Wei-Ling Contemporary's "Visual Poetry Project": Abstracts of Nature in Words
Review by Wai Lu Yin

Fuse II & Born to be Purple II

When I write about visual art, I express my opinions and interpretations of experiences through my senses. Viewing art is one source of inspiration when I write, and I would pen down my thoughts on paper. Even a few short and impactful sentences will do. In my visual art writing, I try to tell three stories – the story from the artist’s view, the story of the artwork itself, and the story of the work’s impact on me, the onlooker. Inspired by art, poets and writers extend the reach of an artist’s work, elevating the artist’s message in their own words.

Wei-Ling Contemporary’s “Visual Poetry Project” is a collaboration project that merges visual art with literature, emphasising the similarities between the two different art forms. For this project, Malaysian artists and poets were invited to connect with artist Hamidi Hadi’s works, displayed at his solo exhibition Saring II: Sublimity at Wei-Ling Contemporary, located at The Gardens Mall. The written poems and audio recordings of the poets reading their works, are displayed alongside Hamidi’s art on Wei-Ling Contemporary’s Instagram page.

During the MCO, Perak-based artist Hamidi Hadi went on a nature retreat near his studio. There, he reflected on his life as an artist, surrounded by beautiful nature. The forest and rivers inspired him to create works which remind us of the relationship between human, nature and God. His paintings convey a need for reconnecting with nature to cleanse our mind and soul. The process allowed him to find his consciousness and true self, evident in his brushstrokes, which are like words expressed on canvas.

Hamidi Hadi’s and Charrisa Ong Ty’s version of ‘Magic Flower’

Author Charissa Ong Ty conveys the blooming relationship with a flower based on Hamidi’s ‘Magic Flower’. Charissa relates a story of how a person who finds a flower deep within the lush forest will live forever as a flower in the next life. The line ‘I am fire, I am love, I am warmth and also your saviour,’ seems to represent the orange flower in the painting. Its striking colour stands out among the bold green strokes. Her words relay the allure of a magic flower offering eternal life, but it can also be read as a trap, because a person will become one of the flowers forever.

Hamidi Hadi’s and Viji Krishnamoorthy’s version of ‘Di bawah pohon beringin (beneath the banyan tree)’

Writer Viji Krishnamoorthy imagines herself lying under the banyan tree in Hamidi’s ‘Di bawah pohon beringin (beneath the banyan tree)’ and writes of her ‘daydreaming’ experience. The painting invites me to lay down under the tree and look up to see different leaves in shades of yellow and green, and red flowers covering the tranquil blue sky. Viji writes of how she used to enjoy picking the freshly fallen red flowers, delicately, so she wouldn’t hurt them. The third verse resonates deeply with me because it describes how trees are made into books which are kept for memories. Lines like ‘I would spread the fiery flaring flame of the forest in the middle pages of heavy brown encyclopedia Britannicas and patiently wait for them to dry and sought them out when they are brown and crumbly.’ frames how we give equal care to books and nature, the things that have the ability to bring us into different worlds.

Hamidi Hadi’s and Renie Leng’s version of ‘Mandi Hutan (Forest Bathing)

While reading writer Renie Leng’s poem written in response to Hamidi’s ‘Mandi Hutan (Forest Bathing)’, I recall my weekend trip in the Cameron Highlands at the end of 2019. There, I took a tranquil walk in the Mossy Forest. Her detailed lines about the wonders of nature such as the leaves, rivers, cicadas and butterflies bring to mind my own memories of what I experienced during that walk. The bold green shades blending with the black background in Hamidi’s work seem to be reflected in the lines ‘Under the canopy of healing green, In the harmony of emerald, jasper and jade. Entranced by the mossy magical botanica of intricate flourishing flora and leaves that weave’. Reading this poem while looking at the painting takes me on a peaceful meditation journey in nature – a moment to breathe and to heal. It makes me miss my time in my favourite forest.

Hadi’s and Pauline Fan’s version of ‘ShanShui (Gunungan dan Sungai)

Writer, literary translator and cultural researcher Pauline Fan heightens the message behind Hamidi’s ‘ShanShui (Gunung dan Sungai)’, creating a sense of urgency for the protection of the mountains and rivers. Hurting nature impacts our origins and livelihood. Like the human race, these natural sources cannot be destroyed and forgotten. The splashes of black with white and grey in the painting coincide with ‘the eye is an hour without history – a dead sun sloping towards the last spectre of light’ and ‘Mata air. Air mata. Let her waters return us from the edge of oblivion.’ The mountains and rivers are a reflection of our complex relationship with our identity, culture and history. It is equally vital to preserve both nature and culture so that their tales will live on for many generations to come.

Bettina Chua Abdullah’s ‘Born to be Purple I’ for Hamidi Hadi’s ‘Fuse I’

Correlating Hamidi’s ‘Fuse 1’ and ‘Fuse II’, award-winning former TV presenter and founder of Hikayat, Bettina Chua Abdullah, writes the two-part series, ‘Born to be Purple’, an intricate look at the beauty and vulnerability of nature. She uses the morning glory and the amethyst as analogies of purple shades standing out within the green and light grey backgrounds. Despite their strength and inner beauty - a result of the wonders of nature -, they’re often judged by their ungainly outward appearance , even though purple represents royalty, power and wealth.

“Visual Poetry Project” is a great platform for writers and poets to craft their creative work and showcase them. Art and literature jive well in addressing similar narratives about nature. As these writers and poets translate Hamidi Hadi’s abstract visuals of nature into words, they create another layer of stories that can be understood by a wider audience. Like Hamidi Hadi, they are messengers who of about their bond with nature and relay the urgency of protecting Mother Earth. Reading these poems, I am motivated to keep writing about what I love and care about, and never stop.

All images and poems are sourced from Wei-Ling Contemporary’s Instagram page.

Read more beautiful poems and listen to the recordings, inspired by Hamidi Hadi’s solo exhibition “Saring II: Sublimity” on their Instagram page.

Wei-Ling Contemporary would like to invite poets and writers to take part in the Visual Poetry Project. 
Email weilinggallery.projects@gmail.com for more information on how to participate.

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.

Wai Lu Yin is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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