Hi guys! Can you tell me a little bit about who you are?
Hj Osman: My name is Haji Osman Bin Mohammad. I’ve been doing art since I was small. I started with drawing comics, that’s my inspiration actually and how I materialized my drawing skills. I used to look at comics and then I make my own stories, and do the drawings [for them]. Every day, my colleagues would be waiting for them (smiles). I can express myself through comics… Until now, I still do my art as part of my life.
Osveanne: Hi, my name is Osveanne Osman. I’m 27 years old and I am the manager and curator at the Creative Space Art Gallery. I’m a self taught artist, and then I pursued an education in the arts. That came a bit later around A Levels that I decided I would actually like to do art which was pretty late and actually pretty difficult to get into the art scene. But I was very fortunate to have met one of the teachers who saw my portfolio and said ‘Well you actually have potential’ so from there I studied art, the background of it, the history and then it sort of became a mixture of what I learnt myself with boundless imagination and mixed with what I learnt- a lot of history and background. You come up with some pretty interesting processes putting those two together.
You run the Creative Space gallery with your daughter. When did you actually start it and why?
Hj Osman: When I retired, I ‘d been in the media for more than 30 years and I’d been working as a professional graphic designer. I wanted to continue with my art. During my career time, I used to do painting, art and sculpture, all sort of things, and also do some graphic work. This gallery was established in 2013 so I had a place to continue my art, and during that time I was also asked to teach art as an adjunct lecturer there.
The space was not totally maximized so what I did was I turned it into a gallery so other people could use it too. Since then, it has been used for exhibitions, gatherings, workshops, all sorts of things. we do a lot of things here. We also have the Emerge Project going on so we can showcase, and provide a platform for young artists.
How do you guys compromise on your creative differences, working and running the gallery with your daughter?
[related] Hj Osman: Of course the differences are always there. I’ve been in the creative world for 30 years. Usually, most of creative people are very proud about their work, their artwork and design solutions. That’s where sometimes we clash with other creative people as well. The experiences I have had, have given me a perspective on how to deal with differences.
Osveanne: That’s kind of talking about synergy. First of all, business is business so you maintain very professional roles. So I’m the manager and curator, but I don’t always curate. The creative director oversees what I do so we do come to areas where there is discussion about whether this is the right path to take and it takes both parties to really sit down and see if I’m listening to you correctly or am I misinterpreting something. So communication is very important because at the end of the day we have to remember that we’re working towards one direction therefore we could be talking about the same thing the whole time but using different words and understanding it differently because of that generation gap. The main challenge is really to be open and also listen because him being my father there is still a different role that I play which is a daughter. So you really have to extract yourself from that separate role to be able to find a different level of communication.
So, would you say that there is a big or is there an obvious difference between you two in the way you creatively aspire? Like, is there an old versus new kind of mentality.
Hj Osman: Not really. The opportunity depends on how you look at it. Is it a problem or is it an opportunity for you to explore something new? You have to have an open mind, to look at things, because art or design is not something … [where] every solution you provide is correct. There is no right and wrong. You are providing new ideas and new solutions. So you always look at the best [one] given. This is the best approach you can use in order to achieve your project or your product. Of course, there are a lot of factors and variables that you need to consider, one is time. Second is the resources you have. The third is your audience. For example, when doing the Emerge Project, we’re looking at who is our audience and who are our participants. Along the way, even though you have beautiful plans there’s always variables affecting, so you need to adapt.
Progressive as in the term… I think it’s something for us to look forward. It’s always infinite and there’s always opportunity. – Hj Osman
After these years of experience, I’ve learned that you need to adapt and see. People give you ideas. If it’s good, we can try it. Sometime along the way, it seems to be a good idea and when we try to implement it, there are few factors that come up and you need to change. Because we are not the only ones we have to think about- we need to think about our client, our audience, our team and the environment, and if you’re working with other people as well, the stakeholders.
Osveanne: I would say it’s the process of how we go about things but definitely the one intention remains the same? Especially for all artists here in Brunei, is that we want to create a stable environment for artists to practise in. Those are my aspirations for art here in Brunei because I’m a local artist. The difference is [also] in the generation gap; he will present work that perhaps looks different because of the experience he received, the art trends and the way he was trained in art. Whereas I would respond to something identical, very differently. I would use mixed media, I would use a lot of technology and that’s really the difference- the process in which we approach it.
What attracted you to doing art?
Hj Osman: Art is to express what I see in all the things happening around, whether you hear it or see it, or you’re going to express or make a statement in your art. Whether it’s a landscape or abstract piece. Just like we see all the paintings that were done over the years, those have become historical pieces that people can refer to.
Art, I believe, is something that records the contemporary times like the way people look at civilizations past- all those things are reflected through their artifacts, architecture, all the remains of the great works of art. I get inspired even looking at the trees; how the leaves move, the tree branches sway, moving in rhythm, all those things can inspire an artist, actually.
Osveanne: That’s very good question, because honestly not for a very long time was I ever interested in doing art, In fact I used to be quite … I had a disdain for it [laughing] because everyone knew my dad was an artist so in school they would like ‘Come on, I know you can paint this!’ and I would be like ‘It’s not genetic, it doesn’t work that way’. But it wasn’t until one day I was hovering over my dad’s shoulder while he was doing a watercolor painting and it was like magic, it really was like magic how it was just an empty piece of paper and suddenly there’s colors, shapes and a landscape. I was like ‘Wow, that’s possible. You can make something out of nothing’ and I guess it goes with all things but just watching my dad paint that one time was what really inspired me to take art very seriously.
What was it like being a creative person in your generation? Was it difficult? Or was it easier to be a creative person, to be openly creative, compared to now?
Hj Osman: I think, yes and no. When I design, I solve problems. Whether it is interior, a graphic, visual communication, or product design, so those are more towards technical and problem solving, issues you need to address using aesthetic. I think everybody needs to be creative, even solving management problems. ‘Creative’ means, you are coming up with a solution that is something different, is not conventional and very difficult for people to accept. So that’s what creativity is. Over time, some people do think about it and accept it as something genius. To me, I’m both a designer and an artist so inspiration is very very important to me, to enhance my creativity.
Osveanne: I would say it’s a bit of of both? I can’t say it’s easier now because I wasn’t here before to be able to compare in that sense but I will touch upon what makes it easy and what makes it hard here. So how it’s easy here- we’re in the age of technology , we have so many different platforms to share our work on and we also have so many people to share our work for us. So we’re reaching a wider audience and that’s how it’s easier.
What progressive means to me is.. Moving forward. And it’s very important to move forward. – Osveanne
In terms of creating works even we have so much new tech like laser cutting, 3D printing and the drawback to that is that we’re kind of losing a lot of old technology.
We can explore more now, that’s what makes it easier for an artist in the modern day. What doesn’t make it easy is exactly everything I just said because in a sense we kinda become complacent? Especially if you rely on technology too much, where we’re losing the hands on ability to do due process with what we are making therefore I always gravitate more towards art that are really in its literal and metaphorical sense, handmade and bespoke. There’s merit in digital art as well without giving it any smack but personally I really gravitate towards something that really has the artist’s touch.
Where does most of your inspiration come from? Is there anything that you do to keep yourself fresh creatively?
Hj Osman: Actually, the environment, people and what’s happening around you, are the things that inspire me. As a designer, when I look at a problem people are facing, I try to solve it by coming up with a design solution. Like other cultures, for example.
Osveanne: Yes. Other cultures or maybe you read something. So much material out there…I mean this is a powerful world today where we can get information with the click of a finger. Those things can inspire people, just to, either to provide solutions or to express yourself in your art.
What about you Osveanne, what inspires you?
Osveanne: I would definitely say that inspiration is everywhere; where you wanna see it really. I would say that for me I get a lot of inspiration from literature, things that I read or even see in memes for example these days [laughs]. That’s pop culture, arts… but visually I get a lot of inspiration through nature and I also get a lot of inspiration from other artists. We’re so exposed nowadays to seeing what people do all over the world so I draw inspiration from mediums and media, visual inspiration that we’re not exposed to here in Brunei. I would say the old classics, what I learned in uni for example, Mondrian, the impressionism of Monet and stuff like that. Those actually really inspire me because of the context and the content of their art. Not so much the visuals; the visuals are the aesthetic that come with the conceptualization so for me I guess, my inspiration really comes from conceptualizing what other people see, read, hear. How they process the thought process and how they bring it all together, and represent it in something that they do.
Do both of you have any tips for getting out of a creative mental block?
Osveanne: Anybody who says they don’t get mental blocks is probably lying [laughs]. I definitely do get them and the best way is to really just embrace it and not focus on ‘oh my goodness I’m having a mental block’ but rather start asking yourself why you’re having that block. And then from ‘why’ just keep on asking more questions. You have to kind of revel in it? Because from those stresses you’ll find you start putting out some pretty good work. I find that most of my best work comes out when I have that kind of pressure, that kind of stimulation of being under pressure.
Hj Osman: Usually we do come to a point where we have [this problem] especially when you try to design something. What we can do usually is to stop working, try to relax a bit, go and see around you and try to look at it again in a fresh way, maybe there are some alternative solutions you can use to approach the problem you’re trying to solve. The problem is, it is easier said than done! Usually when we are caught in a situation, we’ve been working to provide a solution whether it is an art project or design project and you’re already held down by the things you have done so you don’t want to abandon it. But it’s good to be brave and try to approach it with a different angle or perspective.