KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Husny Dahlan, assistant professor of art at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently returned from spending a month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The visit coincided with several art events he had scheduled prior to his departure.
Dahlan, who teaches ceramics and art history, gave a lecture on “Contemporary Trends in Art: A Postmodern Approach” to approximately 100 art students, faculty and administrators at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UTM). The largest state supported university in Malaysia, UTM has a substantial student body and was the prefect venue to hold a lecture.
“I am passionate about modern art,” said Dahlan. “I wanted to have a forum at UTM because their art and design program attracts some of the best and most talented students who are the future artists and leaders of this beautiful nation.”
Like many countries across Southeast Asia, Malaysia is fertile ground for new and experimental art. Young artists are coming up with fresh ideas and keeping up with modern trends to communicate their concerns. Unlike their forefathers, who lived through post-colonialism from the British and were more inclined to develop a Western inspired work, new generation of Malaysian artists produce art that mirrors their own cultural experience. Whether through traditional or new media, these artists are conscious of their role in a global society and are helping to redefine their collective identity in the 21st century.
During the lecture, Dahlan proposed a collaboration between UAPB and UTM. At a workshop later that day, he introduced the idea of creating an art installation to about 30 ceramics majors.
Based on the zillij pattern the Pine Bluff artist has conceived over the past two years, the art project would offer students from the ceramics program an opportunity to work with an established artist and have their contributions displayed at UTM and UAPB.
“I want to build a bridge between our two countries and institutions. A partnership can be mutually beneficial. There’s so much we can do through art and education,” Dahlan said.
This hopeful message was echoed in his radio, TV, and print interviews. Dahlan intends to return next year to complete the art installation and exhibit the work. His programs at UTM were supported by a grant from the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.