society gives rise to my desire to imagine new modes of claiming subjectivity, and at the same time, a desire to imagine a deeper sense of collectivity.

From the psychic, vibrational frequencies in the environment to the contemplation of what it means to be healthy not just individually, but as a societal collective, Natalie’s work explore these little bridges between our body, our mind and how we affect and care about one another.


Find out more about Natalie’s work at and also


Veronika Neukirch

Veronika Neukirch

Veronika Neukirch is a German artist born in 1986 in Duesseldorf. She completed her Art & Design Foundation in 2010 and graduated with a BA (Honours) Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in 2013. She has been based in Kuala Lumpur since 2014 and has been exhibiting across Malaysia as well as abroad.

As an object-based artist concerned with developing new roles for pre-designed objects, Veronika creates compositions that strive to represent and utilise the pluralistic nature of contemporary art and contemporary life. The combining and finding of a new balance between various selected and handmade components run through her entire practice, consisting predominantly of sculpture, assemblage, collage, installation. The tension between artificial, functional, and ready-made elements and the organic shapes of intuitive material experimentation offers wide haptic diversity.

The rich local flora and fauna will be the starting point of her collaborative residency with local artist Haffendi Anuar. Veronika will be in residency at Rimbun Dahan for four months starting in February.

Sterile Jungle (2014) – published in Make8elieve #8, Horror Plants, USA/Switzerland

Granny Smith’s Table (2015)  and Apples & Pineapples (2015) – exhibited at:

  • 2015: ‘RIPEN AT HOME’ (solo), Minut Init, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
  • 2016: ‘Extending Ideas’ (group show kindly supported by Goethe Institute Malaysia), Feeka, Kuala Lumpur & Museum Negeri Pulau Pinang, USM, Penang, Malaysia



Riel Jaramillo Hilario

Riel Jaramillo Hilario

Riel Jaramillo Hilario (b. 1976) is a Filipino visual artist and curator, and was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, which like George Town, is declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. He is a sculptor, painter and an art historian and was the curator for the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Rizal.

Hilario’s main body of work are hand-carved wood figures inspired by rebultos, a colonial art form of religious statuary that was introduced from Spain to the Philippines by way of Mexico in the 1600s to the late 1900’s. Hilario uses the rebulto depicting subjects that are “para-psychological” phenomena, such as presences, place memories, popular mythologies and dreams. For the artist this practice fulfills the need “to render visual” that which are unseen. For his residency at Hotel Penaga in the month of August, Hilario will deploy “Place Memory” – a project that attempts to collect and take note of, occluded and manifested presences and psychic histories in and around spaces in George Town.

Hilario is a Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artist Awardee (2012). His work has been shown in several exhibitions in Adelaide, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Basel, Delhi, New York, Paris and Berlin. He has been artist-in-residence in Paris at the Cite Internationale des Arts (2012) and in New York at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2013) as a fellow of the Asian Cultural Council.

Riel was a Hotel Penaga resident for August 2016. For more information on Riel’s work, please visit his website.

Marcia Ong & Hilary Schwartz

Marcia Ong & Hilary Schwartz

Born and raised in Singapore, Marcia Ong is a filmmaker whose experience covers almost every aspect of the filmmaking process. Her short film, Kristy, has won awards at Kids First! Children’s Film Festival and Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. It has screened internationally in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Seoul, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Singapore. In 2010, Marcia completed her latest film, Standing Still, which premiered at the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival. Marcia Ong recently shot a feature documentary titled Ten Eleven O Two, directed by Mackenzie Mathis and Jellyfish, an independent short film set in Borneo directed by Rosie Haber.

Coded within the domestic spaces, scenes, and objects that I create are traces of intimacy. Susan Stewart identifies narrative in On Longing as a structure of desire that is suspended in impossibility. My own experiences of displacement, nostalgia for intimacy and longing for an imagined home and family, as well as a larger queer narrative of dislocation and isolation, lead me to the subject of domesticity and the making of a “home”. While queerness is not easily read in all of my pieces, it is coded throughout. Coding originates from within a context of marginalization, but moves beyond this in its role as a language of identity and a signifier of shared experience.

Hilary Schwartz is a sculptor engaged with concepts of domesticity, displacement, temporality, and queer desire. She received her MFA in 2009 from San Francisco Art Institute and her BFA from California College of the Arts. She has exhibited internationally. Most recently, her work has been seen in Etiquette at the Substation Gallery in Singapore, Feeding Ghosts at Kitsch Gallery in San Francisco, and Domestic Materials at PLAySPACE Gallery in San Francisco. Hilary’s work has been featured online on KQED, Art Practical, and SFGate. She is currently a fulltime lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. Hilary recently conducted a workshop entitled Play with Your Food at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

Hilary and Martha collaborated on a series of video pieces reflecting upon living together in Singapore. They undertook a short one-month residency in Hotel Penaga in June 2012.

Garden Colour

Garden Colour

by Angela Hijjas

From The Malaysian Naturalist, vol. 54 no. 2, 2000.

As I have often noted in this column, Malaysian species are not known for colour, unless you are fortunate enough to see the huge Rafflesia in full bloom on the forest floor, or Bauhinia kockiana (left) enveloping a tree canopy on the other side of a valley. Most are more discrete in their display and the naturalist gardener has to find satisfaction in other detail of form and habit.

However, in the attempt to convert as many as possible to the naturalist approach, it is worth noting that there are some remarkable coloured features that can be introduced to a garden that are also indigenous to the region.

Tall trees, like the perah, Elateriospermum tapos, have a wonderful red flush of new leaves that immediately identify it in the forest, as does the Pometia pinnata, or kasai, but few urban gardens have the space to plant such trees and to view this colour requires a separation of distance. Mertajam, Erioglossum rubiginosum, is a smaller tree that has ruby red berries that develop after the creamy pannicle of tiny blossoms. The leaf shafts of the so-called sealing wax palm, Cytostachus renda, create beautiful columns of scarlet and a strong vertical rhythm for a planting arrangement thus providing a double contrast.

A very successful and colourful climber is the Congea velutina (left), with its pink orchid-like sprays that provide a mass of colour which actually comes from the flower bract, as the flower itself is visually insignificant. Its scrambling habit requires something sturdy to climb on and should you be tempted to cut it back, it will not flower for another year until it has developed sufficient mass to cover a whole tree. I have sacrificed a Filicium decipiens to this creeper and fear that underneath, the poor tree has quietly died, discretely taking care of a non-indigenous whim planted in the early days! I have seen Congea flowering near a salt lick in the Ulu Muda forest reserve in Kedah, an experience I recall as I see the same plant in my garden. It makes an excellent cut flower, an added bonus when most tropical flowers rapidly wilt.

On a smaller scale, there seem to be many indigenous plants that provide purple to pink hues that can be combined to create a mixed planting to some effect. The smallest and easiest to grow must be the tiny ginger Kaempferia pulchra, which can be readily divided for a low ground cover and always has a fresh display of mauve flowers each morning. It does die back for a few months during the wet season, but it will come good again. This can be planted with the Persian shield, Strobilanthis dyeranus (pictured left, which I believe is indigenous to Burma), or combined with the silvery purple leaves of Hemigraphis alternata in dappled shade. A recent find is Pyllagathis rotundifolia, which I have seen growing by the waterfalls in Templer Park. The large round leaves are a feature in themselves, but there is a pretty cluster of tiny pink flowers that emerges at the centre. Cat’s whiskers, Orthosiphon stamineus, have a lilac form and it flowers well in fairly open positions. The common coconut orchid will grow in full sun and provides a constant supply of purple flowers if it is fed frequently with chicken dung, preferably composted so that it doesn’t smell.

The humble kantan, Etlingera elatior, makes a magnificent flower and splash of colour if left to open rather than cutting it for the laksa pot. There are many varieties ranging from the palest pink to scarlet and coral red. Other Zingibers, like the shell ginger, Alpinia latilabris, have short lived flowers but the orange fruit provides a more durable display.

Bananas come in a wide range of forms, many of which are very ornamental, pink, orange or purple, but not edible except by wildlife. The burgundy splattered leaves of Musa sumatrana provide an interesting foliage contrast. Musa bactris (below), a Sabahan, has a wonderful red flower whose ‘petals’ are edged in yellow, and another variety from Endau has white flowers and white fruits…. and there lies my problem, I get carried away with so many varieties and forget about colour, but white is a colour when you consider it against lush green foliage.

From the botanical point of view, the banana ‘flower’ that provides the coloured display, is once again the flower bract. As each one opens it first reveals the female or bisexual flowers that develop into the fruit. As more bracts fall away, rows of tiny male flowers are displayed well after the female flowers have developed into the fruit further back on the stem, so the plant cannot fertilize itself.

Other foliage contrast can be achieved using Pisonia alba, although I have had very mixed results planting this difficult species. It seems to like some protection and constant dampness. The yellow Pandanus also presents its share of problems but when established it provides a wonderful contrast, not just of colour but also of form.

Leafing through the tropical gardening books at the wonderful pictures of lush gardens and planting arrangements, obviously I am not alone in finding it difficult to get enough colour to contrast against the mass of tropical green. Visual interest for the photographer is provided by coloured walls, the sparkle of water, the incredible range of plant forms providing artistic compositions, the inclusion of interesting pots and fountains, paving stones and of course the ubiquitous bougainvillea or heliconias, those foreign devils that are so tempting with their colourful splash of the exotic.

But if all else fails, a discrete piece of coloured sculpture may do the trick.