Definitions of Art
Referring to Dwibahasa Dictionary, Fourth Edition, art is artistic; of art or artists; showing of done with good taste. According to Thomas Buser, 2006), despite the intrinsic value of the experience called art, some people have wanted to isolate and explain it. Unfortunately, no one has ever come up with an entirely satisfactory explanation, and people have proposed all kinds of answers to the question “What is art?” There is even a branch of philosophy, called aesthetics, that attempts to define what makes something art and to analyse the psychology of artist and the people experiencing art. Many of the older theories of art began by analysing the characteristics of the objects made by artists. They then asserted that artists created a special class of objects that are inherently beautiful. These definitions usually stated that artists create a beautiful thing by combining a representation of something real and a conceptual ideal.
History of Malaysian Art
Three main factors influenced the early development of modern Malaysian Art, namely English colonization, the immigration of foreigners, and education. The birth of modern Malaysian art is linked to the national modernization process. Indeed, modernization represents one of the major issues in the discussion of the cultural development of Malaysia including visual art, cartoon art and literature. British control of the economic and socio-politic landscape of Malaya gained strength in the 19th century through their policy of bringing in Chinese and Indian labourers to work in the fields. As result, the British administrative system and policies caused an economic and political crisis among the Malays. The arrival of artist from China in the 1930s played a significant role in the development of modern Malaysian art. With the formation of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in Singapore in 1938, these artists contributed greatly to the local painting style by combining Eastern and Western characteristics, besides creating the basis for art education system in the country. Furthermore, the British education system also played an important role in the westernization process. That education system, allegedly based on scientific and empirical basis, was said to encouraged students to handle knowledge from a more pragmatic, analytical and individualistic perspective, which was at odds with the traditional viewpoint of society. Because modern Malaysian artworks were inspired by western tradition through colonialism, migration and education, it is not surprising that some writers regard Malaysian art as a manisfestation of Western culture and intellectual colonization (Sulaiman Esa, 1993). However, this statement is rebuked by the fact that Malaysian artists looked to traditional art for inspiration by incorporating motifs of Islamic and traditional art in their works, including calligraphy, batik, woodcarving and architecture. Although such artists as Syed Ahmad Jamal and Abdul Latiff Mohidin produced works in the 1960s that reflected Expressionism and Abtsract Expressionism, their message and subject were definitely local. This is obvious in Syed Ahmad Jamal’s work entitled ‘Tulisan” (Writing, 1961) the evolves from calligraphy and Latiff’s works in the series ‘Pago-pago” that turn regional images abstract.