Imagine a world where political differences are settled through an art battle. Well, there is such an event which has gained prominence worldwide and now has become a yearly affair in Malaysia.

Art Battle Malaysia started off when organiser Ruby Subramaniam fell in love with the event when she attended it in Brazil. She knew right away that she had to bring it back home.

Unlike last year when the event was held at Publika Shopping Gallery, the second Art Battle Malaysia event was held at Inti College Subang Jaya, in conjuction with the Inti Fresh carnival-themed weekend, catering to students and the public.

The preliminary rounds commenced with 11 painters, Anna Sabrina, Arif Rahman, FayFay Xiao Ting, Jean Lynn Chang, Komeil Zarin, Mona KV, Pooja Verma, Juan Villanueva, Jiet Wong, Ahmad Syahmi and Jerome Liew who were each given 30 minutes to produce a skillful painting that would win the individual votes of the event goers.

Paintings from the first preliminary round.
(From left, Jean Lynn Chang, Anna Sabrina, Jiet Wong, FayFay Xiao Ting, Juan Villanueva and Mona KV)

The atmosphere of every round was intense as the painters had to paint their pieces on stage next to each other, in front of an audience and with the assaulting blare of loud music; as opposed to a comfortable and intimate studio work space.

The weather too, was unforgiving as the elements gave way and poured over the tents above where the artists were painting, casting a gloomy sky very much in contrast with the vibrant colours splayed all over their canvases.

Undeterred by the daily afternoon storm and the mentally and physically challenging, adrenaline-rush nature of the battle, Anna Sabrina, FayFayXiao Ting, Juan Villanueva, Komeil Zarin, Pooja Verma and Ahmad Syahmi had made it through to the semi-finals.

Day 2 of Art Battle Malaysia 2, semi-final round.

For Juan Vallinez, he described his affinity towards Art Battle Malaysia as a platform that does not just promote artists, but also helps artists to feel less vulnerable and more bolder when it comes to ‘these sort of situations’ (having to paint in front of a live audience under 30 minutes).

Juan advises, “It helps to push your boundaries, not only when it comes to art, but like when you go inside your room and get closeted out of fear of how people may judge your artwork. No, just go ahead, push your limits and show your artwork to the world.”

“I used to be that sort of guy who would be like “okay guys, this is my work….” and now I’m like, “this is MY WORK.” So your self-confidence is boosted up, not to the point where you are narcissistic, but just enough to help you feel confident about your paintings and stuff. It’s a great platform, Art Battle.”

Juan and his painting from the semi-final round.

Pooja Verma, who won over voters hearts in the preliminary round with an intense, blue-enriched painting of a night sky reflected by water, passionately discussed why she chose that colour for both of her paintings in the preliminary and semi-finals.

“Blue! Why blue? Its not pink for sure. Blue is very vibrant and I like bright colours. When I paint, I always use blue, purple, yellow and red. So when I paint using these, my feelings of vibrancy and happiness come out.”

Explaining the inspiration for her paintings, “I’m a night person, not a day person so usually I sit on my balcony with my studio light and look out on to the moon and stars when I paint, so the blue colour gives me a sky sort of feeling.

Pooja proudly showing off her painting from the semi-finals.

After the semi-final rounds, it was determined that the two artists who had made it to the final round for a painting face-off were crowd favourites Komeil and Sabrina.

Komeil, who had established his artistic skills in the first round by painting a live model of a girl using a laptop had proven to be one of the biggest contenders of the event. Hailing from Iran and living in Malaysia for six years now, Komeil is a professional with leagues of experience under his belt.

Sabrina, who had participated in Art Battle Canada a few years ago, may be young and petite, but packed a powerful punch with her watercolour paintings that had sailed her straight to finals.

Sabrina and Komeil the finalists, posing before their last round in Art Battle.

When interviewed, Komeil enthusiastically elaborated on how he will continue painting until he reaches the end of his lifespan.

“Until the last day hopefully, like Paul Cezanne swore to die painting and he actually did it! It’s all that I am and I have found that painting is the purest activity for me.”

The painting in the semi-finals that had secured Komeils place as a finalist. Picture credit: Alex Lim.

Distinguishing between his experience of painting in both Iran and Malaysia when asked, Komeil interjected,

“You see there is art as a language to express yourself, to learn and explore, pass the barriers and gain a new understanding of things. Talking about the Islamic Republic of Iran and Malaysia, both are governed by people who have concerns and values that sometimes stand against the values in art. This art that we talk about, has had its own structure, principles and journey through centuries, a truly profound practice. So how do I find the practice of art in these two countries that you mentioned? I find it very, very poor. However thanks to wonderful activities like Art Battle, it is indeed very educational to have a variety of painters with different painting styles displayed to the society.”

Curious about his favourite artist at Art Battle, Komeil mentioned Arif Rahman.

“Arif. I really liked what he was doing, a portrait. He’s a cartoonist and an illustrator and the painting canvas is not his primary medium, but I really think he did a good job.”

Arif Rahman. Picture Credit: Allie Hill

For the final round, Sabrina had painted a portrait figure of a lady that she described is close to what she feels like as an artist, when a burst on inspiration occurs for an idea to paint.

Komeil on the other hand, had chose to reflect on how he introduced himself to painting as a child, by painting out his favourite cartoon characters and attempted to create an impressionist painting of Mickey Mouse, painting.

Sabrina and Komeil’s finished artworks, side by side.

It was difficult to guess who would have won the final round while the votes were being tallied. The artist that had proven his talent throughout all rounds but decided to take a humble route in his final artpiece?

Or the watercolour-painter-girl that has a penchant for bright, colourful paintings of beautiful women?

The crowd preferred the latter.

Anna Sabrina had won Art Battle Malaysia #2, with three stunning water-colour paintings.

All three of Anna Sabrina’s paintings in Art Battle Malaysia #2. Picture Credit: Anna Sabrina

When questioned on what her biggest take-away from the competition was compared to her experience in Art Battle Canada, the ecstatic Sabrina said it was how her opponents here had formed a bond.

“I think the difference is Malaysian’s are really friendly, I bonded quite well with the other painters here. In Canada, I was going up against a professor and he already had art galleries. It was all very intimidating and they were all huge, big sized mat sallehs. They all thought I was 13 there. Over here though, everyone bonded and that has truly made my experience.”

On winning, Sabrina explained “I did not expect it but I had a lot of friends who supported me so that’s what matters.”

To budding artists and the general public, Sabrina advises “Do art. Even though people may look down upon it most of the time, but its something that humanity likes and it is passed down over generations so, appreciate art.”

Well, the next time you have a score to settle with someone, why not join Art Battle Malaysia?

Were you at Art Battle Malaysia #2? Have an experience you wanna share? Drop us an email to editors@eksentrika.com!