Feeling Shy Under The Moon
Review by Natasha P.


Artist Nadhir Nor is an inspiring young, local talent who embodies the otherworldly and the whimsical in his digital illustrations and watercolour paintings. While he explores similar themes across both mediums, the focus of this review is on his watercolour work in particular. His watercolour paintings have an undeniable magical quality to them - a childlike innocence. They evoke a sense of wonder and curiosity, much like how I feel when I watch a Ghibli production.

His series “Segan” (“Shy”) and its follow up, “Masih Segan” (“Still Shy”) both feature anthropomorphic depictions of little plant-like creatures. At first glance, his watercolour on paper paintings give you the ultimate feeling of visual serenity through his use of colour and space. His ongoing series, “Selesa” (“Comfortable”) gives us a more realistic and human approach to the ever-present element of softness that graces his work.

The title “Segan” itself seems very introspective already, but he explores that theme even further by naming each of his works in the same manner. His pieces “Kekurangan” (“Lack”), “Solo” and ”Ilham” (“Insight”) each depict a single mythical sprite in a sombre, contemplative state. He created this series during a solo art residency at the famous Rimbun Dahan, surrounded by nothing but solitude and nature, and it really translates into his work. It hints at all the time he’s had to himself to think and truly immerse in self- evaluation during the residency. It is hard for artists to be able to truly encapsulate and portray the very personal feeling of introspectiveness but Nadhir manages to perfectly - and beautifully - get the message across.


“Pengasuh Perasaan” (“Emotional Caretakers”) is absolutely stunning. It depicts three humanoid plant caretakers watching over a little yellow fruit bud under the draping leaves of a willowy plant. His use of different shades of green and yellow complement each other harmoniously, quite like the message of the painting itself - to nurture the wounded inner child in all of us. The use of feminine figures as the caretakers also hint at a gentleness and femininity that lives in all of us, regardless of gender, and how we can use the divine feminine to continually heal ourselves in ways that only we can do for ourselves.

His piece, “Rasa Rindu” (“The Feeling of Longing”) depicts two little leafy creatures in each other’s company, looking up at the moon. The sense of longing did indeed translate well because I, too, ended up feeling it upon looking at this painting. The creatures look so small and so helpless, in stark contrast to the ginormous moon that they are under - quite like humans in real life.

It is very apparent that Nadhir gets his inspiration for the creatures he brings to life from the otherworldly beings of old Malay folklore. His most humorous title, “Siti Nur Sunyi”, features a little creature in a leaf hijab, making it feel all the more personal. The rush of chasing modernity, and increasing Islamisation, have resulted in a loss of touch with Nusantaran culture here in Malaysia - outside the usual ghost tale or two. It feels like a reclamation of identity that he uses his work to inspire fellow youths to turn back and fully indulge in their cultural roots. Whether we choose to believe it or not, we often forget how rich the culture truly is in this part of Asia, with roots pre-dating Abrahamic religions and imperialism.



“Selesa” tackles a different topic, being an intimate artistic study on how masculinity and softness are not mutually exclusive and can coexist. The entire series features a boy/man in a kain pelikat. According to Nadhir, it shows the juxtaposition of the traditionally masculine kain pelikat with the contemporary mindset of it resembling a skirt. There is an overall feeling of unpoliced softness to this character as he lies resting with his arms over his head in pure ease. Nadhir uses pink to shade this entire series, giving the character warmth and adding blush to his cheeks.

Nadhir gives his viewers the opportunity to escape their reality through his work. His deeply intrinsic inclination to be in touch with his softer emotions acts as the secret ingredient to his very beautiful works. His use of light colours and light-handed brush strokes amplifies this tenderness. He presents his creatures as part of nature - a reminder that nature is what has been, and what will always be. Nature is all encompassing - just like the concept of both masculinity and femininity coexisting within every one of us - for it is, after all, nature.

All pictures courtesy of https://www.nadhirnor.com/segan and https://www.nadhirnor.com/selesa-series

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Natasha P. is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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