The path to financial stability for artists are often unpredictable. The is an innate lack of job security - no pensions and other benefits, and with the exception of household names, most artists need a day job (or two) to make ends meet.
Despite these uncertainties, budding artist Hannah Nazamil is steadfast in her pursuit of a career in art.
The first hurdle was her parental approval. “Like every Asian parent, they were like “What are you going to work as?”, when I said I will venture into arts,” says the young, UiTM master of fine arts student.
“It’s very ‘blurry’ in the sense of what you can do to generate an income,” she admits. “But there many things related to art that one can do - designing, advertisements, graphics.”
It is growing. People are more interested in arts. There are so many new galleries. Exhibitions or art talks are always packed
Nazamil, who is studying under the tutelage of contemporary artist Jalaini Abu Hassan, feels encouraged by the current art scene in Malaysia which she describes, while not flourishing yet, is revving up to be more vibrant.
“It is growing. People are more interested in arts. There are so many new galleries. Exhibitions or art talks are always packed. It didn’t used to be that way,” observes Nazamil.
She views that the rise of the freelancing or the gig economy helps artists to make a living whilst pursuing their interests. Social media and online platforms such as Instagram or Behance also help artists promote their work to the public.
“You hear how artists struggled in the past. You don’t go through the same struggles now. The struggle in this generation is for us in finding a place in the market and where you are located in the whole ecosystem,” says Nazamil.
“I’m the kind of person that just goes knocking on doors, and see who opens it, where it leads me to,” she adds. “And then whatever obstacles you face, just do your best.”
While there is a more promising ecosystem supporting artists, Nazamil thinks there is still a lack of critical discourse, commentary and writing on artworks, a view also shared by her mentor, Jailani.
“There is a vacuum in that part - we have a lot of doer, but not (enough) people to review, talk and write about it,” he says on Let’s Talk With Shaarad Kuttan.
“We produce a lot of artists but lack of curators, writers and managers to manage artists,” says Jailani.
“I don’t teach people to draw anymore - that’s the basic level, we want to have intellectual discourse on art making, that’s the missing part,” says Jailani, adding that many professional Malaysian artists abroad feel the lack of a critical art ecosystem discourages them to return home.
“Arts is a combination of both talent and knowledge,” says Jailani. “I tell students, be a knowledgeable artist; be critical in art making.”
Watch the full interview with Hannah Nazamil below. Among others, she talks about the importance of having an exposure to the thinking and practices of artists globally.