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Tough market for Brunei visual artists
POSTED | 5:02 AM | 25-03-2015

Tough market for Brunei visual artists

-- By Izzan Kassim

Despite growing interest in the arts, most local artists and gallery owners in Brunei are still struggling to thrive in a tough market.

While holding art exhibitions and having their paintings displayed in galleries help in marketing their artwork, visual artists interviewed by The Brunei Times said they can only make a livelihood through commissioned work.

“At the moment we are seeing a slow and gradual shift in people being more accepting of the arts and beginning to see the benefits of arts,” said Lisa Ahmad, founder of Kaleidoscope Studio.

But despite such positive development, Lisa has acknowledged that only a few will appreciate, much less buy paintings for their homes.

“Art is very subjective and personal,” she said, adding that while it might be appreciated, buying an art piece and living with it is an entirely differently thing.

Lisa said artists need to get commissioned for portraits, calligraphy and landscapes in order to make a living.

Artist Lizzan Linggat, better known as Ejan, said while a number of people buying art from galleries has increased in the past few years, the local art market remains small.

“Usually the paintings displayed at the gallery are bought by government agencies or tourists who are interested in landscape paintings,” he said.

Ejan has sold some of his artwork through the gallery. But he said the bulk of his income comes from commissioned portraits.

He said that he receives about 20 requests for portraits every month. The price for each portrait ranges from $25 to $900, depending on the size and materials used.

Nurul Hafiqah Muhammad Hassan, a staff member at the Rainforest Gallery, said the gallery sells about two paintings a month.

“Even though there are a lot of people at the park in the evenings, not many of them visit the gallery,” Nurul Hafiqah said.

The gallery is located at the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Silver Jubilee Park.

Nurul Hafiqah, who has several paintings on sale at the gallery, said that most artists try to sell their paintings at the gallery as a way to make extra income.

Kaleidoscope Studio’s Founder Lisa Ahmad said it’s not easy to pursue art full-time. She said that while a career in the arts is fulfilling, it will also require a lot of effort and hard work.

“The best artists are the ones with absolute commitment and make art the number one priority,” she said.

To artists that are seeking to expand their market, Lisa advised them to share their work through the Internet, as their art can be seen by more people.

She said that selling their art online might bring in more income in addition to gaining more recognition.

Article courtesy of The Brunei Times

Photo credit: Lisa Ahmad, Kaleidoscope Studio

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