gallery of selected works 2000 - present


what goes on in the background...



KLIA Times magazine: interview 2008 by T. Vignesh
Published in KLIA Times, September 2008 issue, pp 3.

Abdul Multhalib Musa finishes in the top 100 in the sculpture competition in Beijing, held concurrently with the recent summer Olympics.

IF anyone had thought that national badminton player Lee ChongWei was the only Olympic hero in winning a silver medal for the badminton singles event, then they should give it a second thought.

Abdul Multhalib Musa, 32, one of Malaysia’s contemporary sculptors received recognition to be the first Malaysian to be chosen to contribute for his artwork, which is now displayed at the Beijing Olympic Park City.

His sculpture in Beijing is called ‘Two Sides’ and it was selected from among 2,700 other participants from around the world to join 99 other selected sculptors in the park.

“I was commissioned by the Beijing Government after entering an international sculpture competition in 2005,” he said.

“There were over 2,000 participants competing in the first round of the competition and from there, 1,000 were selected to enter the next round. Last year, I was informed that my art piece was selected together with another 99 sculptors throughout the world for the final round, and that is a great achievement for me.”

Multhalib, who studied architecture in UiTM, has now added this achievement to the number of International Awards and Residencies he has previously won.

His latest effort was the, ‘Twist’, which was recently displayed at the Wei-Ling gallery in Kuala Lumpur. It took him about two to three years to complete the work on the ‘Twist’.

“To complete a sculpture will take a lot of time, because when you do it the first time, it will not come out perfectly or come out the way it is supposed to. So when this happens, you throw it away and do it again. It also involves a laborious process defined by trial and error,” he added.

His art pieces can been seen in many places such as in Mid Valley, Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Wisma Selangor Dredging and even in several bungalow houses in Bangsar.

“Sculptors now are in demand among many rich people, because a sculpture is not only to beautify a place but it also brings out an image of the place or a person”.

Multhalib began drawing at the age of three as he used to draw on walls using crayons and colour pencils, and at the age of six, he had already won his first gold medal for an art piece that he produced in a kindergarten drawing competition.

“I guess that was the turning point in my life, where I knew that art is something I wanted to do in life,” said the artist.

“I am the only person in the family who is in this field. My father is a retired civil servant while my mother is a retired school teacher and my sister works with Mimos,”

“Although art does not interest them, they have been very supportive. My parents used to send me for art classes and encouraged me to be more creative.

“Ever since I was small up until now, the things that will make me happy is drawing, painting and making things. Now, this is my career, and I take it so seriously that even if I am not doing anything physically, I will be mentally planning my next sculptures.

“I will look at something and get inspired which will immediately trigger a lot of ideas. It can be anything. It can be from talking to people, looking at them or political issues. I have some pieces inspired by political issues”.
“I have future plans. I want to enter as many competitions as possible and see what happens then, because you can’t really plan anything as an artist,” added Multhalib.

enlarge his notion of art

Article published for REVUE1, Dept of Architecture and Planning UITM, 2002.
Written in 2001 mid-way through the year long Rimbun Dahan Artist Residency Program, Kuang, Selangor, Malaysia

enlarge his notion of art

The opportunity to study overseas prior to continuing my professional architectural degree at UiTM (1999-2000) has taught me to appreciate some of the difficulties that local designers have to go through in order to convey their ideas as well as for it to be accepted. Therefore, a chance to be able to meet a well-known and established architect is always an encounter that is filled with anxiety and enthusiasm after having studied some of their works over the past few years. Incidentally, for a recent graduate architect to be able to live within the compound of one of Malaysia’s distinguished designer such as Hijjas Kasturi, is a whole different story. The home of renowned architect Hijjas Kasturi and Angela Hijjas is the place where I will be spending my whole year of 2001, as an artist under the Rimbun Dahan Artist-in-Residence Program.

Evidently, architecture and art are difficult to separate even though both may be different. From another perspective, both are indeed similar and could even be one in the same. In a nutshell, architecture is more or less about doing something for someone else, and the process is structured towards achieving a hermeneutically sound understanding in conceiving a balance between the various factors that makes up built environment. In this respect, I somehow feel the architectural course that I have been committed to these past few years have slowly detached myself from the more conventional artistic expression that I have been accustomed to.

The decision to apply for the residency came about during my final year at UiTM. Like most of the students in my class, the potential to graduate without any ‘glitch’ was deemed as rather slim for some obscure reason. Loosely speaking, the intention for the application was to safeguard against the threatening possibility of failure to complete the course at UiTM. Thus, a year to ‘recuperate’ at a place like Rimbun Dahan seems more appealing instead of repeating the course without a break or worse still, going off for part-time work.

At the time, morale among members of the group was low and having been called back to Malaysia after completing our ‘part-one’ overseas did not make things easier. Adjusting to a different learning system is a difficult process. The architectural course was like running a marathon without a clue as to how long the distance was supposed to be covered. In the end however, I managed to pull myself together in the nick of time and was one of the few lucky ones to have made it through alive. At about the same time, my application for the residency was accepted and my professional architectural career upon graduation was about to take a slight detour, at least for a while.

I feel there has always been a need to redefine the artistic collaboration in architecture, and vice-versa. Needless to say, studying architecture has fostered a way of thinking in establishing an approach to designing and form-making, that is perhaps different than if one was to pursue a course in fine arts for example. After having had to ‘put a hold’ on art for the past few years to concentrate on the architectural process, it was about time that I get back to creating what I want to create, even though I could do it for only a year. Rimbun Dahan, I feel is one of the few venues in Malaysia that allows me to accomplish what ever subconscious issues that needs to be dealt with as an artist, without ‘outside’ interference.

So far, Rimbun Dahan has indeed been a very pleasant and interesting experience. Despite is virtually remote location, the place regularly receive visits from the general public and various organizations, and this in turn is in keeping with one of its objectives which is to promote art and make it accessible to the masses. Project wise, the works that I have set out to do is yet to see the daylight despite having been here for almost half a year. Believe it or not, doing artwork is much more difficult than designing a high rise building. There’s no one around to report to or check up on your progress, or deadlines to meet apart from the year-end exhibition. Perhaps the difficulty lies in the highly personal nature of the project and therefore is more difficult to realize. Perhaps I am still adjusting to a totally different environment and the unaccustomed physics of acquiring and transmitting knowledge.

In retrospect, I have come to understand what it takes to become an architect in Malaysia, at least as a graduate architect who was partially shaped by UiTM. Unfortunately, I was a failure in many other respects, especially pertaining to the development of knowledge in general, and specifically my life-long interest in art. The course has indeed taken its toll on me personally as well as mentally and the past two years has been emotionally draining. Perhaps due to lack of personal time management and proper planning, the workload had left little room for other self-indulgent pursuits such as ‘non-architectural reading materials’ and the struggle to do art which for me, is an endeavor that requires a peace of mind an abundance of free-time in hand.

Fortunately, the Rimbun Dahan Residency Program is a timely attempt to further develop an interest that could possibly result in my work being a medium that bridges the highly technical aspect prevalent in architectural works, and the seemingly abstract representation of form more commonly associated to art. We live in a beautiful world but its obscurity is sinking the very soul of our benevolent intentions, and when ‘giving in’ becomes the only resistance we have to keep whatever aspirations afloat, then perhaps ‘something is wrong somewhere’…

For now, here I am, contained in my own world where time is at large, devoid of any contextual orientation, and ignorant of any wrongdoing. We must love and care for our work, simply because no one else will.


Text written for Rimbun Dahan Resident Artist exhibition catalog 2002

It is my intention to highlight in my work issues related to space and temporality, the integration of technology and inspiration, truth and illusion affecting everything that we perceive as tangible and implied, in an attempt to establish a complex relationship between art and architecture. When considering my work, it is necessary to be aware that current thinking suggests that each domain may be addressed in isolation from one another, and that academically there are perceptible similarities and differences between art and architecture. However, for me any distinctions are becoming more difficult to distinguish from what was preconceived. It is at this initially conceptual level that an intangible idea (re)shuffles between what can be classified as art and architecture, and thus is materialized into the final body of work.

Most of my work is derived from a sort of spontaneous, non-linear, seemingly non-sequential contemplation between what could be and what exists, what is meant to be experienced and what is actually felt. It is from our surrounding natural and built environment, and consequently the interactions or lack of them, that we acquire knowledge and inform our thinking, and it is from others that we learn about the self and how to nurture any talent that God has given us. At this stage, I have come to perceive the self as a composite that is often contradictory and internally incomplete. Perhaps this is one way to relate to my work, in a sense that it is conceptualised and manifested in fragments and aggregates that reveal a certain personal characteristic, which challenges the reader to engage with the work at various levels of interpretation.

I have always felt that the need to resolve and comprehend a seemingly simplistic two dimensional drawing in order for it to be properly developed into a three dimensional form is a daunting task. Hence, it has been a struggle for me to envisage a three-dimensional and non-planar composition such as a non-Euclidean design for a sculpture, which needs to be drawn on the two-dimensional plane in the form of sections, plans and elevations. Even more difficult perhaps, is the need to acquire a sort of paradigm shift from thinking in terms of large-scale projects such as buildings, to a more subtle language that is better suited for a sculptural undertaking, much smaller in scale by comparison. Hence, the problem with physical models is that you can only do so many and while computer-aided designs are better for the diversified repetitive tasks, the form is only virtual and lacks the inherent property of the finished material that could create a sense of scale and proportion. These concerns have been an ongoing personal conflict and the result, whether successful or not, is apparent in the work. My undergraduate studies in architecture have undoubtedly molded a certain way of thinking in conceptualizing the physical body of the work.

As a result of this particular mode of thinking, the process of realizing an idea can be scrutinized as rather architectural in its approach, yet does not have the constraint architects normally face. It is said that one way of differentiating art and architecture is their different responses to objective requirements. Hence, if art is seen as speculative thinking, then what I am doing must be art by default since everything I do is conjectural, non-functional, and self-directed - though I am not implying that architecture is already art, or vice-versa. Consequently, I do not design the final works themselves, but more oriented towards conceiving the possible relationship between solids and voids, positive and negative space, or the obvious and the hidden. I prefer to consider this process as parallel to generating an organized system in order for the tectonic idea to be workable. This would result in the actual fabrication to be more feasible and practical in a sense that wastage of material is minimized, ease of construction and assembly is achieved, while still maintaining the desired result that was originally conceived.

All of the possible generative sources are given adequate consideration during inception and this develops into a wide spectrum of architectural and artistic interpretation. Although difficult to describe, the work often begins from this infinite and productive intuition, which is challenged and tested both physically and mentally. It then matures from the intangible realm of thought, propelled by its own internal energy, in an effort to consciously make something out of nothing. This is an iterative methodology of working and reworking an idea at various stages of the design development, and perhaps a feasible justification on the continuity of form that is apparent from one work to another. In a way, the coherence is a result of the consistent use of this repetitive method, which evidently is carried throughout the physical aspect of the work itself.

The works themselves are certainly ‘end products’ in their own respect. Basically, the final built objects are finite, well defined, and are more or less free from the imperfections of the production process. Nevertheless, I still consider the ‘finished works’ to be incomplete, schematic, trapped in the midst of their production, with potential to be further developed. Seen from this perspective, the work is left as if merely to engage other students and professionals within the field of art and architecture. However, as built and finished works they also have the opportunity to engage the public for whom they were meant and any subsequent unanticipated public. Therefore, the work is indeed offered with the intention of being read while addressing the reader with a multitude of interpretations, and to personally sustain the design process to be intellectually animated.


Multhalib can be regarded as one of Malaysia's younger leading contemporary sculptors. He has become known for his 'fluid metal sculptures' which seem to have been effortlessly carved out of metal. The contradiction of transforming a hard material into a supple, pliable form, demonstrates his interest in the manipulation of the medium. This in part stems from his educational background - an architect by training. He pursued his Bachelor's Degree in Design Studies from the University of Adelaide in Australia, thereafter obtaining his Bachelor of Architecture from MARA University of Technology in 2000. He has been granted numerous international awards and residencies in recognition of the work that he has done. In 2001 he was selected for the Rimbun Dahan Residency in Malaysia, and the following year was presented with the Award of Excellence at the 6th Oita Asian Sculpture Open Competition in Japan. He was the recipient of the Australian High Commission Residency in 2004, and was commissioned through an international competition by the Beijing Olympic Park City Sculpture Project 2008 to create a major outdoor sculpture for the Beijing Olympics, China. In 2008 he was selected for the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit held in Tokyo, Japan. Recently his work was selected for the Ordos 11th Asia Arts Festival, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, and another outdoor work for the Urumqi International Urban Sculpture Symposium held in Xinjiang, China.

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what goes on in the background...


gallery of selected works 2000 - present
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