As I write this I don’t feel like writing at all. I don’t feel like putting another fucking word out into the world, which is full of words, photos, links, opinions and news, news, NEWS. 


Supplication, 2013, oil on canvas.

The roads outside my house are crammed with political flags and propaganda. It’s hard to keep balanced. I don’t mean keeping balanced as a virtue in and of itself, I mean keeping balanced enough to feel like work is worth doing, that normal life is worth living. By normal I mean MY normal (in random order): friends, art, making, creating, thinking, talking, eating, shitting, FEELING. 

Shahril Nizam is an old friend and an artist. You may or may not have heard of him. You may or may not have seen his work.

He painted my portrait:


Yellow, 2012, oil on canvas

He gave this painting to me a few weeks ago. It’s in my house in Port Dickson, waiting patiently until I finish my work on the elections here in KL.

I’ve been struggling alot with the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent. For example – campaign work is urgent, because it may lead to changing the government. But what’s important? It’s home, with its garden where the weeds are growing tall, and the snails are eating the mint. It’s my adopted little town, where I’m worried about my gardener who’s just gone for an eye operation, and the kopitiam auntie is waiting for me to do a portrait of her parents.

Wanna talk about important vs urgent? Nizam’s first solo exhibition is happening on nomination day. April 20th. That’s when candidates for the elections are announced.


The King of Dance, 2007, Ink on paper. 

Zedeck wrote the truest description about Shahril’s art: ‘The works are gentle; they are kind, like a hand on a crying shoulder.’

Our house is filled with little drawings and paintings by him. It’s the kind of art you can live with; it grows with you over the years. His many sculptures, drawings and strange objects (he’s one of the most prolific artists I know) create a completely distinctive visual world filled with thought and emotion.

But it’s the portraits that ground his work – they’re subtle and revealing celebrations of his subjects. To me, the sombre joy you can detect in these portraits are key to understanding Nizam’s unique vision.


The Wait, 2013, 20cm x 20cm, acrylic and oil on canvas. 

I think I understand the difference.

Urgent is what needs to be done NOW. The favorite working method is compromise. The favorite slogan is ‘by any means necessary’.

Important is what keeps us going. It’s what’s patiently waiting – at home, in your heart or in your imagination. It’s the source of your best and most passionate work.

I’m late. I’m expected at an urgent meeting. But fuck it. I had to write this, even though I’m exhausted and lazy and really didn’t feel like it.

You see, I couldn’t let it go.

It wouldn’t let me go.

See you all on the 20th!


Soil, 2012, mixed media

P.S. – Check out this interview between Nizam and OUR Art Projects’ Simon Soon, and listen to this podcast featuring Nizam on BFM’s The Bigger Picture.

All images are Copyright Shahril Nizam 2007 – 2013. All rights reserved.