The Interfusion Of Art And Life Driven By Passion

Into the life and mind of a passion-driven art lover

Describing herself as a kind soul with a fun-loving spirit due to growing up amongst people alike herself, Suma Orientalis founder Sophia Shung believes art is everything for her.

Coming from the beautiful agricultural state of Kedah, it is also home to lots of great Malaysian artists such as Datuk Ibrahim Hussein, Dato’ Sharifah Fatimah Zubir and Khoo Sui Hoe, to name a few. Sophia’s interest in art began when she had the opportunity to assist a client to inventorize his art collection for insurance procurement, and has since then been exposed to more art exhibitions and auctions.

With her newfound love for art, Sophia decided to open up Suma Orientalis—an art gallery located in Petaling Jaya—also due to her dream of working in an environment that can be a safe space for the creative minds and those of intellectual agility, while also being able to meet people from all walks of life.

Art Discussion at Suma Orientalis

A casual day with artists and friends at Suma Orientalis

Since art means a great deal to Sophia, we have asked her questions regarding art and happiness and some of her answers have done well to touch us greatly:

What are your insights on the current art scene in Malaysia?

It is rather young compared to that of our Southeast Asian brethren’s, and it’s full of energy with enormous diversity.

What and how can we improve the Malaysian art scene?

Nothing is done without love — so fellow Malaysians, love thy art. Because if you don’t, no one else will!

Is art a source of happiness?

Let’s get it straight, don’t expect art to be holy water but if experiencing art and collecting art makes you happy, then just do it!

How can art radiate positive energy?

I don’t think it needs to. It is an expression of its creator so let’s just respect it for that.

How important is it to have art in a home?

If you are saying “important” thinking that it equates “necessary”, then no, no one needs art. Yet, how would you live your life without books, music and movies absolutely? The same logic applies. You can of course frame up a movie poster or a home decor slogan and hang on the wall, I am just suggesting that you may also consider something which embodies the quintessence of someone’s philosophical wisdom, or many years of aesthetic perfection.

If you could let people appreciate art more, what would you say to educate them?

To fall in love with a piece of artwork is not a matter of its appearance only — you would be awestruck only when you find something in that artwork resonates with the softest spot in your heart. Fundamentally, an art collection reflects the personality of the collector, hence artworks with a strong narrative beneath their aesthetic would be more meaningful to a collection. So, open up your mind and collect with your instinct.

How does one pick the best art piece for their homes? Does the interior design concept play a role?

Realistically, the style, dimension and the ease/difficulty of care and maintenance should be given due consideration.

More often than not, initially thinking of art as a way to decorate the house, after a while clients would find that the art they own has spilled over the walls they have at home and at office — I guess that’s the time most people would officially call themselves an art collector. Don’t be surprised! Many art collectors in town do deploy external storage solutions — some go for additional properties while the rest rent a space at storage hubs. There are also those who are gracious enough to set up private museums to showcase their art collection.

Does the colour palette of an art piece for a home play a role in radiating emotions? For example, yellow means positive and black means gloom.

Colours definitely can be understood with science. However in art, I reckon it’s more of the issue of your state of mind and your life experience.

In your TedxBayanLepas TED Talk in 2019, you focused on how we should look at problems differently. How can art help with that?

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, said Thoreau. So you feel the void and you look out for some fulfilment. And so you find resonance in a lingering jazz number, or a sensitive piece of prose, or a mellow classic movie, or sometimes, an intriguing artwork. Because it feels good that you are not alone in the dark alley of that void, that someone, somewhere, somehow, experienced the same melancholy and had taken the trouble to express it. Then all of a sudden, you feel less lonely in this world.

Youths nowadays are indulging in art of all forms (mediums); resin, glass painting, acrylic, etc.--are there any advice you would give to the potential Picassos and Van Goghs?

The sky's the limit so go all out! Just be careful not to only worry about the medium, because what’s more important is the message you convey with your art.

The Meaning of Suma Orientalis

Gallery interior

While the literal meaning of Suma Orientalis is a mix of two languages—Sanskrit and Latin—translates to “Flowers from The East”, the meaning may be a bit deeper than what is taken in literary context.

To Sophia and to the more intellectually agile minds, Suma Orientalis is not just an art gallery. It is a place for people to gain comfort from art and engage in conversation with other like-minded art lovers, and maybe a thing or two about life when comfort levels arise.

Sophia also shared a more in-depth meaning behind Suma Orientalis, “We believe in beauty with a soul, that makes intellectual quality a prerequisite in our selection of art. Then we curate the presentation of the artworks with one thing in mind — how the spatial environment could bring the best out of it. We want everyone who comes to Suma Orientalis to be able to not just imagine, but to see and experience how they could also live with the kind of art they never imagined before.”

“Just like good movies, good books and good music — good art, by that I mean smart, thought-provoking pieces, has the magic of transporting you somewhere else for a moment.” expressed Sophia, who also believes that art has to have a meaning to be worthwhile rather than being worth a price to have meaning and we wholeheartedly agree.

After all, the Earth without art is just “Eh.

All images credited to Suma Orientalis

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