Penang has certainly established itself as one of Malaysia’s art hub. The state is booming with street art and has a steady stream of exhibits held at Hin Bus Depot.
This month, we talked to Julius Manickam aka kangblabla on Instagram, an artist residing in Penang. He just wrapped up a group exhibit at the aforementioned venue. Read on for his thoughts on the difference in art scenes as well as his favorite cartoon.
I was born in a little town called Sitiawan, Perak but grew up equally in Ampang, KL, and Sitiawan as I was always moving every few years. My itch to draw started as early as the age of five where I found myself drawing my own version of Power Rangers. My love for character design slowly grew over the years from reading our very own local artists’ comics.
I decided that character design was going to be my focus at the age of 13 and as soon I finished high school, I enrolled myself into Malaysian Institution of Art in Taman Melawati and obtained my Diploma in Graphic Design. Following my graduation I’ve tried working as a designer and felt that working in an office wasn’t what I wanted for my life, so I decided to quit my job and explore other means of creativity.
I now paint characters for a living and am enjoying every second of it.
Is there a specific childhood memory you channel when you draw?
Nothing specific, really, I try to hold on to my fleeting childhood memories which die daily. I guess I’ve been trying to make sense of my childhood memories and adapting them to a more grown up context.
How did you come up with the moniker Kangblabla? What’s the story behind it?
Kangblabla means anything and everything. I found it when I was doing my typography assignment on 70s culture, specifically slang, in college. I love how vague of a word it is. It can be anything and everything at the same time, which I then adopted as my lifestyle.
The ability to adapt is a wonderful thing and I feel you can learn more by adapting. It also makes life more bearable, I think.
What is the difference between Penang and KL’s art scene?
I feel that Penang’s art scene is growing smoothly and looking forward, it seems like it’s only gonna get better. We do need more collectors over here, though. In KL, I would say the scene is much more established and bigger.
As an artist in Malaysia, how do you make a living? What are the challenges you face?
Currently, I make my living through sales of my artworks. As I said before, we do need more art collectors over here in Georgetown. Buy art people!
What are some steps you or we as a society can do to encourage the emergence of art collectors?
Well, what society can do is pretty much just start buying art. Understand that every piece of art you purchase will help the artist to support themselves and create more works of art.
On my part, I’ve been joining and organizing a lot of group shows here in Penang that sells affordable artworks as a way to meet the audience halfway. It also gives the opportunity for new art buyers to start their collection within a price range that shouldn’t break their wallets.
How do you pick your mediums for selected works? Does the idea come before the medium or the other way around?
It’s actually quite random depending on what resources are available. I’m currently doing a lot of paintings with acrylic on found wood and also assemblages with the abundance of scrap wood and various items collected in my studio.
If you could live in any cartoon world, what would it be and why?
Adventure Time with Finn & Jake! I love having adventures and where better to have them but there.
I usually treat my walks to the grocery shop as mini adventures, always looking out for something exciting to explore and discover. It saddens me that reality drains the life of everything, so I try what I can to make life more exciting.
At what point of your artistic career would you say “I’ve made it”?
When I don’t have to introduce myself anymore.
If you had the power to change one thing in Penang, what would you do?
24-hour hawker food. Nasi kandar is too filling to eat at 3 in the morning.
Who are some local artists you would like to shout out?
Here goes: The Sliz, Bibichun, Sattama, Noyz 134, Teh Mojo, Aleff Ahmad, Tomi, Poomunkst, IMMJN, Ajim Juxta, Timeless Realm, Cracko Art Group, Milline Low, Mandeemoko, Engku Iman, Blank Malaysia and lots more, lots, lots more.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
More group shows, comics, art, connections, merchandise, new media exploration, and probably, a solo show.
To see more of kangblabla’s work, check out his ‘gram game. Hit us up with your favorite artists at firstname.lastname@example.org.