Virgin Spring Today and Siti: An Installation

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NIRMALA DUTT SHANMUGHALINGAM ‘VIRGIN SPRING’ TODAY and SITI an installation with an essay on the The Mengkudu and I “After Goya, 1995”, charcoal on canvas, and a series of installation related unfinished paintings on canvas.

Feeling The intensity of feeling may be disturbing to some, frightening to others, but surely not to those who comprehend the arts wholly and know how to feel. I feel, I absorb, I emphatise. People say “Relax”... I cannot “relax” leaving in such horrors around me, I cannot look the other way, turn my back on misery, especially when the victims are little innocents, babies, children, teenage girls, the poor and struggling and suffering... I feel... I feel with the pounding of the blood in my heart and with my soul. In Faust, Goethe puts it precisely and truly : “If feeling fails you vain will be your art And ideal what you plan unless your art Spring from the soul with elemental force To hold its sway in every listening heart” I want my art to spring “from my soul with elemental force” in all my work though I suffer along with it. Graham Greene once said “self-expression is a hard and selfish thing that can feed on everything, even upon itself”.


Virgin Spring Today an installation


SITI an installation Mephistopheles in the court of the Lord God Almighty speaks to the Lord Almighty : Your suns and worlds are not within my ken, I merely watch the plaguey state of men. The little god of earth remains the same queer sprite As on the ďŹ rst day, or in primal light. His ;ife would be less difďŹ cult, poor thing, Without your gift of heavenly glimmering; He calls it Reason using light celestial Just to outdo the beast in being bestial. from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Part I : Prologue in Heaven


The Mengkudu and I

1984 - 1985 : Digging deep into the soil around the rather small mengkudu tree, Morinda Citrifolia, I come up with a small pile of roots, bright tumuric yellow when first cut into: During several years around 1984 - 1985, I had been reading and researching for myself the arts and crafts of the Asian region. Something drew me to the rust-red dye used in ikat and pua weaving, a dye that was said to lie buried deep in the bark of the roots of the mengkudu (or engkudu). The obvious attraction was the beauty of this colour, which in the jargon of the trade is an extremely “fugitive” dye, and scores of secret recipes abound because of its importance to the people of Java, Bali and the surrounding islands. Historically the tree travelled eastwards from India where plantations of the tree was cultivated for dying purposes. Calling the dye “fugitive” is an understatement. I found it most maddeningly illusive. The expert dyers of Sarawak and Indonesia would say that my difficulties where due to the fact that i did not invoke the right gods or make the proper offerings to the spirits involve. This is true. I did not. However, somewhere deep down within me under layers of a defense system, something made me pursue the dye. I wanted my canvas to soak up this subcontious calling, and i proceeded with a great determination, which turned into something of an obsession even. I did everything I could, from pestering the FRIM for information, for roots, for leaves of the jirak (Symplocos) a catalyst, to twice visiting the museum textile of Jakarta, looking into their books and copying out their “recipes”. Needless to say the recipes were varied and may in number. Laid out here are the results of all my attempts. The big canvas kept haunting me over the years. I had turned my back on all that I had considered a failure. Then something happend. I am a Believer - I believe in God and His angels. One of them said “Nim, you should show all that stuff you know - it’s interesting”. I thought about it hard I cleared up some mouldy patches on the canvas. It looked good - the colour had a woody glow. Then without consciously thinking or planning, I reached out for a photograph of an awfully significant house in Penang, my hometown - a house I had revisited and photographed in one of my many attempts at exorcising an ancient pain (of 40 years); and taking the picture I stucked it to a precise point of the canvas and the work was completed - there are varied shades of mengkudu, there’s me, and there’s the close door - and exorcism completed by the guiding hands of God!


After Goya

UnďŹ nished Paintings Related to the Installation


Virgin Spring In Progress, October 2002


Virgin Spring In Progress, October 2002 PREPARATION


NIRMALA DUTT SHANMUGHALINGAM Biodata BORN 1941 in Penang, Malaysia EDUCATION 1962 Attended art classes held by Hoessein Enas in Kuala Lumpur 1966-67 Studied at Corcoran School of Art, Washington D.C. 1970-71 Studied Art History at Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University Studied drawing at Boston College of Art & Cambridge Education Centre, Mass. 1975-78 Oxford Polytechnic (Oxford Brooks University), Oxford, England 1992-95 Post Graduate Studies, London University UCL post-graduate printmaking Goldsmiths College MPhil research SOLO EXHIBITION 1981 -The Condition of Being, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur 1998 -Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam: A Review, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur GROUP EXHIBITIONS AND ART EVENTS 1957 -International Exhibition of Child Art, The Hague, Holland 1964-69 -Annual Exhibitions, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1968 -Salon Malaysia, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1972 -Malaysian Landscape, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1973 -Man & His World exhibition, National Art Gallery 1974 -National Photography Exhibition, National Museum, Kuala Lumpur


1979 -Exhibition of Squatter Children and Pollution Series, International Year of the Child Conference, -The National Council of Women Organisations (NCWO) -Exhibition of Squatter Children Series, Man and the Biosphere Programme, -Child and Environment Regional Seminar by MAB, Ministry of Health, Socio-Economic Research Unit (SERU), Prime Minister’s Department, and UNESCO -Malam Nada Warna (Evening of Colour Tones), Grup Teater Elit, Puan Sri Frances Ariffin, National Museum of Art And Selangor Philharmonic Society exhibition -Year of the Child Exhibition, Mobile Exhibition by Ministry of Health, Malaysia -Slide presentation and seminar of Squatter Series by Medical Faculty, University of Malaya 1981, 83, 85 -ASEAN Travelling Exhibition of Painting and Photography 1981 -Perdana (Premier) Exhibition, Malaysian Artists’ Association, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur 1982 -5th Triennale India, New Delhi -25 Years of Malaysian Art, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur -Geraktara, Penang Museum and Art Gallery -Sericipta Puteri Malaysia, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur 1983 -National Invitation Show, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur -Titian I (Bridge I), Malaysian Artists’ Association, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore 1984 -American Experiences Malaysian Images, American Embassy, Kuala Lumpur -Saujana Fine Art Exhibition, City Hall, Kuala Lumpur 1985 -Endau Rompin Pasar Seni Exhibition and Auction to raise funds for the -Malaysian Heritage and Scientific Expedition, Endau Rompin 1986 -Side by Side: Contemporary British and Malaysian Art, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1987 -Malaysian Art 1957-87, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur -Pameran Minggu Palestin (Palestine Week Exhibition), Johore Bahru, Malaysia 1988 -Contemporary Paintings of Malaysia, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California -Singapore First ASEAN Travelling Exhibition of Photography, Paintings and Children Art, Bandar Seri Bagawan, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and -Hiroshima Day Exhibition, City Hall, Kuala Lumpur -Pameran Perdana 3, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur -Pameran Pelukis Sezaman Malaysia, Menara Maybank, Kuala Lumpur -Wanita Malaysia Sejarah Cabaram, Keberanian dan Kesungguhan (Malaysian Women A History of Challenge, Courage and Dedication), Arkib Negara


1989 -Exhibition of Paintings by Malaysian Artists’ Association, National Art Gallery, Bangkok -Question of Palestine, City Hall, Kuala Lumpur -3rd Asian Art Show, Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan -Metromania, Perth, Australia -Contemporary Art from Islamic Countries, Barbican Centre, London 1990 Open Show, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur Women and Creativity, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Artists’ Association (PPM) Exhibition, Johor Bahru and Kuching 5th Asian International Exhibition Malaysia, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur APS 90, Kuala Lumpur 1991 -The Question of Identity The Malaysian-ness of Malaysian Art, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur -Exhibition of Paintings by Indonesian and Malaysian Women Artists, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur -Art and the Social Context, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur -Show by Malaysian Nature Society’s Greening Fund -Malam Puisi Alam (Poetry on the Environment), Kuala Lumpur -Modern Masters, GaleriWan, Kuala Lumpur -Art Document I, Artiquarium, Kuala Lumpur 1992 -Risalah Dari Malaysia (Message from Malaysia), The Royal Society of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan and National Art Gallery, Dayabumi Complex, Kuala Lumpur -Women and Creativity, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1995 -2nd Generation Artists, Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur 1996 -Modernity and Beyond: Themes in Southeast Asian Art, Opening Exhibition of Singapore Art Museum -Figurative Approaches in Modern Malaysian Art, Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur -Public Art: The Story of Ogre Citrus: Distributed by mail. 1997 -ASEAN Masterworks Exhibition; 2nd Informal Summit at the Mines Resort and the National Art Gallery. 1998 -A Review, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur. 1999 -Two Women : New Works by Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam and Norma Abbas, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur. 2002 -”Virgin Spring Today”, an installation at the artist’s studio, Bangsar Park, Kuala Lumpur. 2003 -”Siti”, an installation at the artist’s studio, Bangsar Park, Kuala Lumpur. 2003 -”Siti”, Public Art II, mailed individually signed brochure. 2003 - Breaking the Veils organised by The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts at Amman, Jordan, Greece, France.


AWARD 1973 Major Award, Man & His World exhibition, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur 1993 Chevening Award Scholar, London INSTITUTIONAL COLLECTIONS National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur Singapore Art Museum Royal Jordanian National Gallery University Science Malaysia, Penang Bank Negara Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur Salomon Brothers, Hong Kong


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