Masih Segan:Nadhir Nor

Text by Elna Ismail
Artwork by Nadhir Nor

Nadhir Nor has his own way in finding beauty in daily, mundane lives. He sees it through his own lens and translated it into a magical and mystical world that you would want to be a part of. Stepping into Masih Segan exhibition at GMBB Kuala Lumpur felt exactly like that. Masih Segan is the newest collection of work by Nadhir Nor. This mystical collection of watercolour paintings gives us a glimpse of a quiet and quaint little creatures with leaves, tendrils and petals all in their own world. This multidisciplinary artist has always been fascinated with mythology and ancient cultures. He often uses this theme of subject as an exploration of his illustrations. He believes that there is always a story worth to be told and how it is relatable to modern society. We sat down with the artist to discuss about his latest creation and the story behind Masih segan.

I: How would you describe your art in general?

Nadhir: My artworks usually involve me exploring something that is mundane and trying to find magic in them. The marriage of mundanity and it being magical. I guess that’s how I would describe it. I try to find something mythological and find something magical in things that are usually very mundane or very boring in our daily lives. For example, trying to draw a face in plants. I have always been fascinated by ancient creatures and mythological element. There are so many mythological creatures in the world, I feel like I should not exploring things repetitively. For my previous collections, I was more inspired by Abrahamic mythology, Islamic, Christianity, Hinduism and also Buddhism. For this current work I just want to get back to the roots, like being Malaysian and infusing the Nusantara feel to it. It is fascinating to talk about Buraq, Kali or Ganesh but then what about us? Here’s a thing about Malaysia, we were culturally assimilated by Hinduism and then Islamisation, so we don’t really know where our ancestors truly were from and that fascinated me.

Q: What is the inspiration behind Masih Segan?

Nadhir: The main inspiration behind Masih Segan is to look back at what happened after I released Segan, which is the original series for Masih Segan. It’s as if I am trying to look back and see, how it is so far, am I still segan or have I done something with it. If I have then what is all about? That is what inspired me, because there are so many things that had happened after my residency at Rimbun Dahan. I just want to process it. So, the main inspiration was by checking if the vulnerability is still present and if the shyness is still there.

I: You mentioned that Masih Segan is a closure for Segan, could you elaborate more on that?

Nadhir: Roughly, the closure is about me looking back at the vulnerability and if the timidness is still there. I am still exploring nature, what I can do and what I can do with being shy. There is nothing you can be more segan off. On another note, GMBB let us stay for three months, I have exhibit the Segan series since the 10th of October 2018, all the older pieces was here with the addition of the new one and that is why I wanted to do the showcase. When I first open the exhibition here, I never did an opening or sharing session for Segan, so here we are.

I: You mentioned earlier about your residency at Rimbun Dahan, how was it like and does your residency there influence the creation of Segan and Masih Segan?

Nadhir: It was wonderful, I felt really comfortable to explore what I was able to do. It felt very safe and comfortable to try things. That lead me to go all out in whatever I was trying and experimenting with Segan, which lead to the creation of it. Besides that, I got the opportunity to meet other artists with a diverse background. Since we stayed there, we got the chance to get know each other. They shared with me the things that they know and I shared the things that I know with them. So being at the residency itself felt very inspiring along with the combination of the nature and comfort which enhances the experience.

I: You’re a multi-disciplinary artist. For the current projects you shifted to watercolour, why?

Nadhir: Yes, you can say that. I usually work with digital illustration. This is my first time using watercolour for my work and there is nothing fancy about why I picked this medium. I opted for watercolour because it’s cheap. Oil painting is very costly and I have dabbled a little bit with watercolour back in college, so I felt like I can handle it. If I try acrylic, I don’t think I can handle it because I have never tried it before, that is why I choose watercolour. The reason why I explore it, is not that deep but why I stayed with it, is because the softness and how it resonates with the theme for Segan and Masih Segan.

I: What do you want people to take away from your Masih Segan series?

Nadhir: I want people to be vulnerable in their work and be sincere with it, which will make their work better. If you are segan, make the most out of that. If you are passive, make the most out of it. Whatever things that are seen as taboo or frown upon, I feel like we should you use that and come up with something good. I hope people can do that.

Segan is a malay word for shy and Masih Segan is still shy in malay.