Tunku Khalsom is revered for her work which exudes fluidity and stunning colour, whilst embracing the concepts of ‘Life, Love, and Change’.
As a self-taught abstract artist and Interior Architecture graduate of Malaysian and British descent, Tunku Khalsom is revered for her work which exudes fluidity and stunning colour. Embracing the concepts of ‘Life, Love, and Change’, Khalsom incorporates bright and bold colors which evoke different emotions, whilst having the power to alter mood and thought. With work displayed in the homes of private collectors across Asia, the USA, and Greece, Khalsom has also exhibited her work at the Affordable Art Fair Singapore and the Asian Art Platform Gallery, and is currently working on her latest collection alongside a series of private commissions.
Tunku Khalsom’s Highly Emotive and Artistic Creations Stem From An Appreciation For Life and Joy
You were born in Malaysia, you studied in the UK, you now live in Singapore. Where do you call home?
Probably one of the most difficult questions I get asked. I was born in Johor, Malaysia, to a Malay Father and a British Mother, but grew up in KL with my 3 brothers. All our holidays were spent on our family resort on Pulau Rawa, an amazing little island on the South East of Malaysia. It’s a really special and important place that has been in my family for a few generations.
l moved to the UK when I was 17 and spent 8 years there living in London and then Brighton, where I went to University. Then after a couple of years back in KL I moved to Singapore. That was back in 2010. So where is home?? I don’t know, I have so many homes. All of these places hold a special place in my heart, and I don’t feel like I belong to just one of them. And who knows… there might be more in the future!
Your family is in the Hospitality business, you graduated with an Interior Architecture degree. How have these backgrounds and studies influenced your art?
Ever since I was quite young, I always painted and put my artwork up at the resort. It was never very good, pretty awful in fact, and it makes me laugh now because my mum still has a lot of the pieces in her home. I grimace every time I see them, and tell her to stop hoarding, but she keeps them still.
As embarrassing as it is now, I see it as part of this long journey which has got me to where I am, a journey that I probably didn’t even realise that I was on until now. I don’t think that I’ve ever actually considered that I have been “exhibiting” my work for the past 20 years till this moment! That’s wild.
My background is in Interior Architecture, and I have worked designing hotels and resorts for years now, I feel like it has helped me to understand spaces as a whole, and in relation to my art, it has helped me learn composition and balance. When working on commissioned pieces, it can help if i know what the room the art is going in looks like, to see if I can pull in any colours or elements from the room into the piece.
I love that art is the perfect way to bring a space together. My design style is very much, ‘simple base with crazy accessories.’ It’s the same with my home and the way I dress. Dress in black, live in colour. hah.
Let us know more about your fascination for both skulls and butterflies which are recurrent features across your creations?
Butterflies have been following me around since I was 16 and got my first tattoo. I’ve always found them to be so effortlessly beautiful, which is the dream in my mind. Since then I have discovered that they have a dark side, I’m not going to get into it because it’s actually pretty gross, but you can look it up. I like the idea of being a surprise, and being unexpected, of having grit to your story. I love them for that.
As we already know, butterflies are a symbol of change, of metamorphosis, and combined with the skull you’ve got life, death, change and love, all the things that we experience in life.
Also I just think that they looking f*cking cool together.
You have been using bright and bold colours in your art. How would you describe your style?
My style is quite chaotic, there is a lot of texture and movement in my pieces. The textures I use are rough and gritty, they have cracks and crevices, textures that may normally be considered ugly, or broken, that combined with lots of colour! I’m obsessed with colour, how one bleeds into the other, how contrasting colours go so well together, how random combinations can totally surprise you. I love to see what happens when you layer colours and textures, and you are never completely sure what you’re going to get.
For me the brighter and the more colourful, the better, but I am learning to balance that out with darker and more neutral colours. In my art I’m looking for beauty in the chaos, beauty in the imperfections.
You have today collectors around the world, in Singapore, Malaysia, London, Brunei, Australia, Greece and in the US. What does such recognition mean for you?
It means the world to me that people want my art in their home, it’s such a special feeling knowing that a piece you created is bringing a smile to someone’s face everyday, what a privilege. I really just want to fill the world with colour and chaos.
The five words that describe best your art?
BRIGHT, BOLD, CHAOTIC, CAPTIVATING, COLOUR.
Any artist that has lately inspired you on the British art scene? Your views on Damien Hirst?
I am loving Nat Bowen, she’s a wonderful artist, her resin pieces have such rich vibrant colour and countless layers that create this amazing glow. They are pure joy to look at.
Sue Arrowsmith is another amazing British artist, she paints these incredible large scale detailed plants and flowers on bright coloured or metallic panels. They are enchanting.
Damien Hirst… King of skulls and butterflies, how could I not love him. Some of his pieces over the years, have been “interesting” to say the least, but you can’t not be in awe of someone who has created such a career through art. His work is so diverse that he has influenced the work of so many different artists, and what they are creating. Don’t they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
What is the role the artist plays in society?
Artists are historians of the time, capturing everything from current affairs to the most current colour, and the most current medium. Little pieces of now encapsulated on the “canvas”. Artists bring feelings to a space, they provoke thought and emotion through their work, they bring colour and life and joy. Or they just provide something bloody great to look at!
When and where can we expect to see your next solo exhibition?
Good question.. I’m not sure just yet, Covid has thrown a spanner in the works on that front, but there are a few things on the drawing board for the rest of this crazy year, so please just watch this space.
Where can we see some of you work online, are these for sale?
Instagram of course, where you can see what I am currently working on, as I do it. There are process videos and detail shots of my pieces. I also have my own website, which has all the finished and available artwork on it.
I am also represented by Addicted Art Gallery here in Singapore, and by Art Beyond Borders in Paris, they both will carry exclusive works. And yes pretty much everything is for sale!
You accept commissions. What is the working process there? How specific – or not – should a commission be?
Yes I do a lot of commission pieces. Clients can let me know their size and colour preferences, and styles of mine that they particularly like, and then we go from there.
There is always a lot of pressure with commission pieces as I want to make something that the client wants and will love. The client usually has an idea of what they want in their mind, which of course you can’t see, so it can be really hard. Communication is key! Then from then on a level of open mindedness is needed, but I really stress like crazy until they’ve seen it and love it.
If you were to name one mentor who has inspired you in your life and path as an artist, who would that be?
I don’t have one specific mentor, but I do have a couple wonderful wonderful people that have helped me along the way. They’ve always been there no matter what, always pushed me and encouraged me and challenged me. They have endured hundreds of photos of crappy paintings and insane ideas, and never complained. Haha, it may have been hard to get a non biased critique out of them, but I am so thankful nevertheless. Thank you, thank you, thank you, you know who they are.