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Deputy Governor's Speech at the Launch of "Paint & Ink: Just Add Water"

Speaker: Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus Venue: Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery, Sasana Kijang Language: English Speech Date: 28 Oct 2014

The subject of water has become quite a source of inspiration for our Museum and Art Gallery in 2014. As this year is the 10th anniversary of the world's most devastating tsunami, the theme is undeniably topical as well as tropical.

The most recent exhibition focused on numismatics of the Nusantara region, with all its trading and seafaring traditions. The next exhibition, to be launched in November, is Yusof Ghani's latest series - "Ombak" - with additional watery associations.

The exhibition that we are launching today, "Paint & Ink: Just Add Water", is a tribute to the creative and the destructive power of the element that covers 70 per cent of our planet. It's a show in two parts: one side of the gallery is filled with watercolour paintings in their latest and most adventurous manifestations. The other side of the gallery houses an installation work, created from ink and paper, with a theme of damage and healing.

Watercolour paints and traditional ink are entirely dependent on water; and as this is not all they have in common, we are pleased to bring the two media together for this exhibition.

Both media have long been admired in East Asia. Ink has for centuries been revered above all other forms of art in China, Japan and Korea, although some of this reverence has been lost in more recent times. Paintings in watercolour went through a similar decline in appreciation. It was the primary art form of Malaysia in the early modern era, led by the likes of Abdullah Ariff and Yong Mung Sen. Throughout the world, watercolours were admired as a more private expression of creativity, and then their popularity was eclipsed by more flamboyant and easily marketed displays. Fashion seems to be moving on, however, and watercolours are once again being seen as an intimate encounter with art.

It's a field that now sees much experimentation, with astonishingly diverse results. Watercolours are also getting bigger. This should encourage those potential collectors who imagine they are getting better value for money now that the sizes have grown. At BNM we are eager to see the art market fulfil its true potential. As this is one of the largest assemblages of watercolours in recent times, with some equally large works, collectors should be inspired to diversify into this medium with its long local history.

The 'ShoutCryRoom' by Oi Nuen Sprunt might also push the public into developing an appreciation of installation art. It is not a field that has captured the nation's imagination yet, but this artist's work has such a positive message and such a calming effect, it should change perceptions.

As Bank Negara Malaysia is an organisation with global linkages, it's a great pleasure to have two exhibitions in one package, both of which have an international component. I would like to thank all the artists who have participated, including Tan Sri Samsudin Osman and other members of the Malaysian Watercolour Society, as well as Oi Nuen Sprunt, specialist in traditional Japanese ink painting.

These 58 artists come from many different countries, including Malaysia, and all share a common bond - a love of water-based art. We are mostly separated by water, but at the same time it is water that has brought us together today. We look forward to seeing more of its manifest beauty, and less of its many dangers.


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