Welcome to the Johor Art Gallery.. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

Although I would never describe myself as an artist, paintings and drawings has always captured my interest especially those that are a sight to behold.

I for one, do not and will not ever lay claim to be knowledgeable about art and its many forms. I would not dare. I have too much respect for art to make such claim.

The first few exhibits to greet you as you enter the gallery. I would not mind having one of them adorning the walls of my office. Adds character, don’t you think? (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

I do not know what constitutes modern art or abstract art. Nor do I know what is Renaissance or what is not. I do not even know the full range of the different genres of art forms there are.

But I do admit that I do know the difference between an oil painting, a charcoal drawing and even a pencil drawing.

In fact, I never got beyond watercolours when I was in school and throughout my whole school life, I only ever had one watercolour painting that was considered good enough to be exhibited during Annual Day and even that was during my primary or basic schooling years.

This is what I would call a painting in the traditional sense of the word. The painting is an oil painting and takes pride of place at the gallery. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

But I did witness my wife attempt several sketches or drawings and ever paintings, either using oils, charcoal, pencil, watercolours and even pencil colours. She is gifted in fine arts, my wife.

So when an opportunity to visit then Johor Art Gallery arose, we made sure to spend some time to visit the gallery. After all, its not everyday I personally get to go to view paintings, of any shape or form.

A contemporary art form? A art piece on the ‘Baju Telok Belanga’, a traditional dress style peculair to the state of Johor. The dress shown above is the male form of the dress. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

The Johor Art gallery is located at the YWJ Complex. Literally translated as the State Heritage Foundation, YWJ is the state foundation charged with the documentation, preservation and propagation of all forms of heritage that is peculiar to the state of Johor.

One of the state’s heritage that is being preserved and nurtured are the arts, be they the many different forms of paintings and drawings, pottery, as well as that of ‘Khat’ ( an Arabic form of calligraphy).

Two art forms combined ie pottery adorned with stylised Arabic calligraphy called Khat. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

The Johor Art Gallery is made up of two exhibition halls : one which is permanent in nature and the other, thematic with the exhibition to last three to four months.

During our visit to the gallery, the thematic exhibition had a feline theme. Instead of making a beeline to the thematic exhibition, we made a beeline for the fixed exhibits.

Some of the exhibits on show at the Johor Art Gallery. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

Upon signing in the gallery guest book (no fees charged here), we made our way to view the different exhibits on show.

The exhibition area for the regular exhibits was not a large one and this observation was itself acknowledged by the staff on site. The gallery could use with a bigger exhibition hall but then again, the Johor Art Gallery is not Guggenheim nor does it have a very rich benefactor with a generous largesse for the YWJ to expand the gallery as well as promote the local arts.

This charcoal drawing is that of The ‘Kuda Kepang’. It is a dance performed mainly by Johoreans of Javanese descent. It is a dance hypnotic onto itself and performers have been known to ‘act strangely’ at the height of the performance. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

Nevertheless, the exhibits on show was impressive. Well, at least from the eyes of this layman, with the charcoal drawings of the ‘Kuda Kepang’ as well as the poses of the traditional dancers capturing the essence of their performances.

My first visit to the Johor Art Gallery did not take long. It did troubled me a bit that my visit did not last as long as, say, my visit to a museum. But then again, a musuem and an art gallery are two different things.

Another charcoal drawing capturing performers of the Malay traditional dances in different poses of their performance. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

I may not be one of those people who would stand in front of a painting and try to delve into the thinking of the artist. I could never ever pretend to be able to do that.

But I am pleased to note that I still am able to distinguish between an oil painting and a charcoal drawing. Thanks be to the All Mighty. And yes, I can still pick out the streaks of charcoal as the artist draws his lines.

The Johor Art Gallery is in dire need of space. I would not be surprised that the day would come when the Johor Art Gallery would morph into a gallery of note, with enough space to house its collection.

Some interesting exhibits with a painting of a postage stamp having the image of His Majesty Sultan Sir Ibrahim taking the pride of place. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

As it stands, rumour has it that some of the gallery’s collection could not be exhibited due to limited space. As stated earlier, a generous benefactor, individual or corporate, with a large enough largesse would be helpful. That and also a tax relief incentive would do the trick. Maybe.

Still, it was an eye opener of a visit, to an art gallery in my home state and in my home town. I never thought there was one. Unlike in Kuala Lumpur.

Exhibits at the Johor Art Gallery. (photo credit : Shah Said ; @ all rights reserved)

A lot of work lies ahead if the State government is serious with the promotion of the arts. Not only for the artistic community but also for other interested parties too.

Private galleries may have a role to play in the future of the local art scene. Imagine a local painter’s effort fetching a decent price for his art? While he/she is still alive, that is.

It could still happen. If they are serious that is. One never knows.