Showcasing talent on canvas

Lyna Mohammad

Art exhibitions and competitions have seen quite a development, as more local artists have stepped forward to show their talents, particularly youth who have a passion for the creative industry.

This is a positive sign for bringing Brunei to the fore in this industry, according to local artist Osman bin Bakir.

Osman is one of the participants of the Museums Department’s ‘Trio Battle’ art exhibition, which is taking place at the art gallery of the Malay Technology Museum.

Osman said his most significant memory is having his artwork selected at an awards ceremony in 1999, where his winning piece was brought to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and several more countries before it was flown back home.

This art piece, to date, is the highest paid one and he also has received offers from other countries for his painting.

He was advised by a friend who is in the same field to offer the artwork to the Brunei Museum to have it displayed in Brunei.

From left: Muhammad Abdul Wafi bin Haji Mat Salleh, Osman bin Bakir and Haji Zainudin bin Haji Ibrahim. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Osman’s passion for art dates back to his years in school. He took it to the professional level when he began working for the Brunei Museum in 1989. He also participated in local and international competitions and art showcases.

As his works focus on landscape, nature, still life and abstract, Osman said he first tries to understand the theme of an exhibition or competition before beginning his artwork, as this helps him with pouring out his ideas on the canvas.

His art pieces have won the heart of judges at the art competition in conjunction with the birthday celebration 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.

Osman won first place in 1990, 2008 and then the following years from 2010 to 2015.

He has also been an active participant in posters and logo design competitions. He has also attended exhibition invitations by The Empire Brunei, Art Forum at Art Gallery in Bandar Seri Begawan and the Islamic Architecture Arts Exhibition at the Brunei International Airport.

Osman was a recipient of appreciation awards in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

“I hope the art industry will stay, expand and be received by the community as a national heritage, regardless of the various media that run along the modernisation wave and digital era,” he said.

“I hope this industry will see more and more of our local youth’s involvement.”

Another senior local artist participating in the Trio Battle exhibition is Haji Zainudin bin Haji Ibrahim. He recalled that local art exhibitions began to be quite active from the 80s, with exhibitions showcased almost monthly.

Also attached as an artist at the Brunei Museums since 1989, Haji Zainudin said the local creative industry is progressing well and exhibitions and competitions are back with the involvement of youth.

In terms of how he generates ideas for his artwork, he said it is unpredictable as at times the idea is just spontaneous, especially while he is in front of his easel and preparing his painting materials.

At the Trio Battle, Haji Zainudin showcases his personal collections as well as his art pieces that are available for sale.

Throughout his work, he said the country has a lot of talented youth in the field but they are less enthusiastic to pursue this career.

As someone with experience, he called on youth and newcomers to pursue their interest and passion for the arts, as it can be a promising career. He said youth must also try to gain more knowledge and skills, by learning from senior artists, as they have ventured into this field long before this digital era and have hands-on knowledge.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Abdul Wafi bin Haji Mat Saleh is the youngest among the artists at the Trio Battle.

Attached to the Publication Section of the Brunei Darussalam National Archives, Muhammad Abdul Wafi is showcasing four of his art pieces.

His most treasured piece, not for sale despite having potential buyers, is a huge portrait of His Majesty. The portrait was painted using acrylic, and His Majesty personally signed it during the art exhibition that took place as part of National Youth Day celebration in 2018. Although Muhammad Abdul Wafi does portrait, landscape, nature and still life for his artwork, his main focus is Bruneian identity and his work portrays several aspects of the country including promoting Brunei as a harmonious country under the leadership of His Majesty.

For Muhammad Abdul Wafi, the real opportunity to develop further came when he joined the Museums Department, holding a post that matches his interests. He began to take up art as a professional career in 2011 through participating in local art competitions and exhibitions.

He recalled he was once asked what his plan for the next five years and he responded that it was to make his dream of becoming a professional artist a reality, which he did.

He said his current plan for the next five years is to gain more knowledge, experience and skills. Although still considered a “fresher” in this industry compared to his two fellow artists at the exhibition, Muhammad Abdul Wafi has produced paintings that display his talents and passion, and showcased them through his active participation in events. The events include the Arts Competition in conjunction with His Majesty’s birthday celebrations from 2011 to 2018, as well as the Doodle Drawing Competition organised by Progresif in 2016, where he won first place.

He has participated in several exhibitions including the Muzart Art Exhibition at the Brunei Museums, the Art Forum at the Art Gallery in Bandar Seri Begawan, the Project 50 Portrait Art Exhibition commemorating the Golden Jubilee Celebration of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne. He has also been invited to facilitate a workshop for the Colour Pencil Activity at the ‘Art Appreciation Week’.

Muhammad Abdul Wafi said there have been many opportunities surfacing for local artists to showcase their artwork, either through competitions or art exhibitions.

“I hope the local art industry will develop and expand, particularly now with more local youth in this field, and can move further while helping the nation in succeeding towards Brunei Vision 2035, apart from bringing glory to the country in the eyes of the world.”

The Trio Battle exhibition will be featured at the Malay Technology Museum until end of October.