Loss and Liberation

'Surrender', 1997, Oil on canvas

One of the few works that survived the total lost I experience at Jaguar Motors. This one was saved because it was kept by Sanna, when I visited her in Sweden.


The Art of Letting Go: Beyond the Jaguar Studio

I lived in a spacious bungalow on Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, just a five-minute walk from KLCC in Kuala Lumpur. The bungalow also served as an artist studio owned by Jaguar Motors, the authorized dealership for Jaguar cars, with their showroom located next to it. I shared the space with Johari Said, a print artist, and Azhar Mohd, a sculptor specializing in marble. I had connected with Johari and Azhar through Suhaimi, also known as Mie Pak Lah, a fellow artist. Johari moved out a few months after I settled in because he had completed his new house and studio in Ulu Selangor outside KL. Azhar, overseeing the studio, was the primary liaison with the owner, an art enthusiast and collector.

The studio provided a large and expansive space for me to produce numerous artworks. I focused on creating large-scale paintings, prints, and experimented with different mediums such as collage, woodcuts, monoprints, assemblage, and drawings. I brought in all my previous works and collected old photographs from my mother's place in Melaka, with the intention of incorporating them into my art. This period in KL was one of the most creatively fruitful times for me.

In mid-2001, I decided to visit friends on Perhentian Island, where I had previously lived before returning to KL in 1999 and starting my residency at the Jaguar studio. Upon my return, I was surprised to find construction workers at the studio. Confused and puzzled, I approached them to inquire about my belongings. However, they didn't take my question seriously and informed me that everything had been removed and left by the roadside, unsure of what would happen to them.

Discovering that my belongings and artworks might have been lost or discarded left me feeling nervous, shocked, and profoundly disappointed. The studio held personal and artistic significance for me, and the mishandling of my belongings felt like a betrayal of that space.

Seeking clarification, I visited the Jaguar showroom, hoping to understand what had happened and possibly recover my belongings. However, the staff confirmed that my things had indeed been removed without my consent. The disappointment compounded my feelings of shock, dejection, disbelief, and sadness.

After waiting for some time, I decided to leave the showroom and purchase a bus ticket to Melaka. Leaving without meeting the owner was a decision driven by overwhelming emotions and a deep sense of disbelief. The studio, once a sanctuary where I had spent countless hours exploring different artistic mediums, had become a place of bitter realization. The loss felt irreparable, and the prospect of meeting the owner seemed futile in retrieving what was irreplaceably lost.

Leaving without a meeting wasn't avoidance but a response to feeling helpless and disappointed. I also needed some space to process my emotions and assess my next steps.

With the loss, I felt as though I had lost my identity. There was no trace of my past—my birth certificate, diplomas, old photographs—nothing. During my time at my mum's place in Melaka, I stayed mostly in my room. After three days, I told myself that I had to start over again, as simple as that. I tried to approach it positively, learning from the loss. I began to understand the meaning of letting go, and perhaps the biggest lesson was about detachment from all things, acceptance, and the value of not owning anything that sets me free. It gave a new meaning to the word freedom.

In those initial days after the loss, I found solace in solitude and reflected on the transient nature of possessions and the unexpected turns life can take. Memories of the Jaguar studio and the creative sanctuary it provided blended with a profound sense of disillusionment over what had transpired. The bustling showroom next door, once a place of potential resolution, now seemed distant and indifferent to my plight.

Returning to Melaka offered respite, yet the echoes of my experiences in KL followed me. Every moment spent amid the familiar sights and sounds of my childhood home carried a weight of nostalgia mixed with the realization that I was starting anew. Conversations with my mother, surrounded by remnants of a past that now felt more distant than ever, brought both comfort and gentle reminders of the resilience needed to forge ahead.

As I went through what remained of my belongings and contemplated the lost artworks and projects, a quiet determination took root. The sudden absence of the studio had forced me to confront not only the practicalities of rebuilding, but also the deeper implications of creative freedom and personal resilience. I resolved to honor the spirit of experimentation and artistic exploration that had defined my time at Jaguar, seeking new avenues to express myself and embracing the inherent impermanence of artistic creation.

Though the loss had been a profound setback, it also became a catalyst for introspection and growth. As I reflected on the lessons learned—about resilience in the face of unexpected challenges, about the transformative power of creativity, and about the enduring value of personal connections—I found myself embracing a renewed sense of purpose. The journey ahead promised to be different, shaped by the experiences that had tested and ultimately strengthened my resolve as both an artist and an individual.

Another work that survive the loss.

Titled 'Double Andy*, this work was done when I was visiting Sanna in Gothenburg Sweden in 1999. The work was done with acrylic and collage on canvas.