We at Batik and Bubbles would not call ourselves art experts or art connoisseurs but we are inclined to appreciating art in its various forms, be it contemporary art, high fashion, intriguing sculptures or glamorous interiors. Whenever there is a chance to learn something new, we will go forth to find out the latest news on interesting happenings to introduce to our readers.
This time around, we are pleased to feature an emerging artist on the local arts landscape, Marini Ramlan aka Nini Marini. We've been following Nini's impressive rise on the Malaysian arts scene. She's fast becoming lauded as a contemporary Malaysian artist at the fore-front of her generation.
When we were invited for a sneak peak of her 3-day show, we jumped at the opportunity to have the chance to view her latest showcase. It's one of those rare occasions where one can view and absorb an artist's vision, taking on their imaginative and colourful perception of the world around them.
The exhibition titled "Reflections of a Peacock Butterfly" encompassed 3 floors of Studio 267 in Jalan Damansara. The first floor was dedicated to Nini's latest art work and paintings, which are mainly acrylic on canvas painted between the years 2013-2016. As a sucker for bright colours and flowers, I loved the visual aesthetics of "Wild Bhutan" and the fashiony 1970s illustrator appeal of "Girl from 54" (below).
It was a pleasure to hear how Nini's travels inspired her art, as she gave us a guided tour of her collection of paintings. One painting in particular, Iceland: Weaving Iceland was inspired during her travels in Iceland with her sister.
The second floor showcased her creative collaborations with famous Malaysian fashion designers such as Alia Bastamam, Adila Long, Syaiful Baharim and Faizal Hamid. It was pretty amazing to see how the artwork on her paintings were printed onto high fashion ready-to-wear gowns and dresses which would not look out of place at any event or party.
On the last floor, once again we were introduced to even more examples of how Nini's art was printed onto textiles using a special printing process called dye-sublimation printing where computers use heat to transfer dye on to fabric, plastic or card. For this particular collaboration, Nini has teamed up with Epson Printing to showcase her art. This is the second time she has worked with Epson, the previous time happening last year in 2015 where she was invited to display her art in a technology showcase, her art printed exclusively by Epson Printing. This was shown with some examples such as the cotton sundresses, lampshades, cushion covers, table place mats and coasters.
It was certainly a spectacle of exuberant, vivid colours and patterns using collective and decorative items that I could easily envision taking place in my own wardrobe or living room. From the cool and funky footstool to the wildly patterned placemats and sleek cool lampshades, it was indeed a delicious sensory feast for the eyes.
Overflowing with enthusiasm, I returned to interview Nini the following week to find about more about her life as an artist and the fascinating life that she holds:
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Nini, tell us a little bit about your background and how it led you to become an artist?
Nini: When I was 3 years old, we moved to Syracuse, in New York, and lived there for 3 years as my mum was there to study her masters. My first memory was that I wanted to be an astronaut! I was always an imaginative child. After New York, we returned to Kuala Lumpur where I attended Assunta School and after that Cempaka School where I got my basic art foundation and then I was then sent off to boarding school in Australia where I studied at Pembroke. My interest in art was piqued, as I was always asked to paint the scenes and background for school plays.
With my mum's guidance I decided to go to the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design where I studied Visual Communications. Upon completing university, I returned to Malaysia unsure of what my next steps would be, and so I then I had an interview with TV3, a local television station. I landed a job as an assistant producer with the sports section, although they told me that I was overqualified for the job! I had a choice between entertainment and sports, and being a bit tomboyish at the time I choose sports and started to cover Formula 1, rugby and wrestling.
It didn't take long for me to realise that I wasn't happy in that particular job, and eventually I moved to producing game shows such as Millionaire and Celebrity Squares over the next 5 years. Throughout this time, I continued to work on my art in my spare time. I ended up doing illustrations for Her World magazine and various other publications. For me, this was my happy time. I was then transferred to brand management where I worked on promotions and storyboards. TV3 or Media Prima as it is now called, asked me to come back as their Head of Production and Content Development, as their working culture had become more open and modern.
Natasha Kraal, the current Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar Malaysia and previously with Her World, was a very close friend of the family. She knew of my drawing capacity and contacted me to do the drawings for the horoscopes section, and later introduced me to Clara Goh, from Fendi. Clara asked me to do my own interpretation of the Fendi Palazzo bag in 2006 with a photo showcase and later in 2008, that's when I was invited to paint the Fendi baguette bag!
Since then, I've continued to work on various creative collaborations with big brands such as Piaget, Nike, Tom's and Levis to name a few.
B&B: As Head of Production and Content Development at Media Prima, how do you juggle your work and painting?
Nini: I used to paint from home but now I rent a space here at Studio Lukas Lim. During the week I am full on with work as I am taking care of 3 divisions, however Saturday is my art work day, where I do interviews or have meetings for potential collaborations. Sunday is normally the day that I stay home and work on my paintings. I guess it helps that I am not married, as this type of arrangement would not work as easily; in a sense, I am married to my work and art. During exhibitions, I spend more time at the studio and work until 12-1am every day like this for past 3 months.
I am not sure if I would work full time as an artist, however I am glad to have the two entities to keep me grounded and self disciplined. It also helps to have my business background, when I approach the business side of Art.
B&B: At what age did you start painting? Do you remember the first painting you were really proud of?
Nini: My first memory related to art was when I was 3 years old. I had this Raggedy Ann doll which had blonde hair and I "stole" some yarn from my mother's studio which I then used to change her hair to brown with. My mum never stopped us from exploring art however she was quite the perfectionist and always encouraged me to try harder. I remember mixing colours for painting and showing it to my mum and she would tell me "No, that doesn't look right, try adding this colour". Then I would add some peculiar colour and in the end it turned out all right.
B&B: Travel seems to feature a lot in your paintings. Tell us why?
Nini: I don't travel as much as I would like to because of work. However, when the opportunity presents itself, I go for it! Travel to me is the time to absorb culture and switch off from work. It's a time to stay in touch with myself and a time for reflection.
B&B: What are your plans after this exhibit? Are you working on anything right now?
Nini: Well funnily enough this particular art show has sparked off other various business collaborations and everyone seems to see the business potential in my work. In fact I have agreed to take part in the a major fashion event happening later on in the year. I will be working on a 12-piece collection with my cousin, Izadaura, for resort wear clothes After that I plan to work on a traditional batik art project with my mum, so stay tuned!
B&B: What role do you think the artist has in Malaysian society?
Nini: I can only speak for myself and what I believe in. I want art to be reachable and friendly and show how I grew up with art. I want to show art by example and tell people that art shouldn't be taken too seriously. Artists also have a responsibility to innovate themselves and move forward preferably using technology. I'm a great fan of mixing art and science together!
B&B: If you could own a piece of art by any artist, living or dead, what would it be?
Nini: Oh it would have to be Gustav Klimt. I saw his paintings for the first time in France last year and they were wonderful. I also adore fashion and textile designer Zandra Rhodes and I would love to own some of her sketches. I also wouldn't mind owning a piece by artist Piet Mondrian.
B&B: Where's your most favourite gallery/museum in the world to look at art?
Nini: I really haven't seen enough galleries or museums to have a favourite however, in hindsight I would love to do an Art Tour where I could travel the world and meet other artists and see what they are working on. I would love to meet the French artist, Francoise Nielly who is a fine artist/street artist who also does printing of art on silk. I think it would also be good to visit various Science museums too to see what's out there.
B&B: Any words of wisdom for aspiring painters who wish to go professional?
Nini: Just do it! (she laughs). No seriously, be aware of what you enjoy and stick to your guns. I've had a lot of comments in the past complimenting me on my work but at the same time asking when I would start painting with either social or political commentary. That's certainly not me and I won't be foraying into that type of art work.
In addition, my advice would be not be too cliquey, be open to experimenting with other people in art. Don't be stingy, share your work with others. Don't think your art is original. It probably has some influence from the past. Be open to be influenced by others and they in turn will be influenced by you. Try to share yourself so people get to know and understand you. That's why I post frequently on Instagram so that people can get to understand me. Also be business savvy as in this day and age, it's important to have a business background to improve your understanding on how things work.
After the interview, Nini then showed me around her studio where we got to view her momentos, sketches and drawings collected over the years since she was young.
It was pretty fascinating to look at all her memories and musings documented in her various notebooks and sketchpads and see her growth and talent throughout the years.
Thanks Nini for this interesting and informative interview, we are looking forward to hear more about your future collaborations and bravo on all the hard, beautiful work done so far!