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By Ashley Sim
KUCHING, Mar 16: Art has the power to evoke strong emotional responses, and as I gazed thoughtfully at ‘Your Warm Smile’, a painting by Kelabit sape songstress Alena Murang, I felt a profound sense of connection to the subject.
“This piece depicts a woman who is a very special aunty to me. She was the headman’s wife in my kampung. Every time I mentioned her, I started crying for no apparent reason.
“She and another aunty taught me to weave when I was a little girl, and my mother would take me out of school to weave with her at exhibitions. Sadly, she died of cancer the last time I saw her.
“I wasn’t ready to see her in that state, so I painted this portrait of her. She has this really cheeky smile that I love, and this is my way of honouring her as I remember her,” Alena said.
What she painted and described touched my heart as it reminds me of my own late grandmother.
Another painting that drew my attention was the ‘Pu’ Ayam (Dear One)’ painting, which was one of Alena’s favourite pieces that she painted in 2002 with acrylic, charcoal, and pastel on canvas.
She said the painting makes her happy because it represents the essence of growing up in a ‘kampung’, which represents childlike happiness and innocence.
Many of Alena’s large paintings, including her seven-foot masterpiece ‘The Storyteller’ which she painted in 2017, were on display for the media preview of her first painting exhibition ‘Colours of the Highlands’ at the Hoan Gallery in La Promenade Mall today.
“I love ‘The Storyteller’, and this painting comes with a recording of me receiving Kelabit songs from the elders in my ‘kampung’,” she told reporters during the media preview.
Meanwhile, Hoan Gallery owner Hoan Kee Huang stated in a press release that Alena’s ‘The Storyteller’ is a showpiece in which she merged time, paint, a sense of place, sight, and sound into a mesmerising whole.
‘The Storyteller’ is one piece you should look out for because it is accompanied by a hypnotic audio piece depicting the process of Alena receiving songs from her village elders.
Furthermore, the Kelabit sape songstress expressed her hope that her first painting exhibition, ‘Colours of the Highlands’, will be well-received by art enthusiasts from all over the world, as she viewed it as an attempt to bring back Kelabit’s heritage through her own memory.
Over 50 paintings by Alena will be on display, including figure studies from the early 2010s, large portrait canvases completed in 2018, and pieces featuring traditional Kelabit swirls known as ‘arit’.
All of the works are for sale. Alena and Hoan collaborated to create a catalogue with prices ranging from RM3,000 to more than RM25,000.
“Every painting on display is for sale. Although it is difficult for me to let them go because I am emotionally attached to them, I am hopeful that they will all be sold during the exhibition,” she added.
Alena’s ‘Colours Of Highlands’ painting exhibition is free and open to the public from March 18 to April 30 at the Hoan Gallery in La Promenade Mall.
Additional details can be found at the websites www.hoangallery.com and www.lapromenademall.com.my. — DayakDaily