To Adelaide visual artist Daniel Connell, Malaysia is a metaphor of several cultures coming together.
Speaking at the launch in Lion Arts Centre on Thursday, Connell says his latest project acknowledges a growing young Malaysian community in Adelaide.
“My work is about handmade portraits that bridge cultural and introduction of the gap,” he says. Connell’s previous projects include the Sikh, African, and Afghanistan among other communities in Australia.
His latest project is part of the OzAsia Festival which is held annually in presenting Asian arts while celebrating Australian’s multicultural society.
The exhibition consists of 25 portraits of Malaysian students and there is a video projection showing Connell working on the portraits every night on the wall of William Grenfell Centre.
Connell says that the project’s name derives from the idea of Adelaide being the south point for Southeast Asian community.
“Malaysia is an example for successful multiculturalism for thousands of years strongly represented in North, South, East, and West, my idea here is that Australia being the final point for that multiculturalism,” he says.
Connell adds that he sees Adelaide being the place for young Malaysians at the moment and he wants to celebrate it through the project.
The visual artist collaborates with Malaysian Student Council of Australia (MASCA) in order to reach out to young Malaysians in Adelaide, saying his experience with the Malaysian students was ‘inspiring’.
“I met the students for the first time in April. They are lively, diverse, and very confident. Everybody spoke, no one sat there quietly. They got on very well together. It is very inspiring to see them,” he says.
Initially, the visual artist had his doubts about working with the students due to concerns about privacy and sensitivities.
“I was really particular about the young Muslims women being drawn. But they were upfront asking to be drawn,” he says, adding that they all agree to have their portraits projected on the street.
He says that the Malaysian students’ openness contrasted greatly with his idea of how students behave.
“I remember when I was a student, I was hesitant. I was a little bit suspicious and I was certainly not the most reliable person,” he says, adding quickly that these students were very organised and reliable throughout the work process.
Connell says that he was happy when he realised during the working process that the end result would reflect his idea of representing both Malaysian and Australian multiculturalism.
“Indians, Malays, Chinese, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists. There is no sense of division in the room. There is no sense of disparity. No sense of hierarchy,” he says.