The 2022 edition of the ASEAN Artists Residency Programme (AARP) brought two ASEAN artists to the global stage, offering a month-long residency programme at the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates.
Eunice Sanchez from the Philippines and Saiful Razman from Malaysia were selected as the resident artists of the programme’s special edition. Their works of art, produced during the residency, were also exhibited at the ASEAN Pavilion during the World Expo 2020 in February 2022.
“I heard about the programme through social media,” Saiful says. “This is an opportunity for me to work with ASEAN alongside other artists from Southeast Asian counterparts. I believe this programme will benefit the artists in this region by introducing our arts and crafts to the bigger platform.”
Although Saiful has collaborated with artists from Indonesia and the Philippines before, this is his first time to work alongside other ASEAN artists on a regional platform. The AARP was Eunice’s first opportunity to collaborate with another Southeast Asian artist.
During their stay, Eunice and Saiful were immersed in the heart of Sharjah’s art scene as their studio was in the heritage house of Bait Obaid Al Shamsi. They also went desert camping at Mleiha Archeological Centre, which became the source of inspiration for their artwork.
Away from home for the first time since the pandemic broke out, Eunice says the residency turned into a journey of self-discovery. Before the pandemic, she almost gave up pursuing the arts, thinking it was not her calling. However, being locked up during the pandemic’s early days rekindled her passion for the arts.
“When I applied, I proposed a concept of pugad [nest] to reflect the longing for seeking home. The concept is ingrained in human history of movement and migration as our ancestors used to be sailors, traders, and voyagers. Little did I know that I would later experience the longing for my own sense of home, from cooking Filipino food to trying out the only Jollibee in Sharjah. It’s like a self- fulfilling prophecy,” Eunice muses.
For her piece, Eunice used the cyanotype photographic process, an alternative photographic process that utilises photo-sensitive iron salts and sunlight to create white prints on a cyan-blue background. The white pattern in her artwork depicts the paradox of home, a reflection on her journey—finding a home away from home—during her stay in Sharjah.
Saiful created his artwork as a homage to the Heart of Sharjah. “I was amazed at how this city takes care of the historical monuments and the old structures such as buildings and walls. The way they designed this area is fantastic,” explains Saiful.
Saiful used acrylic in the background of his artwork, combined with the collage technique using medical gauze and tissue paper rolls. He says the medical gauze symbolises healing and protection, while the tissue paper represents the preservation of fragility, reflecting his observation on how the historical buildings in Sharjah are reconstructed and preserved.
“I have been working on the subject of the landscape since 2017, and it has developed into many series of works in the form of paintings, art installations and videos. ‘Home and Shelter’ is one of the sub-topics relating to the ideal landscape in my career.”
The art pieces were handed over to the Secretariat during the ASEAN Day 55 Celebration on 8 August 2022. “We are delighted to have worked with ASEAN on this important initiative that builds on the Foundation’s mandate to foster local, regional, and international development of contemporary art,” expressed Hoor Al Wasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General for Corporate and Community Affairs Tran Duc Binh also expressed appreciation to the Maybank Foundation for its sponsorship of the programme.
Eunice and Saiful share that this programme shows the importance of collaboration in creating art and they wish for the programme to live on to nurture more artists in the region. “Joining this programme, I realised that ASEAN artists have a lot to share. I hope we have our voice to tell stories for our audience first. And our history, politics and geography are much more connected in the past, and I hope to work together to create new arts,” explains