GEORGE TOWN, May 8 — It was always Nasir Nadzir’s dream to hold a solo exhibition showcasing his artwork but before he could fulfil it, he suddenly passed away from Covid-19 complications on January 24.
Remembering how Nasir used to talk about having his first solo exhibition, art curator Ivan Gabriel decided to put together an art exhibition titled “Nasir Nadzir, in remembrance: A celebration of his life and artistic journey” in his memory.
The art exhibition is a chronicle of Nasir’s artistic journey from when he first started out as a full-time artist in 2016 until the very last painting he was working on just before he passed away.
“This exhibition shows the progression of his artworks, he started with pencil drawings, ink, colour pencil and oil pastels before he progressed to other mediums and in recent years, acrylic,” he said at The Art Gallery in Pulau Tikus here where the exhibition will be held.
He said the pieces he picked for the exhibition were those that he believed Nasir would have wanted to be exhibited if he was still around.
“I remember our conversations in the past and what he told me about which of his artwork that he would want to be exhibited for his solo,” he said.
He added that despite his talent, Nasir had felt that he was still a “new artist” and did not believe that he was ready for a solo exhibition yet although he had always wanted to have one.
Nasir was 31 years old when he passed away leaving behind his parents and four siblings.
The exhibition was also a way for Nasir’s family and friends to find closure and say a proper farewell to him by celebrating his art.
His brother, Nizom, 38, said Nasir’s death was so sudden that they were still trying to come to terms with it.
He said Nasir was admitted to the hospital for breathing difficulties on January 23 and he had sent his family and friends a selfie of himself wearing an oxygen mask with the message that he was being taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) that night.
However, Nasir succumbed to the virus the next day and that turned out to be the last message they received from him.
“After they confirmed that he had Covid-19, his funeral was handled by the health ministry personnel and we were not allowed near the funeral due to the SOPs, I watched from my car about 100m away,” he said, adding that their parents too watched from afar.
Being unable to attend his funeral left a void in his family and made it harder for them to accept his sudden passing so the exhibition was their way of saying goodbye to him.
“This gives us a way to say goodbye, it’s a way for us to remember his passion and his art, this is also a fulfilment of what he had been planning, he would have wanted this,” Nizom said.
Nasir’s parents and four siblings attended a private preview of the exhibition at the gallery a day before it opened to the public today.
A short video of Nasir in various group exhibitions and art events along with a live interview he did when he was alive was played for his family, leaving them in tears as they reminisce over memories of Nasir.
Nizom said he and Nasir used to draw comic characters when they were younger and Nasir had always loved to draw.
Nasir was in the oil and gas industry as a technician for four years before he decided to quit and become a full-time artist in 2016 despite not having any formal art training.
According to Nizom, Nasir was surrounded by man-made structures for that four years and it made him yearn to be near nature and wildlife which led to his passion for painting wildlife.
Most of Nasir’s paintings and drawings, from the beginning until his death, depicted various types of wildlife and his most well-known artwork is Tam, a realistic acrylic painting of the endangered male Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia that died in 2019.
Among the art pieces on exhibit are two unfinished pieces that Nasir was working on before he died, one a black and white piece of a monkey using correction fluid on a mat board and another, an acrylic painting of a tiger titled The Drunken Tiger.
In one corner, a table was set up to replicate Nasir’s workstation at home facing a painting of koi fish in a pond and another painting of a cat facing the koi. Three smaller paintings of flowers were arranged on the table.
According to Ivan, it was almost similar to Nasir’s actual worktable at his home in Kepala Batas as his table looks out a window into a pond with koi fish and his mother’s garden that is a profusion of flowers. Their family cat can often be seen sitting near the pond, observing the fish.
“The family is keeping these paintings as their own collection as these are paintings of their pond, their garden and their cat,” he said.
Some of the artworks at the exhibition are for sale while some belonged to private collectors who graciously agreed to display the art at the exhibition.
The “Nasir Nadzir, in remembrance: A celebration of his life and artistic journey” exhibition was put together through the efforts of his friends, supporters, family, Ivan and The Art Gallery.
The exhibition features 20 artworks that focused fully on Nasir’s wildlife series which was his way of highlighting the plight of critically endangered Malaysian wildlife.
Nasir had a strong passion for nature and this was obvious in many of his works which were meant to create awareness and push for endangered species to be protected.
Tan Ee Lene of The Art Gallery said Nasir had discussed having his first solo exhibition at the gallery with her and now, they are doing their part to make his dream come true.
“This is the place that encouraged him to start his artistic journey,” she said.
There will be hourly guided tours at the exhibition from 2pm to 5pm from Fridays to Sundays but prior bookings are required due to limited space and to comply with the SOPs.
Prior appointments can also be made to visit the exhibition from Mondays to Thursday.
In preparation for any changes to the SOPs and a possible movement control order (MCO) 3.0,the exhibition will be made available online at https://theartgallerypg.com/exhibitions/nasir-nadzir-in-remembrance/.
The exhibition is from May 8 to 23 at The Art Gallery, 368-4-8, Belissa Row, Pulau Tikus, Penang.
To make an appointment, call 012-6041434 or go to theartgallerypg.com.