A product of
West Aspiration Sdn Bhd
Exhibition: Langkawi Craft Complex
Atelier: Jalan Padang Tembak
Tel: +6 012 460 5595
By Kamila Delart
If you love unique pieces of art,
you should definitely meet
a local artisan whose exquisite wood carvings grace the office of Najib Razak, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the home of his predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
While not from a family of artists, Zul always had an eye for beauty and the urge to capture the wonders of the surrounding nature in little drawings he used to make as a little boy.
The very first time he had the opportunity to work with wood was at a local school during an art class. While only a very basic introduction, it was a life-defining moment! Then when offered a couple of years later a scholarship at an art school in Bali, he jumped at the opportunity without a trace of hesitation.
The first few months at the school were a rather sobering experience. Seemingly born with a chisel in their hand, the Indonesian classmates were well ahead, carving intriguing pieces while he spent months learning how to sharpen his tools. But rather than giving up, Zul went after the classes into the neighboring villages and spend every free minute watching old masters and learning the secrets of the trade.
While engaged full-time in an advertisement agency upon his return to Langkawi, Zul was honing his skills in the evenings and on his days off, enjoying for the very first time the freedom to come up with his own design. Always with a small notebook in his pocket when walking around, he would stop to capture the beautiful patterns the bubble crabs left in the sand, the shapes of waves on the sea during a stormy day, the clouds slowly passing on the sky above his head. And then he would go home and carve until a dead piece of wood became alive with the images he envisioned.
His talent did not remain unnoticed! Only three years later, he became a Resident Artist at the luxury resort, Tanjung Rhu. Displayed in the lobby and dining outlets, his artwork caught quickly the attention of visiting guests and before Zul knew it; his art was hanging in prestigious homes in Japan, Australia and various European countries. Just the encouragement Zul needed to start his own business!
Fifteen years and many exhibitions later, Azizul Ahmad is a well-known artist, frequently featured in glossy magazines. But his life didn’t change all that much. Humble and down-to-earth, Zul works in a small atelier adjacent to his home, and whenever he begins to work on a new piece, he retreats in this silent inner space, entirely focused, patiently waiting for inspiration.
Every piece is a new discovery journey: the multi-layered branches attempting to emulate the natural patterns of sticks and twigs, spirals capturing the swirling energies that rush to achieve peace at the center, waves in the constant flux and continuous motion, endlessly searching for their destiny… Soft and yielding, the nyatoh wood gives in easily while the reddish seraya likes to resist. And then there is chengal. Hard like a rock, the black bark anxiously guards the golden flesh inside, forcing Zul to take it slowly…
The greatest challenge present pieces of driftwood. Shaped by natural forces, they carry their own story, willing the artist to listen, feel with his fingertips the bulges and nooks until he discovers a dormant crab or a frog waiting to be brought to light. It can take weeks until the wood begins to speak. But when it does, Zul will stay awake, working throughout the night, coming out of the trance-like state only at the crack of dawn.
No wonder he has occasionally a hard time to part from a piece! Then again, the idea of his art hanging on a wall of a Victorian house in London or a sleek condo in Sydney does fill his heart with pride. Especially when he receives a ‘Thank You’ note from a delighted collector or an unexpected enquiry from an unknown fan who lives on the other side of the globe.
While Zul has a dream of opening his own gallery in the next two or three years, for now, you can admire a few selected pieces at the ‘Langkawi Craft Complex’ or visit Zul’s atelier and commission an artwork of your own. Whether you would like to have an exquisite wooden tile, a panel carving or a folding screen with an intriguing pattern, crafted with the virtuosity of a master, your art piece will be delivered to the doorstep of your home, no matter how close or far you live…