The Cosmos That Bind Nizam Ambia
Writer: Cecilia Tan
The interview with Nizam Ambia took place on a sunny Monday morning in October, 2008 at his company, Kubang Gajah Blatik Industry in Kampung Kubang Gajah, Negeri Sembilan. The primary business of the company is to design, manufacture and market batik fabrics, fashion products and Nizam’s art works, under the global brand name “Ambia”. Throughout the interview, he remained totally engaged, ever willing to converse and explain. Nizam Ambia is slender and lanky, and a handsome figure at his age. His aspect is intense and jovial, his manner gracious and courtly. His hair is stylish and neatly kept; he speaks with a strong KL accent. When he talks, the small shifts of his slender body, the voice’s inflections and the mind’s dartings reveal a fashion designer passionate about his art.
Nizam Ambia was born and grew up in the royal town of Seri Menanti, Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia). When he was very young, Nizam developed a passion for drawing and fashion, often spending hours on sketching his imaginations and keen observations. He has always been inspired by the beauty of nature, the environment, the cosmos as well as the mystical world.
Nizam graduated in Graphic Design from the University of Institute Technology MARA (UiTM). When he first started to explore the world of art, financial support was always his main challenge. On the other hand, Nizam has never worried about branding because he believes that the work will speak for itself – perhaps with just a little support from the media. His greatest strength is his passion for art which keeps him from giving up easily.
In the past, he has worked in advertising agencies, as a stage set designer at a TV3 station and as lecturer of art at the Lim Kok Wing University College of Creative Technology. During his first years, he experimented with a variety of compositions which molded him as one of the most versatile Malaysian artists in existence today.
His passion in utilizing mixed medium in his art work illustrates his love for all beings on the face of this earth. Nizam Ambia has created a significant and unique brand of work that is all his own. His infatuation with other different kinds of artistic expression has turned into an enthusiastic love affair with art installations, such as an eight-foot metal phoenix in the campus of Lim Kok Wing University College of Creative Technology, plus other sculpture work, interior designs, stage designs and landscaping.
Nizam’s enthusiasm for life is manifested in all his creative work in the world of art and fashion. In his dignified yet down-to-earth style, he has won several awards, the latest being, the Grand Prize for Piala Seri Endon 2004 in Batik design competition in the fashion category with his batik-infused interpretations of the nyonya kebaya and baju melayu. This was Nizam’s quantum leap into the world of fashion. Apart from a 3rd place award for a national level landscaping competition, he has also won Gold awards in three consecutive years (2000-2002) for Kolam designing competition at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre.
Nizam Ambia has been honoured as the only Malaysian batik designer to conceptualize and draw a set of impressive batik panels as backdrop for the “Force of Nature”, an international charity concert in Kuala Lumpur on March, 2005. His work has received much international acclaim and he hopes to produce even more works for the international market in the future. Contemporary batik is often considered formal western attire which has abandoned its Malaysian roots. To Nizam Ambia however, batik is an inherent part of the Malaysian identity and contemporary batik is included as part of this culture. He feels that batik should be allowed to ride the waves of change and have a fresh look that changes with the times.
For his inaugural solo fashion show in August 2005, Nizam developed a new style of batik design known as blatik, a new perception of batik fusion. Blatik designs portray multi-layered depth and its versatility goes beyond one’s imagination. Nizam has thus redefined batik norms and perceptions. In essence, batik art has become paintings on fabric by Nizam, showcasing him as a painter. He feels that batik is changing fast due to the large number of copycats and mass producers of batik printed fabric. He believes batik artists will need to personalize their art in the future so that clients can have more choices.
Nizam’s advice to those aspire to follow his footsteps is that artists must be true and honest to themselves and work. That’s how they can create wonders in whatever they do. In order to generate awareness in the batik market of their existence, artists must participate in exhibitions and expose themselves to the media.
The key characteristic that makes Nizam who he is today is that he never competes with other artists or their work because he knows that the competition lies between the work and the artist. He strives to improve everyday and sees the journey of an artist as one that is full of joy and pain. Due to his passion however, Nizam Ambia will never give up and engrosses himself in every painting he creates – infusing his passion for life and art into every masterpiece.