A keen observer of nature

Lyna Mohamad

Veteran artist Osman Mohammad, who has participated in regional and international art shows, recently held his third solo exhibition at the Brunei International Airport, titled ‘Horizon’, highlighting the changes on the Brunei landscape through paintings from the 1970s to the 2000s.

“If you study the history of art, you can determine the height of civilisation for each period,” he said. “When you look at a particular scene, you are also looking at the socio-economic development of a community. It even offers a glimpse of how people move forward and develop their respective cultures.”

“Art is very wide. It’s not just about the visual that you see. It is about philosophy, way of life and creativity,” he explained.

“When you are thinking of something that is associated with creativity, it is not necessarily painting. If you want to talk about visual art, there are a lot of things. It can be painting, it can be design, architecture, crafts – all that is very wide art if you are looking as an academician.”

Osman has gained recognition for his significant involvement and achievements in the industry as well as his participation at ASEAN and international level.

The art exhibition at the Brunei International Airport’s Arrival Hall features works of veteran artist Osman Mohammad. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI
Osman Mohammad

His paintings are depictions of how he views the world around him. In his youth, he would make rough sketches of his impressions, but these days, he carries a camera to take quick snaps of whatever captures his imagination.

“When I see something like a bridge under construction, I want to depict it more aesthetically,” he said. “Sometimes, even the ugly bits of that particular scene become an aesthetic property, as aestheticism is not necessary all about beauty.”

Retired from over 30 years of service at Radio Television Brunei (RTB), Osman is now a Senior Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

His passion for painting began while studying in Anthony Abell College in Seria, particularly after winning art competitions held as part of the birthday celebrations in honour of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

“Our art teacher was always very supportive,” he recalled. “She always sent my work, as well as my friends’ paintings, for competitions. Some of my paintings were bought by the Brunei Museums and by private collectors.”

“During secondary time, inspiration came from observation,” he shared. “I observe the environment, trees and even the leaves falling down or somebody standing or talking.”

Osman further revealed that as a primary schoolboy, he would draw comics using double-lined exercise books, which he then sold to his friends for 20 cents apiece.

“Art can be anything,” he said. “It’s all about constant output. I know plenty of young people now who are drawing comics and using social platforms to post their works.”

“It shows that Brunei has a pool of talent. If exposure is what we were lacking before, now what we are lacking is an institutional recognition of workshops, art galleries, art historians and art writers. Western art influence happened when we study abroad but of course artists are always discovering new ways to express. We see a lot of installations, performing arts, digital art, more and more new form of expression.”

“Our present-day creations are influenced by Western ideas. Our ancestors were also artists in their own right, who made carvings, as well as intricate designs on staircases, ceramics and brasswork. They were truly the artisans of their time.”

“Artists are continually discovering new mediums of expression. We see a lot of installations, performing arts, digital art and more new modes of expression,” he added.