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The Art People Gallery presents 2021 with a physical and virtual group show of abstract paintings by 9 artists

The Art People Gallery呈獻2021年度9位藝術家聯合展出實體及虛擬抽象畫展


Abstracted Reality : A Celebration of Self




Emy Thiran 

Fizrie Azhan 

Jian Tan

June Ahbeng

Mazlan Noor Along 

Nicholas Choong 

Nik M Shazmie 

Zarina Abdullah 

Shweta Rastogi (Guest Artist from Hong Kong)







Abstract art functions as both museum piece and magnifying lens. Admiring the aesthetic qualities of a piece is straightforward enough, but opinions diverge when it comes to its meaning. Where you see a peacock in swirls of paint, your friend may envision a sea serpent. Abstract art’s inherent subjectivity makes it the ideal vehicle for exploring the vibrant, mysterious worlds hidden within ourselves. We’re lucky to have it. With much of the world in lockdown, our only escape from grim reality lies in introspection. 



Make time for Abstracted Reality, The Art People Gallery’s first exhibition of 2021, and you’ll find that interpreting abstract art is just as personal for the artist as it is for the viewer. Instead of cryptic blobs and squiggles, you’ll see a dragon’s head, surreal faces, tropical flowers that explode like fireworks. These paintings may not fit the mold of abstract art, if there is a mold for such a fluid form of expression. However, they certainly remain faithful to its spirit: emotive, profound, transcendent.



“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Take your time getting to the end.”

  • Emy Thiran

As a lecturer in University Malaya’s Visual Arts program, Emy Thiran found that she was writing and talking about art more than she was creating it. She took the single step in her thousand mile journey by putting brush to canvas. Thus, her “process-driven” art arose. Not quite the regimented SOP you might think it is, Thiran’s process is her way of letting her subconscious guide her brush rather than her intellect. There is little wonder that her pieces seem so organic and unrestrained, rendered in a luminous palette that evokes alternate spiritual dimensions rather than anything found on earth.


Mazlan Noor Along’s word for “process” is “quavering intuition”. His kaleidoscopic paintings marry both the celestial and terrestrial. Where one viewer might see the splendours of the cosmos, another may marvel at the hypnotic dance of coral spores.


Nicholas Choong’s sharp, industrial abstracts draw inspiration from urban spaces rather than nature. However, they are far from lifeless, their restless lines and neon-drenched hues imbuing his style with a beating pulse of its own.



“I manufacture happiness.”

  • June Ahbeng


June Ahbeng’s radiant blooms whizz and bang off canvas like New Year pyrotechnics. A far cry from the sedate floral ornamentations destined for lady’s parlours, they are an expression of joy. Ahbeng gravitates towards the things that make her happy, Bornean flowers and stilettos. It’s quite natural that there is a fierceness to her femininity. Ahbeng is promoting a singular Dayak vision, a rare thing among a people whose artistic voice has been co-opted by folk craftsmanship pandering to tourists. And here it is, packaged in a veritable bouquet of statement.

Fizrie Azhan’s pieces are a counterpoint to Ahbeng’s electrifying aesthetic, championing the adaptive, yet powerful dynamism of water. Paint streaks across his compositions in ribbons of colour or surges and swells like cresting waves on a psychedelic sea.


You may be surprised to see human faces in a show about abstract art. However, you’re more likely to see these particular visages in a fever dream than in real life. Nik M Shazmie wears his Cubist influences on his sleeve without feeling derivative, his surreal four-eyed beings a critique of conventional beauty standards.


Zarina Abdullah feels the human condition has deteriorated and aims to alleviate it, one brushstroke at a time. Inspired by the environmental factors that go into the making of a person, her art both explores and addresses the habits and defenses we’ve built up over the years. Abdullah’s restorative approach might be just what we need at this time. 


“Everyone has the potential to create. The only thing stopping them is fear.”

  • Jian Tan


During quarantine, the four walls of Jian Tan’s home began to dissipate into dreamspace. The merging of his conscious and subconscious resulted in expressionist compositions full of motifs close to his heart: a dragon’s head, a tiger for his zodiac year, a blossoming Tree of Life. These objects do tell a story, but exactly what that story is will be up to you, the viewer. Tan says no one has the same understanding of his work and that each new perspective enriches his own. By inviting us to participate in narrative-building, he breaks the fourth wall between creator and spectator, awakening the creative potential he believes lies within us all. 


“The beauty of abstract art is that no one has the same interpretation.”

  • Shweta Rastogi


Also in constant dialogue with her audience, figurative painter Shweta Rastogi actively encouraged outside involvement for her first foray into abstract art. Her lush aquamarines and scarlets were handpicked by the children she teaches. As to what it means, she only reveals that the oceanic blue-greens represent the bliss of serenity and the smoldering crimson external threats. Separating the two is a resplendent border of gold leaf, the proverbial Ray of Hope that keeps the dark forces at bay. It’s a good vs. evil battle entirely rendered in pigment, but also a parable of equilibrium. Tranquility and chaos both have their place in a balanced world. This, of course, is only our interpretation of Rastogi’s narrative.


Finding an overarching statement for Abstracted Reality is an impossible task. The only common ground the pieces have is an irrepressible optimism, a shared vision of a brighter tomorrow. But Abstracted Reality was never about giving you the answers. What you will take away from the exhibition is something rather more valuable: the joy in seeking your own. A worthy vocation, especially in an era when silver bullets (or vaccines) are hardly in abundance.

You might end up asking, what does the image I’m seeing on canvas say about me? What indeed.


The Art People Gallery is proud to showcase Abstracted Reality – A Celebration of Self from 21 Jan – 10 February.


We invite you to view artwork by Emy Thiran, Mazlan Noor Along, Nicholas Choong, Fizrie Azhan, Nik M Shazmie and Zarina Abdullah in person and online.

Artworks by Jian Tan, June Ahbeng and Shweta Rastogi will be available via online only.





Emy Thiran graduated from the University of Bridgeport (CT, USA) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. She taught design, visual art, and art history in many Malaysian universities, including the Visual Arts Masters Programme of the University of Malaya.


Mazlan Noor Along had an illustrious 42-year career in the Dewan Pustaka dan Bahasa, a cultural institution that promotes the use of the Malay language in literature. A literary and cultural activist, he now paints full time.


Nicholas Choong is a veteran of the visual arts and design world, having done conceptual art for Tiger Beer, Uber Malaysia, and MRT Gamuda. He joined the prestigious Rimbun Dahan Arts Residency and his resulting work was exhibited in Malaysia’s National Art Gallery.


June Ahbeng is the daughter of renowned Sarawakian painter Raphael Scott Ahbeng and an accomplished artist in her own right. Her passions are continuing her father’s legacy, promoting arts among the Dayak, and spreading happiness.


Fizrie Azhan studied sculpture and fine arts at Institute Teknologi Mara Universiti. He has since exhibited his work at Tapak Gallery, Shah Alam Gallery, Publika, and The Art People Gallery.


Nik M Shazmie is one of the “Nik Brothers”, a trio of fine artist siblings hailing from Tanah Merah, Kelantan. He has won the Nando’s Peri-fy Your Art competition in 2014 and the UOB Painting of the Year Established Category Gold Award a year later.


Zarina Abdullah is an educator by profession and an artist at heart. She has exhibited her work in galleries all over Malaysia and participated in international projects like the Korean Art Festival. Her art can be seen in the offices of Bank Negara, Bank of America, and many others.


Jian Tan is a Malaysian artist based in Adelaide, Australia. He studied Fashion Design and Textiles at RMIT Brunswick, Melbourne, and has exhibited at the No Vacancy Gallery and the Space in Melbourne. His ultimate aim is to help people discover their inner artist.


Shweta Rastogi is an Indian expat living in Hong Kong. She has painted for PETA, 2020 World Art Dubai, the World Trade Centre Exhibition, and many other internationally-esteemed initiatives. She also teaches dyslexic children at Hong Kong’s SAF(Sovereign Art Fund).

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