Penang artist Azmi Hussin’s new ‘Tanjong Life’ book focuses on the ‘new norms’ of living during a pandemic

‘Switching to Cashless Transactions’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin
‘Switching to Cashless Transactions’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin

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GEORGE TOWN, July 14 — Penang artist Azmi Hussin’s new book captures the past 15 months of “new norms” practised in Malaysia because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The character of Joe G. is shown in various situations against a Penang backdrop in the 96-page hardcover book launched last month at the George Town Festival (GTF).

Tanjong Life: A New Norm was a way to bring some comic relief to a difficult time, including financial challenges, faced by many, said Azmi.

“There are a total 43 artworks in the book and each of them depict how a Penangite handled the new norm,” he said in an interview.

He added that the pandemic has devastated many families and people so he had to be careful not to be insensitive in his artworks.

GTF contacted Azmi in February to commission a new Tanjong Life book featuring the new norms of the pandemic. 

Azmi said it took him about a month to look for inspiration and ideas before fleshing it out in his caricature-style comics. 

“The pandemic is a serious issue so it wasn’t easy to find something comical about the situations we are faced with,” he said.

‘Yay to Dining In’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin
‘Yay to Dining In’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin

He explained that he tried to focus on the lighter and more positive side of things such as when dine-ins was allowed: he showcased a porridge stall where customers squat on wooden stools to eat. 

He also injected humour into situations like check-ins on MySejahtera where he drew two ghosts checking in on the app before eating during the Hungry Ghost Month. 

Azmi himself was impacted by the various lockdowns and restrictions when activities like caricature drawing and painting of murals in public spaces were not allowed. 

The artist, who used to rely on caricature drawing in public spaces for additional income previously, said he only gets very few commissioned work.

‘Hand Sanitizers’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin
‘Hand Sanitizers’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin

So, he is using his free time to fine-tune his skills in coffee painting and other art disciplines.

“I have a few mural painting commissions on hold but I am unable to start work due to the SOPs now,” he said.

‘Virtual Performances’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin
‘Virtual Performances’ by Azmi Hussin. — Artwork courtesy of Azmi Hussin

He hopes that eventually artists will be allowed to fulfil their commissioned works as many artists are now without any income. 

“It was a good thing that GTF commissioned the book in February so I had some revenue from this project to last me a few months,” he said.

Contact Azmi on his Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/azmibmx to get a copy of the book.

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