The expression of art stems from the process of thinking and feeling, says UNIMAS Senior Lecturer in the Fine Arts Programme, Awangko’ Hamdan Pgn Arshad. Having said that, each of his masterpieces was inspired by a tale that was dear to him.
Transforming thoughts into artwork
Art is the outcome of one’s self-expression. It is made up of what we feel and what we see, according to Awangko’ Hamdan Pgn Arshad, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) Senior Lecturer in the Fine Arts Programme.
Through his numerous masterpieces, Awangko’ tells a story close to his heart using his experiences with art.
“We must first analyse our surroundings before we can create art. There’s a lot going on around here. Art is created through the process of thinking and feeling. I always tell my students to look at an object as a subject of expression rather than an object.”
Awangko’ also said that art has the ability to educate the public. Therefore, artists play an important role in the creation of art.
“Earning money from an exhibition is a plus in my opinion. I believe that an exhibition can spread awareness of a significant issue. Furthermore, visuals are an effective way to highlight issues,” the senior lecturer said, adding that it is critical for an artist to manifest their ideas and transform them into artwork.
More support is needed in the arts sector
Many aspiring local artists are still starving because they lack a proper platform to thrive. This is one of the many challenges that an artist faces in the industry.
Awangko’ said that because Sarawak is not a hub for visual arts, many people are still struggling with their passion.
“We don’t have a proper state gallery where artists can display their work,” he added.
Awangko’ believes that full support from the state government is essential for this industry to thrive.
The sculpture artist also said that there are many things that can be done to assist an artist in gaining recognition for the value of their artwork.
“There are simply too many of us who thrive outside of Malaysia but are unappreciated by the local community.”
Nonetheless, as a senior lecturer, he often encourages his UNIMAS Fine Art students to pursue careers in the arts.
“Art school does not guarantee a career. This is because art allows you to shape your future.”
Sharing his artistic journey, Awangko’ revealed that his family members were appalled by his decision to pursue the arts.
“Back then, it wasn’t a promising career. Fortunately, I am interested in cultural objects and local history. Since then, I’ve written a number of books on the subject of cultural art,” said the 60-year-old Melanau man.
The recent exhibition
Exhibiting a sculpture from the pagan Melanau culture, the ‘dakan’ or ‘belum’ is a traditional carved sickness image for healing.
Awangko’s sculpture, titled ‘An Pelitaak Matah,’ is made up of found objects from nature and man-made domains.
The title is a translation of the Rajang Melanau word, which means a call to action to save Sarawak’s indigenous knowledge from extinction.
His artwork was showcased at the ‘The Repurposed’ exhibition, which was organised by Chemsain.
Sharing more on his exhibition, Awangko’ said that the shaman of the pagan Melanau was the source of his inspiration for the sculptures.
“They believed that when a spirit entered one’s body, one would become sick. The sick person will seek the assistance of a shaman, who will later identify the evil spirit that has entered. He would then advise the sick person to seek the services of a wood carver to carve the appearance of the evil spirit.”
When the wood carver has finished his or her work, the sick person will take it to the shaman. The latter would summon the evil spirit, that would then enter the sculpture.
“The carvings will then be thrown into the river, along with the evil spirit that inhabits it.”
Because this practise is associated with Satanism, Awangko’ said that it is not widely practised due to religious acceptance.
However, because it was previously a part of Melanau’s culture, it is important for the younger generation to be aware of it.
Awangko’s masterpieces, unique structures made of numerous objects with the elements of Sarawak, recount a once-upon-a-time tale.