In recent days, they’ve been playing out in real time as frontliners have become the real heroes of the hour regardless of ethnicity or religion.
It’s easy to forget, however. Which is where art comes in.
Those familiar with Kuala Pilah-based artist Kide Baharudin know his work highlights scenes of yesteryear — a colourful walk into Malaysia’s past, of small town and kampung life in the 1960s and '70s, of a more idyllic time.
This week, the 30-year-old artist’s debut solo exhibition will take place at Tun Perak Co-Op, a co-operative of independent businesses within the restored heritage walls of 62 and 64 Jalan Tun Perak.
Titled “Pe’el by Kide Baharudin”, the show will be exhibiting from July 17 to 26, 2020 at Tun Perak Co-Op and via www.tunperak.co.
It will also be the first time Tun Perak Co-Op opens its doors to the public.
Kide’s hometown of Kuala Pilah figures greatly in his work. He says, “When I am cycling in my hometown, I always love observing the small village where my parents live. I like to imagine how the place looked back in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I try to find the story through my parents’ childhood.”
This nostalgic approach caught the attention of Vans, the American apparel brand famous for their skateboarding shoes.
In 2017, Kide participated in the Vans Asia Custom Culture competition and travelled to Shanghai to compete in the final stage as the winner from Malaysia.
Kide shares, “I really loved the experience in Shanghai because I met other artists from Asia. In 2018, I joined forces with Vans to create illustrations for the House of Vans Asia Tour across Asia-Pacific markets.”
In March 2018, a fan of his work approached Kide on Instagram. Kide recalls, “He said he’d love to buy some paintings from me. Then he was interested in me doing design for the Vans apparel line. Then later I found out that he is in the Vans Global team for Apparel in California!”
Part of the draw here is Kide’s own fascination with the old Malaysian lifestyle. He says, “The fashion, music and social activity... I am just obsessed with our culture... with the traditions of the Malay, Chinese and Indian people, the kampung houses and how people used to live back then.”
A stickler for accuracy, the perfectionist would check with his own parents whenever he completed an artwork. He says, “They usually love it and end up telling me more stories. But sometimes I also inject it with my own imagination to create another story because I’m not in that era to imagine the exact moment.”
Two pieces in particular are emblematic of this intersection of historical fidelity and personal inspiration.
“Lagak Hero” (2020) has a swagger that’s all charm without the toxic masculinity that plagues bro culture nowadays. “Malu-malu Kucing” (2020) is sweet but not entirely naïve; there’s a knowing look beneath the veil.
Kide is very skilful at blending contrasting elements — retro/contemporary, East/West — in his work. His approach is one of a constant student.
He explains, “Why I focus on the past is that I believe that we still have a lot to learn and appreciate from it. If you look at my works now, I try and inject a lot of contemporary colours so that the next generation will be interested in the past as well.”
The choice of colours here make the content feel fresh and contemporary, despite the retroactive scenes depicted. Kide says, “I often watch P. Ramlee’s movies in black and white but my parents said that in real life they are just colourful. I want to show them that our grandparents and parents lived in a time with less technology but they were still happy and open minded.”
Every artist has a preferred medium to work with, from oils to watercolours. For Kide, he leans towards anything simple and easy to handle. He says, “Acrylic paint on canvas just suits me. For my drawing and sketches I love to explore any kind of drawing pen, pencil and charcoal.”
That sense of discovery is important to Kide. He says, “When I start a painting, I don’t know what it’s going to look like when it’s finished. At some point the painting takes on a life of its own, and leads me to a place I couldn’t have predicted. It’s like having a conversation, or taking a walk with the character in the canvas."
Visitors to Kide’s show can expect to have some fine conversations, especially given the venue in the historical heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Tun Perak Co-Op’s Beatrice Leong shares, “Kide chose this space personally for his exhibition, and we’re naturally thrilled and proud to be a part of his art.”
There will be more of Kide’s signature style as well as some new experimental pieces. He says, “For my new installation work, I’m using old kampung house windows. I’m collaborating with my dad; he helped me build the window then I did the painting on it.”
It’s the first time that the father-and-son pair has worked together to create an artwork, which is especially meaningful to Kide. He says, “We are very happy and hope people will love this. Visitors can feel the groovy golden age era as they enter the building.”
Another result of their collaboration is the SU20 Vans x Kide Collection. Now that’s some nice kicks.
Kide explains, “I collaborated with Vans to release one of the Summer 2020 collections in May under the Global Surf Project. I was so excited to make this happen! I love working with them because there is no limitation on ideas. I can do whatever I want in my own style. Freedom in art makes me more creative.”
Perhaps the path forward for the sponsorship of the arts goes beyond the obvious financial backing: Kide Baharudin has shown an artist can work with a patron synergistically to go further than either can achieve alone.
PE’EL - A DEBUT SOLO SHOW BY ARTIST KIDE BAHARUDIN