Sarawakian Anniketyni Madian recently caught the attention of the Malaysian art industry with her complex and elaborately-designed sculptures, which are inspired by the ‘Pua Kumbu’. As a tribute to her Iban heritage, she reflects the intricacies of the traditional textile in her sculptures.
Infusing heritage and culture in contemporary art
Sculptor Anniketyni Madian’s passion for Sarawak’s rich culture and heritage never fades. Despite being based in Kuala Lumpur, the 35-year-old artist believes that it is important to safeguard our heritage and traditions as they are part of our identity.
“It is essential for us to preserve our cultural heritage.
Not only to protect our identity, it is also a reflection of the traditional philosophies and school of thought of our people, which we can still learn from,” she added.
Fondly known as Anni, she admitted that many of her sculptures were inspired by Pua Kumbu textiles.
“Infusing Pua Kumbu into contemporary art, I want to elevate the identities of our culture to a higher level, especially in visual arts, not just within the nation but also to the world.”
The early days
Anni said that she first discovered her passion when she made sketches of her friends and families during her secondary school years. Realising that she can do more with her talent, she took part in painting murals at her school.
A visionary, Anni didn’t put her talents to waste. She invested her time pursuing fine arts straight after she finished school. “I have a passion for all things artistic since I was a young girl. However, it was only in university when I started to fine tune my skills and ideas by taking sculpting as my major subject.”
Started sculpting in 2008, Anni experimented with a variety of mediums — metal, wood, polyester resin and aluminium. After a few years of skill development and acquiring knowledge through studio process of exhibitions, Anni finally decided to focus with her favourite medium — wood.
Although wood is her main focus, Anni revealed that nowadays, she gradually adds new materials to her wooden art such as stainless steel, epoxy resin, metal plate.
“Mixing the materials are challenging, but I enjoy pushing myself to go beyond expectations.”
Leaning towards culture as her inspiration in art, Anni’s work revolves mainly around the Bornean identity. “That is my main inspiration. I try my best to carry these elements into contemporary art.”
As an artist, she was also inspired by female artists such as architect Zaha Hadid, sculptor Louise Nevelson and many others. “As a female sculptor, I always look up to these powerful women around the world as my source of inspiration. Their works motivated me and kept me going as a female sculptor in this industry.
The process and boundaries
Depending on the project, Anni disclosed that it could take five to 12 months for her to complete a project. Starting with sketches, Anni would then visit lumber shops to decide the type of wood she would need for the projects, “I need to consider what type of wood would be suitable for the commission. Only then will I know what I’m working with and how long will it take for me to complete it.”
She also added that good wood is not cheap, “Plus, you need to have more knowledge on wood so you would know what you can or can’t do with it.”
After that, Anni would be in her studio to work on her masterpiece, “I work with wood, epoxy, resin, metal, marble, sandstone and stainless steel.
I don’t limit myself to one material as it is very interesting to play around with different material as different projects, exhibitions, or symposiums require different kind of materials and skills.”
Like many things, sculpting also has its own sets of challenges. For Anni, it was not always wood that got in her way, but also the other aspects of it.
“You need to be willing to spend money for your tools, studio equipment and working space, all without
expecting anything from your investments. But in the end, I believe that by being confident, these challenges can easily be conquered.”
After more than a decade moulding and carving, Anni remained passionate despite battling the challenges and difficulties. “I am still sculpting today because it presents me with a world of opportunities. I hope that one day, my sculptures will take me on a trip around the world.”
An avant-garde artist, there is no telling what Anni will do next with her tools.
“Everyday is a learning process. It doesn’t matter where and how I produce my arts. Every project is another new working experience that I look forward to in order to develop myself as an sculptor.”