It was a good outing for me when I bumped into Ismail Hj Baba. Certainly a bonus to have an artist enthusing his art to me, a casual visitor to his stall. I was pleasantly surprised to see an artist at work, sandwiched among stalls promoting batik at the Hari Kraf Kebangsaan (National Craft Day)at Kraftangan, Conlay. Ismail was painting a landscape of houses in acrylic on canvas. He welcomed me warmly as my eyes roved the exhibits.
We got talking. 'So,you're a naive artist!' To my next question, 'How do you define naive art?', he explained that it is a child-like art. I told him my friend and illustrator for my book, My Shop and My Best Friend, Nur Azmi, is one too.
For 30 years, Ismail was in the hotel industry as an in-house artist. Really it was the well -known Yusof Gajah who introduced Ismail to this art .'He's my sifu' he proudly claimed. Then Ismail related how Yusof Gajah took him under his wings and Ismail has never looked back. Naive art it is for him. For Yusof Gajah, it's elephants that speak to his admirers at home and abroad. Ismail 's love for the marine world is enhanced in painting fishes. Facing me on the wall, was an art piece depicting nature - soaring birds, lush trees and vegetation and fishes swimming in the sea. On the small table is a wooden piece of art - fish shaped . In it I could see fishes and other elements making the decor piece an interesting conversation topic. Then I spotted how the shape of a a wedge of melon is retained and painted fruit and fish in one. Interesting!
Ismail 's art adorns his house - on the walls and every perceivable place. As he flipped his album , I could sense his great pride in his work and living his passion every day. He paints on canvas blocks, and even on mundane stuff like the kompang, chopping block, bamboo, rocks. It is items like these that tourists or those who have a smaller budget look for. He says the ' hot' sell among toursits is KL's famous Twin Towers and he has some ready for sale. Off his brushes, he splashes vibrant colours and I couldn't see any paintings that were dull or pastel shade.
He occupies a 'home' at the Artists Colony and students from colleges come to him for classes. From a corner he whipped up his sketch book and showed me samples of his sketches, many inspirations from his travels in Bali and local scenes. Ismail impressed upon me, 'In a sketch, an idea is born. Later, I can work on it and add or subtract and so it is never the same.' He insists his students show their sketches when they come to him and practise and practise.
'Where does inspiration come from?' I asked the oft repeated question. To this, Ismail says he travels and ideas just flow. He has just returned from India and has visited Bali, Vietnam, China etc.
I think he spent a good 25 minutes talking about art. Words just poured from him and he was kind of irrepressible in pointing certain aspects of art to me. Out of curiosity, he asked if I was a teacher by profession , in between our conversation. Funny enough, just earlier on during my rounds about the exhibition, someone asked me that same question too! He was willing to share and I felt I was being tutored by my new found teacher ! Already I have serious thoughts of becoming a student. Well, to tell the truth, I don't know if it's my nerves or his that will be tested. You see, my last art class was when I was in school ages ago. BUT, Ismail strikes me as good teacher, So I shall not fear !
Kompleks Kraf KL, Seksyen 63
Jalan Conlay, 50450 KL.
Kot 125 Lorong Kempas1
Kg Melayu Ampang
68000 Ampang, Selangor
Phone: 017 8830303