Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Featured Artist: Amir Zainorin


First of all, please introduce yourself to those of our readers that may not be familiar with you and your work.

Amir Zainorin, the artist. Image courtesy of Amir Zainorin

My name is Amir Zainorin. I was born in Malaysia, but currently live and work in Denmark.
I didn’t have any formal training in art. I have never gone to the university to study art but studied business administration at Polytechnic Ungku Omar in Malaysia and University of Missouri Kansas City.

From 1995-1998 I apprenticed with well known POP artist Jeri Azhari in Kuala Lumpur. The main focus for me was on simplicity. Learning how to simplify things and to create something out of nothing.

When did you first realize you were an artist?

When I did my first oil on canvas in 1995. I had a few meetings with Jeri at his studio in Kuala Lumpur and was encouraged by him to start painting. At that time I had just quit my full time job at an advertising agency and wanted to discover myself on what I should really do with my life.

Does anyone in your family make art?

No, no one in my family makes art.

What types of job(s) have you had in the past?

I have worked in a bank, advertising and PR agency, hotel and restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. I have also run diving school and a batik school on an island in Malaysia.

What do you do for fun besides making art?

I like to watch films and play with my two kids.

FAMILY PICTURE: Amir with his wife, Pia Poulsen holding their daughter Malika in her arms and son Ilyas on her side. Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

What are you doing besides making art?

I am organizing my first festival in Denmark. It is a Malaysian Arts festival which includes art exhibition, film screening, dance and music performance.

This is the first Malaysian arts festival to ever take place in Scandinavia. I have just formed a collective called Jambatan, a Malay word which means bridge. The main goal of Jambatan is to build up networks between Danish/western and Asian artists. It is also aimed at developing and strengthening intercultural competences in the life of art and culture.

Could you tell us a bit about UN-CUT09: MALAYSIAN ARTS FESTIVAL, an arts festival you've being involved with organizing? Who are the key players involved in this project, when/where this arts festival will take place, and what can the public expect to see?

UN-CUT09: MALAYSIAN ARTS FESTIVAL will takes place in the city of Copenhagen and Roskilde from August 5th - 15th, 2009.

The title ‘UN-CUT’ has a double meaning. Part of the title refers to the uncensored and open dissemination of art form. The other part of ‘UN-CUT' refers to the same word pronunciation in Malay ‘angkat ‘, which means to lift. One of the festival’s goals is to lift and introduce Malaysian art to a new audience here in Denmark.

20 artists from Malaysia will be showing their work at Gallery Shambala in Copenhagen. There will also be a film screening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde. Dance and music performances will take place at the World Culture Center in Copenhagen.

My friend Nur Hanim Khairuddin, an artist and curator from Malaysia is helping me in choosing and scouting for artists to participate in this festival. It is certainly a big help because of the distance plus we have free hand in doing what we see fit. The National art Gallery of Malaysia and Museum and Gallery Tunku Fauziah of University of Science Malaysia are giving their support to this festival. You can visit the festival blog at www.jambatan.blogspot.com for more information.

Please tell us a bit about your painting and collage work. What are the thoughts and inspirations behind the creation of this body of work? What is the specific message you strive to convey to your viewers?

My work is inspired by things that I find in the mass media and my surroundings. In the first couple of years when I started to make art, I was working with oil.

Surrender, oil on canvas, 1997 (Click hyperlink to read more about this work...)
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Most of the subject matter I picked up was from film magazines, art books and pictures from the newspapers. I was also painting portraits of artists and famous people.

The NY Times, 200cm x 115cm, digital print on canvas, 2008
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

*Orang Asli and banksy balloon, 150x110cm, digital print on canvas, 2007
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

[*The Orang Asli are the indigenous minority peoples of Peninsular Malaysia. The name is a Malay term which transliterates as 'original peoples' or 'first peoples.' ]

The history channel, 200cm x 125cm, digital c-print on canvas, 2008
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

I grew up in an environment of popular culture. Watching Walt Disney, the Lone Ranger, Six Million Dollar Man, Superman, to mention a few. My father was a singer in a Ghazal (Band) back in the 60's, so music has also been a big part of my life.

*The Dance, 170cm x 120cm, digital c print on paper, 2009
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

[*MORE... Malaysian typical dances on YouTube

One of the main inspirations of making collage is because of its simplicity and the idea that you don’t necessarily have to buy paints or colors to make art.

Can you discuss your process in general? How does it all start, what techniques and materials do you use?

I have worked with many different materials. I first started with oil, and later on switched to acrylic and at the same time started to make collage and assemblage from objects I found from the street.

Askepot II, 45cm x 60cm, collage and acrylic on linen, 2006
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

ISBN 7887, 110cm x 150cm, collage and acrylic on canvas, 2007
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

For the past 7 years I have been working with my computer creating digital prints. Earlier this year I had a solo exhibition in London showing about 15 pieces of my work done with computer.

ISBN, digital print, 2007. Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Chin Peng 陳平 - stamp series, 56cm x 46cm, digital print, 2008.
To learn more visit http://amirzainorin.blogspot.com/2008/08/chin-peng.html
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Ahmad Boestaman - stamp series, 56cm x 46cm, digital print, 2008.
To learn more visit http://amirzainorin.blogspot.com/2008/08/ahmad-boestaman.html

Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

I have started making video interviews and art videos the last few years.
The below is a video interview of a renowned Malaysian artist Redza Piyadasa. To view more videos I made please visit http://www.youtube.com/user/amirzainorin

Okay, how does it all start - well, I guess it all starts with an idea of what I want to make which I then need to decide which technique I want to use. It could be collage, assemblage, painting or so on. But the idea normally comes from ready-mades, things that are easily recognizable, pictures, sign board, logo etc. I am getting a lot of my sources from the internet nowadays.

My latest series of work are portraits of well known women made of lakrids (liquorice). So, I work with many types of formats to create art.

Princess Mary, 65x 75cm, lakrids on board, 2009
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

What is the most interesting comment you have heard from a viewer?

(Detail) Klip-klappa, made of lakrids and glue on board, 2009
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

I have just come back from a sculpture festival in north Denmark which I showed my lakrids slippers and portrait of Princess Mary. One person came up to me and said, "I know why you do this, you think that we Danes are very sweet people."

Are you planning any exhibitions of this body of work in the near future?

Yes, but I am not sure where I will show them yet. I have to be careful where I am going to show them because the ants will be very attracted to them.

Please tell us about the 99 Flagmen you made.

There are 99 flagmen in this piece of work and they are made of plaster, canvas and ink. This work is inspired by The 99 Names of Allah (also known as The 99 Most Beautiful Names of God) which have different meaning or characters. It is also believed that when we practice writing the characters, it will leads to spiritual power.

99 Flagmen. Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

A flag is a symbol of conquest. This is derived from our desire to show power, be it of conquering new physical territory or epistemological space.

Flagman. Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

How long does it take to do one painting (please give us one example)?

It could take one day for a painting or two. It could also take me years to finish it but that doesn’t normally happened.

Artist at work. Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

It is very difficult to say, but I would like to have a retrospective show in the next 10 years somewhere.

Any advice or tips would you give to an artist just starting out?

Never give up. Only the best comes out from the worst.

Amir in his studio. Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your artwork?

I guess you could try to google my name, "Amir Zainorin", there will probably be an article that will pop.

Tell us about the awards and recognitions you received in the past years.

I have received grants from the National Art Gallery in Malaysia for doing my solo show "Mad(e) in Malaysia" held at Bricklane Gallery in London.

I also have been featured in many online galleries. My work was awarded the "No.1 Saatchi Online Magazine Critic's Choice" by Saatchi Online. In addition, I was awarded "July Showcase Winner" by ARTslant recently.

Do you offer any art workshops?

Yes, I hold art workshops from time to time. My next workshop will be at Heerup Museum in Copenhagen where I will be working with children making art from trash. This is in conjunction with the Environmental Summit in Copenhagen where president Obama will be coming to officiate in December 2009.

Installation view: TrashArt-environmental exhibition
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Installation view: TrashArt-environmental exhibition
Image courtesy of A. Zainorin

Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any?

I am available for commission work. Ra Gallery is representing me in Malaysia and Bricklane Gallery has offered to represent me in London.

Amir with his friend Badrul at his art reception at Bricklane Gallery in London.

Do you have a website (or any web presence) for interested readers to learn more about your work? Would you like to share your contact info with our readers?



Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

Art is life. Enjoy and make things happen. Thank you.