The Soul of Shaq Shines through his Art

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This is our first cover artist who is an Orang Asli and not only is he on the cusp of international artist stardom; he also is the first from his Tribe to have an Honours University Degree. I met Shaq a few weeks ago when he brought in some of his paintings for me to view. I must tell you that in all the 130 cover artists I have done since 2000, I now realise there has always been a missing element to their work and that is the genuine soul of the artist himself reflected in their paintings. Shaq has this unique ability and talent to evoke extensive ranges of his own happiness or agony through the figures he paints, especially their eyes. Many of his works are self portraitures of times of great travails in his own short life.

Shahar Koyok was born on March 5th of 1985 at a small country hospital located in Banting, Selangor. His aboriginal village is situated about 15km away and it was there he spent his first 13 years living in the primitive setting of his aboriginal Temuan Tribe. (These beginnings and this setting are reflected in much of Shaq’s early work and continue to influence his art). That was the setting where he learned how to hunt small animals with a blowpipe; how to build traps for fish, wild boar and porcupines; how to recognize all the trees and foliage of his jungle area; how to create traditional aboriginal (Orang Asli) weaving; how to dig ditches for draining and watering vegetation in farming; how to plant vegetable trees (banana tree, tapioca tree, durian tree); how to plant herbs, peanuts, sweet potatoes, yams, sugar cane, and pineapple. Although the evolution of Shaq’s talent continues through varied expressive phases, such experiences and traditions of his village life keep resurfacing in his artwork.

Size | 153 x 92 cm
Medium | Oil on canvas
Year | 2009
Price | RM12,500

He spent virtually all his childhood’s spare time swimming and diving and jumping into water that had long ago filled up the river slough formed from the pit left after an old tin mine was abandoned and the river waters slowly found their way to fill it up. Shaq always felt that was a special place just made for him. This water theme can be seen over and over in his art.


Size | 91 x 91 cm
Medium | Acrylic on wood
Year | 2007
Price | RM8,500

About the age of 5 or 6 Shaq began to draw. At first he used paper brought home from school by his older brother and with those scraps, he drew with pencil; he even drew on the walls of the house when paper scraps were not available. Sometimes he would not have anything to use so he would paw through the ashes of the last night’s fire and find some actual charcoal to use. What he drew were parts of his dreams and images of his heart: modern houses and people (usually forms of himself) as well as his chickens, dogs and cats, placing everything and everyone in a jungle kampong but with more updated surroundings; that was all part of a dream he was forming in his mind about a life he wanted to find one day. His frustrations and yearnings were released through his drawings.

Size | 132 x 132 cm
Medium | Oil on canvas
Year | 2009
Price | RM10,000

In Shaq’s early childhood he witnessed the forest around his village burning uncontrolled due to the foolishness of uninvited developers and that trauma has etched on his soul a passion for the land rights of his people. Often this concern surfaces in his art. In fact his favourite painting is “Burnt” which shows him standing alone in the glassless window of his hut feeling dismay and pain.



Size | 61 x 61 cm
Medium | Oil on canvas
Year | 2003
Price | RM10,000

Shaq’s determination and adherence to his unique inner voice have found their destiny in expressions of inexplicable beauty on canvas. He does not follow anyone’s rules or demands. He expresses from his heart and what you see is what he feels. His art is his authentication. In Shaq’s work can be found heart, soul, and – as well – something that transcends.


Size | 70 x 71 cm
Medium | Acrylic on wood
Year | 2007
Price | RM6,000

At the age of 13 Shaq was transferred to a boarding school. He carried with him to the Boarding House an interest in English (not shared by most of his friends or family) as well as an intense love of watching television. The television watching was his window on a world apart; a world he never knew but wanted so desperately to explore. And he began to wonder if his art would give him access to the world outside. But he was sure that in order to walk down that path, he would need some serious English skills and the knowledge of outside culture that television could bring him. The yearning and the dreaming have formed concepts seen often in his paintings.

Size | 121 x 81 & 61 x 61 cm
Medium | Acrylic on two panel of canvas
Year | 2010
Price | RM14,000

Shaq was proudly able to win for his secondary school several inter-school art contests. After graduating secondary school in 2002, Shaq got a scholarship to enter UiTM and pursue a Diploma in Fine Arts at the Malacca Branch. Subsequent to his successful completion of that, he received another scholarship to attend UiTM Shah Alam where he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in November, 2009. He graduated in Honours and this brought immense pride to both his family and his village.

Size | 81 x 121 cm
Medium | Oil on canvas
Year | 2009
Price | RM16,000

Shaq says that fame and fortune are not things he has ever strived for. Should both most certainly come to his life and career, he has many plans to explore the world personally and to reach back and do what he can to improve the lot of his people inside the Temuan Village. Shaq has set aside the seven paintings for readers of The Expat. Even though he is fluent in English, I’ve agreed to screen those interested in meeting him or purchasing these works or others of his. Please email me at [email protected].

Source: The Expat November 2010 Issue


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