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Anisa Mandahiling Artist Extraordinaire

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Anisa Mandahiling is a qualified architect and holder of MBA and until recently was working in an architect firm in London. But the inner artist in her was dying to be unleashed and she chucked in her day job to exploit her innate talent in art, fashion design and a performer.  “I see art as a multi-sensory experience. So, the combination of these 3 art forms tells my story. The performance itself tells the story about the whole idea behind the paintings and the fashion. I am a self-taught artist. I draw, design and create whatever is in my heart to my hands by telling a story. I must study, understand and love a story so intimately and deeply so that I can represent it. This is not a job but a mission. I simply just want to uplift the human spirit and entertained people with my own uplifted state of mind in a creative mode taking the audience on a magical journey interweaving art, fashion and the performing art.  My work has always been influenced by my Malay background and I want to bring it to the world in my own interpretation of it. Hence, I would describe my work as an interpretation of the classical Malay Archipelago art and culture into my paintings and fashion design. The significant feature in my paintings will be the solid and void lines in between the forms. The paintings that I’ve done don’t belong to any term or language in the art world. My strokes are very much influenced by my training as an architect. “


Anisa-Mandahiling - Artist Extraordinaire

Anisa-Mandahiling – Artist Extraordinaire



Ancient Culture Inspiration

Anisa comes from a pedigree of an ancient tribe called Mandahiling from the northern region of Sumatra in Indonesia from her paternal grandfather’s side. There was an exodus of Mandahiling migrating to Malaya in the 19th century to escape from political unrest in their country. Proud of her root she assumed the name Mandahiling as her pseudonym. Her birth name is Anisa Abdul Rahim. “My grandfather comes from a region that has a very old exotic cultured civilization, and the interesting part is that it still is. I’m a Malaysian but I am strongly rooted from my father’s side from Indonesia. I am always moved by the authenticity of the vernacularism and the traditionalism of the Malay culture. Due to the strong influence of globalization and modernization now, not many Malay would embrace the Malay art in their everyday life anymore. I am always inspired by the intricacy of the work, the old meanings and the symbolisms of everything in the Malay Archipelago and it has greatly influenced my painting and fashion design,” she elucidated.


Dalang Tuk Dalang – A Painting by Anisa Mandahiling

Dalang Tuk Dalang – A Painting by Anisa Mandahiling – A Painting by Anisa Mandahiling


Tales From The Canvas

 Anisa paints on canvas using a medium of oil and acrylic paint to breathe life into her subjects. For her latest series, she has ventured into pencil sketching. Her series of Dosa Si Kain Batik or The Sins of Batik Cloth is a conceptual art capturing the allure and subtle seduction of the attire of Malay women. Anisa interprets her concept, “ The traditional figure hugging batik sarong is a natural body shaper and it embraces a woman’s curves in the right places and is perceived as a temptation. This is where the taboos and the sins come kicking in, in the religious orthodox way of life in those days in Malay society. It is a thought-provoking series that explores the taboos in Malay society over the last few centuries revolving around a seemingly innocent garment. In the olden days, Batik sarong is different in terms of its design, processing and even in its material. It is worn by the ancient noble Javanese for its conceptualization of the universe and in Malaysia it is worn by regular people for everyday clothing because of its durability in its cotton material”. She continued, “To me, there is a lot of similarity between Malaysian women and the kain batik itself. Both of them are gentle yet strong. And I want to demonstrate the kain batik as prominently and as significantly in my paintings. I wanted to illustrate the kain batik with the most interesting stories and send a message that women are objects of desire rather than subjects of desire. The Malay women in this series are alone with their being during the practice of ritual art in the animism period.”


Cucuk Halus – Canvas 1 – A painting by Anisa Mandahiling

Cucuk Halus – Canvas 1 – A painting by Anisa Mandahiling


Cucuk Halus – Canvas 2 – A painting by Anisa Mandahiling

Cucuk Halus – Canvas 2 – A painting by Anisa Mandahiling


When Fashion Meets Art

 Being an architect, designing comes naturally to Anisa. Aside from her art, she has started the clothing line of Anisa Mandahiling. She said, “It is an interpretation of the Malay traditional costume. The architectural form of the traditional clothing is to be addressed in a modern, elegant and alluring look. The dresses and the look will adapt the structural elements of the traditional clothing leaving a silhouette of more structured, lean and clean cut. And right now, I’m interpreting the kain batik and the Kebaya traditional dresses into a structured look design. I will translate the Dosa Si Kain Batik into my fashion design. ” Her fashion collection is taking a bit of a back burner at the moment as she concentrates on her painting. This multi-talented lady is also skill in the performing art of singing. “Right now, I have a duo performance with Abdullah Mufa on drums and cak-lem-pong, a smaller clunking sibling of Gamelan instrument. I wish so much to play with the whole Gamelan orchestra in my next exhibition event / fashion runway in old abandoned castles in England uplifting audience with performance and hypnotizing sounds of the gamelan banging from wall to wall with my singing.”


Periuk Nasik Leha - A painting by Anisa Mandahiling

Periuk Nasik Leha – A painting by Anisa Mandahiling


 A Rising Star

As an emerging artist, her painting series “Darjat Kepala” and Dosa Si Kain Batik represented Malaysia in Paris at the UNESCO Headquarters for International Women’s Day.  Her paintings had also been featured on CNN from the collections of Sime Darby Berhad, a Malaysian multinational conglomerate who also owned the Battersea Power Station development in London. She had a solo exhibition at the Malaysian High Commission as well as at the Overseas Malaysian Executive Council in Kensington to celebrate Malaysian brands in London. Her work was chosen for an exhibition at Portcullis House at the Houses of Parliament in London as part of the showcase of the Work of Women Entrepreneurs from the diaspora communities of UK. Her next exhibition will be at Oxford University.

Anisa is very self-motivated in her work but what fuels her creative inspiration I asked. “ I combined with intense studies of master architects, conceptually, the studies, aspirations and inspirations of the ancient civilizations’ artwork during my early years of architecture such as the Pohon Budi, Balinese and Javanese classical painting, Persian miniature paintings and Siamese classical painting has influenced my thought process of creating my works now. Visually, the sense of solid and void is very prominent in my paintings. It’s like the silence between the notes that makes up a repertoire. I am influenced by the unknown and anonymous artists that created the ancient Wayang Kulit (shadow play), the mystical intricate Malay dagger carver and antique Malay jewellery designer, the Batik Chop steel moulder, the Songket Golden Thread weaver and the ancient Gamelan Orchestra instrument designer and conductor.”

Her motto in life is “Don’t ever bother about weaknesses. Acknowledge it and believe in yourself and then, be a bulldozer. Just bulldoze towards everything.”  I have no doubt this multi-talented lady will bulldoze her way to success. Watch this space!


Lubang Dinding - A painting by Anisa Mandahiling

Lubang Dinding – A painting by Anisa Mandahiling



Anisa’s official Faceback page : https://goo.gl/ZCnswY

Email : anisamandahiling@gmail.com

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