By Saras Nara
Kumar Nagalingam wears several hats quite competently, namely lawyer, lecturer, trainer and artist. At his first solo art exhibition titled ‘Beyond the Canvas’ in July, the proud artist played host and curator to his well-wishers and guests at GS. Artcade, a mid-sized art gallery along Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya.
Kumar’s family was on hand to lend him support on the momentous occasion, particularly his wife Monica and his mother who personally greeted guests and showed them around the gallery.
The event was officially launched by Raja Singham, the Managing Director of BAC Education, who gave a welcome speech to the enthusiastic crowd before proceeding to introduce the artist Kumar Nagalingam, a long-time friend and colleague.
Kumar, looking smart in a grey cotton kurta, thanked the supportive audience and spoke about his journey over four decades as an artist. He thanked his late father T Nagalingam for encouraging him to draw, paint, and sketch from an early age, that had led to him winning many prizes and art competitions while still at school.
As an industrious young man he studied law and began teaching, then graduated with a Masters in Law in 1995 before venturing into training & development for the corporate and public sectors.
Kumar tends to reference his knowledge of art in his law classes as well as training sessions and finds using graphics and images far more effective than mere words on slides and more importantly, a lot more fun and vibrant.
His continued passion, and patience, in pursuing art through the years has helped him achieve his lifelong dream of holding his first solo exhibition ‘Beyond the Canvas’.
The gallery itself was well laid out with good lighting and adequate display space. All the artwork were meticulously labelled and hung, while the background music provided a relaxed ambience. As visitors toured the gallery, many took the opportunity to mingle with Kumar and probe the artist as he moved from one painting to the next patiently describing the creative thought behind each piece of artwork.
Visitors also enjoyed light refreshments and homemade pastries as they chatted with one another.
By the end of the day, a good number of the paintings were snapped up by interested patrons and the paintings were delivered to them at the end of the exhibition.
One painting entitled “Mom” captured the artist’s mother in her garden, grinding spices for the evening meal using a traditional stone grinder. This beautiful ode to his dear mother was displayed, but marked ‘not for sale’, and I thought it very appropriate.
A total of 72 pieces of artwork were on display, from his earlier works in the 1980’s up to present day, each with its own interesting story. There was an admirable variety of themes, compositions and colours used throughout the exhibition, ranging from the abstracts, portraits, stills and landscapes to naïve art, surrealism and more.
The artist also generously nominated Angsana Care, an organisation supporting paediatric palliative care, as beneficiary of 40% of the sales completed during the four day exhibition.
Pop art fans loved the artist’s version of “Another Look At Abbey Road”, a tribute to the Beatles on the iconic crosswalk while the colourful and fun abstract “Twists and Turn” was reminiscent of the elephant who believed it could fly. A series of black and white line drawings called ‘Firewood’ caught my eye for its impressive attention to detail.
The range of mediums used was equally remarkable: water colours, oil paints, black ink and even a mixed medium piece using recycled parts of a personal computer.
Surreal artwork like ‘Matrix’ and ‘Re-pro-gression’ spiked your curiosity and made you wonder. ‘Favela’ at first glance showed an assortment of colourful shacks precariously stacked up a mountainside. On closer inspection, one could see a road curving in between houses, smoking chimneys, and telephone poles interspersed, indicating a thriving community lived within!
The highlight of the exhibition was a splendid oil painting that was available to the highest bidder. The painting entitled “Shangri-La” showed a few villagers walking up a steep mountainside to their home that was partly shrouded by clouds. The lovely blue and green tones of the image emphasised the nightfall and had a certain mystical, mesmerising feel.
This self-taught artist is also a gifted cartoonist and has published two caricature books so far, “Ipoh Mali”, about his childhood days in Ipoh and “Timeless Tales”, a collection of age-old fables with wise messages.
It was certainly a treat to have attended Kumar’s first solo art exhibition, with his descriptive, thought-provoking and entertaining stories that made his art all the more relatable and memorable.
Kumar Nagalingam is undoubtedly an exceptional talent with many delightful stories to tell, creative concepts to share and a wealth of meaningful ideas to stretch your imagination.