Overlooking the University Lake, on the 5th floor of the Chancellery Building, the University of Malaya Art Gallery, simply known as UMAG, offers a reprieve from the busy daily routines while educating the public on the appreciation of the visual arts
Designed by Zuraini Anuar, though not the largest gallery in KL, UMAG is a comfortable size occupying 1500 square-metre on the 5th floor of the Chancellery building. The brainchild of the former Vice-Chancellor, Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon who envisioned the gallery to be an icon of the University of Malaya and a platform for the nobler pursuit of introducing local artists and their works to visitors, these objectives are an expansion of the cultural legacy of UM which was spearheaded by the former Vice Chancellor, Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz.
As the gallery has more than 300 pieces of artworks on display and there are plans to add more, space is innovatively created by installing movable walls so that visitors will not have the same experience over different visits, according to Abdul Aziz Rashid, the Curator. Apart from exhibitions and seminars, UMAG also conducts “Art Talk”, ”Painting With Painters”, ”Art Appreciation”, ”Play Activity” and ”Art Bazaars” in order to serve the diffrent needs of the community.
On the topic of UMAG’s collection, Aziz replied “Our collection has increased since the opening. We collect artworks regarded as unique from renowned international masters. UM has had a long tradition of collecting artworks since the 1950’s and we have works from past and current masters such as Chuah Thean Teng, M.F. Hussain, Abdul Latiff Mohidin, Syed Ahmad Jamal, Ali Mabuha and Zulkifli Yusof.”
In addition ot its permanent collection, UMAG also boasts the works of its current and former Resident Artists - Soh Boon Kiong, Maamor Jantan, Yusof ‘Gajah’ dan Juhari Said - each a master in his genre. Soh Boon Kiong is a master of abstract art while self-taught artist Maamor Jantan works with watercolours. Yusof ‘Gajah’ is Malaysia’s foremost naive art expert while Anugerah Karyawan Seni 2009 recipient Juhari Said leads in the development of the art of utilising printmaking in his work. Stephen Menon, the current Resident Artist, is a silkscreen arts master.
Although its operating hours are limited to weekdays from 9.00 a.m to 4.00 p.m, according to Aziz, the doors are not totally shut on weekends. “We do accept visits on weekends, provided an early notice and the necessary arrangements are made. But of course a long-term solution is underway.”
This little gem in the Chancellery building has also been the venue for hosting launches, afternoon teas and talks and judging by the reaction from visitors, UMAG has succeeded in fostering greater appreciation for the visual arts.
By Mohd Julian Borhanudin