Capturing the Energy of Malaysian Landscapes Through Paint

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Roland Prime is a qualified art education teacher and artist currently living in Iskandar, Malaysia. Born in the city of Cambridge, he found continual inspiring energy amongst the artist community in the cosmopolitan city. For several years, he took part in the annual Cambridge Open Studios. Today, he is an established artist having sold his paintings both in Malaysia and internationally.

During his school days, he was very involved in rowing which opened his eyes and inspired him to paint, with the vast open skies and flat lands full of colour and energy. His interest was further deepened when he moved to Broadstairs, Kent, where the sea truly became his favourite canvas.

He said, “I was fascinated by the storms that would blow up the English Channel, I tied my canvas to the back of my Ford Escort and painted away whilst the storms came in, it was great stuff. Then, I returned to Cambridge where I turned my attention towards sculpture, seeing a pattern and use in recycling steel off-cuts.  I produced many sculptures for both public and commissions.  At the same time, I was painting and experimenting with the notion of ‘what constitutes a picture’,  breaking it down into three elements, the canvas, the pigment, and the stretcher and how they all depend on each other to produce a picture.”

Siem Reap

Eventually, after some time teaching in Cambridge, he moved to Cairo with his wife Lucy who is also an artist (printmaker) and educator. On his time there, Roland said, “Here an amazing world opened before us, so old, so loud, so smelly, and so dusty but an amazing place to be. They had a wonderful and creative artist community that was so easy to engage with.  Unfortunately the First Revolution that happened in Cairo changed a lot of things so we decided to look for a change. We came to Malaysia six years ago when my wife applied for a job as an art teacher at Marlborough College Malaysia. I can easily relocate my studio, so that’s what I did.  As my main topic is landscape, it has been interesting watching the hugely rapid development of this entirely new piece of Malaysia in what is now called Iskandar Puteri, 30 km west of Johor Bahru.”

Johor Landsape 1
Sarawak Sunset

Roland said that he really enjoys living in Malaysia, for many reasons. “The climate is quite amazing and can be quite chokingly hot, the food is enormously varied with so many influences from other continents and local specialities, Malaysia itself has such a diversity of flora and fauna that is hard to miss. The people here make you smile and  even though there is a language barrier,  you can easily get over it and have a laugh. We are very happy to be in Malaysia as we still have so much to see of Malaysia itself and its cultures and traditions.”

Painting is only one aspect of his artwork as he draws mainly in dip pen and ink with colour-wash. He explained that these drawings are usually quicker and quite spontaneous allowing for a more abstract look.

Roland said, “I also use it to record in a more technical sense the elevations of those antique buildings that are left in the towns and cities of Malaysia. Landscape is my forte and passion, be it the real landscape we live in or the one we go to visit. For me, it is the juncture of the sky and the land and what happens at the horizon.  The intensity of the colours that nature can create is one of pure marvel. Whether it’s an urban landscape or a suburban landscape, I simply love the energy, chaos, and magnitude of the landscape, the worlds within worlds that happen in certain areas.  Urban landscapes have an enormous energy, the rhythms created by roofs or the rhythms of windows in tower blocks and then the intersection of roads and routes that carve dynamic lines through the land.  Whereas suburban landscapes starting in the foreground with the detail of a building or kampung house or even a tree blends into the blue vistas of distance being intersected by hill or mountain ranges.”

Singapore Horizon

He also finds that keeping a good sketch book is key to being able to reference back to something that took my attention.  When travelling, he finds essential to have a sketch book at hand to be able to stop and record the moment. He find it is all part of the process to look around and record, and some of these books become works in themselves.

His painting techniques depend on what he’s conveying, as for a landscape painting he is usually realistic with a view to capture the mood. But he also dabbles in abstract works, with loose bold colours, large brush strokes, and fluid marks, or he can also be quite graphic, with large areas of flat colours, linearity, textures.

Shanghai Night

Roland said, “It all depends on the mood and subject, as I prefer to be free and not stick to one particular style. Art is a journey, a lifelong one if anyone is thinking about taking it up.  You continually learn things about materials, people, places, cultures, and many other subjects.  You can meet all sorts of strange folk on the way, you can swap artworks with other artists, you can sell works to survive.  I enjoy it, it can be hard work at times, can be financially disastrous and it can be very lonely.  But I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”

Here’s a look at some of his collections:


1. Georgetown Penang

2. Georgetown 2

3. Georgetown 3

4. Georgetown 4


1. Iskandar

2. Iskandar Sunset 2

3. Iskandar Sunset

For more information about the artist and his paintings, please contact [email protected].

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