A Thousand Days of Change | Solo Exhibition | 2019

A Thousand Days of Change Catalogue

Bawang Merah & Cotton Candy 2018

The solo exhibition ‘A Thousand Days of Change’ captures the sudden and peculiar start to the outpouring of artistic work of Mulaika. She started putting paint on canvas a few days after her grandfather’s death in January 2016 and has not stopped ever since. With over 100 paintings to date, this show presents 55 of her best work in ‘a thousand days’ since the first painting (2016-2018). Mulaika created these works when she was between the age of 12 and 14, making her the youngest artist ever hosted by the National Art Gallery of Malaysia for emerging artists. The exhibition explores themes of relationships, travel, loss, identity and her life events. It captures the growth and evolution of a naturally gifted artist in her transition from a sensitive child to an inquisitive young adult. The exhibition also features eight short films written, directed and produced by the artist.


Kindergarten 2018

“Res ipsa loquitur” is a Latin phrase that means “the thing speaks for itself.” Mulaika Nordin is the youngest artist in history to be supported by Balai Seni Negara under its Creative Space program which promotes emerging artists. To my mind, that statistic not only speaks for itself but also speaks volumes for the precocious talent which is on display in this 15 year old’s first solo show here at the home of Malaysian art.

The title of this exhibition, “A Thousand Days of Change” alludes to the eventful period that has passed since the artist first unleashed her creative talents in January 2016 following the death of her grandfather. Since then she has painted more than 100 works of which 56 paintings are being showcased in this exhibition. 

It is almost surreal to think that “A Thousand Days of Change” is a thematically profound exploration of relationships, travel, loss, identity and other key life experiences.  As someone at the other end of the age spectrum, it is a reflexive reaction for me to question whether it is plausible that someone so young is equipped to engage in a meaningful artistic and intellectual discourse on such weighty topics.  However, that is to forget that a lot of things can happen in the first fifteen years of a child’s life.  The remarkable thing here is not that Mulaika has experienced many “seismic” events at this young age, but rather that she is already blessed with an artistic voice, which though still undoubtedly raw, enables her to communicate her thoughts and emotions with such eloquence.  

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” The paintings in this show are in effect a chronology of growth as they capture the evolution of a naturally gifted artist as she transitions from sensitive child to inquisitive young adult.  It is pertinent also to assess not just the sensibility of her approach to art but also the relative maturity of her work itself.  There is no doubt that even at this nascent stage in her career, there is an instinctive ease with which Mulaika applies paint to canvas culminating in beautiful works of art which belie her tender years. Even so, it would be a great disservice in this early passage of her career, to overstate the level of her work because this is an artist who I truly believe is destined for great things and I feel it is important that her talent is cultivated and nurtured with honesty so that she can realise her true potential.

Apart from her paintings, the exhibition also features 8 short films written, directed and produced by Mulaika which further speak to her versatility as an artist.  In these films we see her address issues such as the fragility of life and her response to excessive consumerism.  The medium is different but the approach is the same – cerebral, analytical, thought provoking and never static.

Beyond the art itself, I think it is important to understand the influences behind her evolution as an artist and, more importantly, as a person.  I have known Mulaika’s godmother, Salwah, for many years since she joined my law firm, Zain & Co., some 25 years ago and it is with great pride that I have watched her development into not only one of the best corporate lawyers in the country but also a person who is blessed with a wonderfully loyal and generous spirit.  Having someone like that in Mulaika’s life, I have no doubt, will have helped to shape the trajectory of her personality and career and the fulfilment of her remarkable potential. Above all, however, I am aware that behind every child prodigy, much as we fathers may try to take credit from time to time, there is always a mother.  Mulaika’s mother has been the unseen hand and sounding board that has allowed this little bird to spread her wings and I think it is only right, on this historical and special occasion, that her role should be acknowledged and applauded.

In recent years, much of my focus as a collector has been to recognise the work of younger artists and to support their progress.  To my mind, this approach is critical for the growth of art in our country and I am confident that Mulaika will be one of the shining lights in the future landscape of Malaysian art.  Balai Seni Negara must be commended for having the foresight to bring this body of works to the Malaysian public and I invite you all to embrace the repertoire of Mulaika Nordin as we bear witness to a defining moment in the journey of this fine young artist. 

Zain Azahari

Kuala Lumpur, 30th March 2019