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Art(ist) Central: Anne Samat

The andromorphic, totemic presence of Anne Samat’s woven works is striking at first glance: the interwoven, vibrant colours have a hypnotizing effect upon the viewer. When we take a closer look, the found objects Samat includes into these works become visible, and little by little, facets of her whimsy and joy shine through, like discovering a new jewel nestled within a crown.  


The Kuala Lumpur-born artist, now a freshly minted New Yorker calling from her studio in upstate New York, produced two new pieces, spanning from five to five-and-a-half feet tall, in a mere six days for her upcoming Art Central exhibition. Samat laughed breathlessly, “I don’t know where I got the strength, the energy, but I managed to pull off two pieces. We’ll just call them my new babies. It’s like I just gave birth to twins.” Samat combines traditional weaving methods from Borneo and her native Malaysia with multimedia approaches to create 3D works that, in her own words, is “all about love. Unconditional love, the love towards your family, your friends, your nearest and dearest. Because I believe the fundamental calling of life is love. So that’s the message that I’m trying to bring to Art Central Hong Kong.”  


The found objects present within Samat’s work reflect notions of place, culture, memory, and migration — since the move to New York, she lamented, the plastic swords that normally feature in her work have been increasingly difficult to source outside of her home country. But new frontiers bring forth new journeys — and new objects. “Last month I was walking around, and I found this salvage yard. This big salvage yard and I picked up this, and found this — “ at this point she brandishes a large brass pipe and an even bigger, ancient-looking wood-and-steel farming tool with unabashed glee. “If you ask me, ‘How are you going to put them into your future work?’” She laughs. “Please darling, don’t ask me now.”  


Check out Anne Samat’s exhibition with Marc Straus Gallery from 22-25 March at Art Central Hong Kong. 


How did your journey as an artist begin? 

I came from a very poor family. You know, Asian family, when they know that you’re smart, they want you to be a doctor, a lawyer — forget about telling them that you want to be an artist. But I told my father I’m going to take art and design. I’m going to study art. And to my surprise, my father looked at me and he just said, follow your heart. Follow your heart wholeheartedly.  

So that changed everything. I changed from studying science to becoming an art student. And it was the right decision. I have no regrets.  


When did you know you were going to become a professional artist?  

2017 is when everything started to change. Richard Koh Fine Art spotted me, I was invited to join at Stage Singapore in 2017. My life changed from that moment onwards, that is when I became a professional artist. And I started to show everywhere. The first time I joined Art Central Hong Kong was in March 2017. And I think 2018 as well, I was in Art Central. And then from that time onwards, there’s no turning back. Everything became bigger and bigger, I’ve been invited to show in Shanghai and a few other shows around the world. 


When did you first start to adopt weaving as your medium? 

 I really love that question. When I was in the university, the first year, we learned everything, the fundamental basic subjects in art and design classes. During my second year, you have to choose the department. A lot of people thought that I would take fine art. And you know what I did? I said I love colours. So I said the only thing where I really can play with colours: textiles.  

When I joined the textile department, one of the subjects was weaving. Bloody hell, I knew nothing about weaving. The reason why I took weaving was because I wanted to challenge myself, learn something new. Eventually I started to think of the loom and the yarn as my canvas. My canvas is not a wild animal, my canvas has different strings, a lot of strings.  


Traditional weaving is often seen as a craft, right? Do you ever encounter any tension with that in your work where people perceive it as a craft rather than art?   

It breaks my heart when people say that. That is the reason why that I moved to New York, frankly. I believe every artist needs support from their community — and the best is if they get the support from their country. You know, even though I won the award of Young Contemporary Artist of Malaysia, they still considered my work as crafts at the time. And that’s what I’ve been fighting about for many years. Unfortunately, back then I didn’t have the community to support me.  

When I was invited by Richard Koh Fine Art to join Art Stage Singapore, it changed my life; and at the same time, it changed the art scene in Kuala Lumpur as well.  

I really believe that in order to break the stereotype, I have to go outside of my own country. And look now, I’m showing in a lot of museums and places in the US. I’m not trying to prove anyone wrong, but sometimes we need to go the extra step in order to open people’s eyes.  


I find it interesting that a lot of traditional methods of art making often don’t get recognized in their home country as fine art.  

To win the hearts of my own people, it’s so difficult. If I can be one of the people that helps to open the audience’s minds and hearts about it, I’m happy.  Because at the end of the day, they will eventually accept it. If not now, maybe in another 10 years. Hopefully earlier. 


Can you talk to me about the themes in your work?  

The theme of my work is all about love. Unconditional Love: the love towards your family towards your friend, your nearest and dearest. Because I believe that our fundamental calling in life is all about love.  

My mother passed away five years ago. Even though she passed away, I believe I am creating a tapestry of love, and I’m sending it to her in spiritual way, wherever she is — I think she’s in heaven now. Basically, what I’ve been practising now is creating a tapestry of love. I keep weaving my love and send it away to my mom.  


(Lead image art credit: Follow Your Heart Wholeheartedly 2, 2023. Featured image art credit: Cannot Be Broken, Won’t Live Unspoken, 2022. Both images c/o Marc Straus.)

Art(ist) Central: Anne Samat

Vanessa Lee

Managing Editor

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