Abdul Multhalib Musa

Abdul Multhalib Musa- participating artist in the GMCA (Great Malaysia Contemporary Art)

GMCA logo
Written by : Zena Khan

Photography by : Puah Chin Kok and portrait photo by Siti Fairus Abdul Wahab

About the Artist

“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.” –Constantin Brancusi

Constantin Brancusi’s quote clarifies a clear relation between architecture and sculpture as relying on similar principles of design and construction to occupy a similar space, albeit for different purposes. Accepting this comparison opens up an understanding as to why trained architects have easily slipped into other fields of art and design, examples include acclaimed womenswear designer Tom Ford, architect Frank Gehry who has famously branched out into jewellery design and sculpture and in Malaysia, Multhalib Musa.

Multhalib Musa is considered the chief sculptor in the contemporary Malaysian art movement. His clean, kinetically influenced sculptures have earned him several awards, residencies and commissions, notable among them the Rimbun Dahan Residency in 2001 and the Australian High Commission Residency in 2004. In 2002 Multhalib won the Award of Excellence at the 6th Oita Asian Sculpture Open Competition in Japan, the Juror’s Choice Awarad at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur in 2002 before going on to be selected for the Ordos 11th Asia Arts Festival, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, as well as the Urumqi International Urban Sculpture Symposium in Xinjiang, China in 2009. Multhalib won a competition to design a major outdoor sculpture for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China. Multhalib has created major commission works for Petronas, The Hilton, The Grand Hyatt, The Westin, Aliya and Farouk Khan and UMW Toyota.

Born in Penang in 1976, Multhalib went on to gain a degree in architecture from Universiti Teknologi Mara in 2000. Sculpture and the allied arts have always been integral parts of an architect’s training. Now however, modern architecture focuses on the direct manifestation of technology, usability and material, as opposed to the traditionally more ornamental buildings of the past, the link between architecture and sculpture has not been severed, and sculpture itself has transformed into sleeker, more contemporary silhouettes and often expresses itself on an architectural scale. This link is evident in Multhalib’s work both in his architectural working process as well as in the manner in which his work occupies a truly four dimensional space.

Perhaps the predominant way his architectural background affects his sculptural practice is in the approach to constructing the works themselves. Using computers, Multhalib generates patterns and envisions them technologically as three dimensional forms, and if need be goes on to create mini models as well in either paper or metal. In this manner he has a full comprehension of the work’s existence and any issues he would need to resolve before production commences, including materials, tools and methods. Often a team of builders come in to aid Multhalib in the fabrication of his work, just as in the construction of a building. Generally the sculptures are laser cut steel, finished in a rusty effect, which is attained by dousing the works in salt water.

Mathematical shapes and equations abound in Multhalib’s work, which is evident in his show, Swirls. Shown at the Australian High Commission Kuala Lumpur in 2005, the show features, as the tittle suggests, a series of circular sculptures, both wall relief and free hanging, which are composed of sliced circles that are arranged to form circles, spheres, ovals and swirls. The hanging sculptures have a kinetic ability, and despite being fixed in their position the wall relief pieces too hint at movement from their careful arrangement. Multhalib assembled these compositions via a careful geometric study of the circles and the spaces they inhabit and shapes they can create, from the two dimensional plane in which they are conceived to the final three dimensional form in which they come to exist.

Centrifugal 10 degrees. Lasercut Mild Steel with clear 2k Coat.120cm x 120cm x8cm. 2005

Centrifugal 10 degrees. Lasercut Mild Steel with clear 2k Coat.120cm x 120cm x8cm. 2005

Multhalib approaches all his work with with a consideration he developed while working on his Involute series. Indeed he considers all his work to be part of this same series, despite showing them at vastly different times and under different shows and tittles. Multhalib essentially tackles the same question in various styles, commenting his underlying concept always remains as what are the various methods to transform the two dimensional into three dimensional? He notes that even when drawing one is thinking in three dimension, so how can this thought then be transmitted to the audience? Fundamentally this is a principle he learnt in architecture, that he now applies to fine art.

The shadow of Involute, which consisted of suspended spherical mobil sculptures, is evident not only in shows like Swirls which shares an obvious aesthetic, but also in works such as those from Twist which was debuted in 2008. At first glance Twist seems wildy different, a series of sliced ‘S’ shapes standing up in tall totem-like structures. While the physicality between the two differ the reflections behind them are closely aligned. Again Multhalib is studying geometry within nature and the two dimensional plane, and questioning the effect of realizing his thoughts in a three dimensional environment.

Involute 4.0. Lasercut Mild Steel with clear 2k Coat. 90cm x 90cm x34cm. 2005

Involute 4.0. Lasercut Mild Steel with clear 2k Coat. 90cm x 90cm x34cm. 2005



The skyline of Kuala Lumpur has been referred to as a form of contemporary Malaysian sculpture in itself, indeed there is little other public sculpture with the exception of several works by Multhalib. Over the years Multhalib has received several commissions for public spaces, notable amongst them Patience for Petronas, which now stands proudly in the lobby of the Prince Court Medical Centre, The Essence of National Legacy which can be seen at the Putrajaya Convention Centre, The

Twist Gold. Lasercut Mild Steel with Car Paint,Granite Base. 65cm x65cm x 30cm. 2008

Twist Gold. Lasercut Mild Steel with Car Paint,Granite Base. 65cm x65cm x 30cm. 2008

Abdul Multhalib Musa Twist Red.Lasercut Mild Steel with Car Paint,Granite Base.60cm x 30cm x30cm.2008

Twist Red. Lasercut Mild Steel with Car Paint,Granite Base. 60cm x 30cm x30cm. 2008

Breeze and Bubbles for the Hilton Hotel and his latest, Darussalam at the brand new Grand Hyatt. Darussalam is Multhalib’s first foray in bronze, and was an interesting development for him as bronze limits laser cutting, which is the typical method by which he handles his metals. The final form therefore greatly differs from his previous works and shows an interesting new development in his repertoire. Rather than comprising of metal slices, the sculpture is a tall smooth edifice, mimicking the building that houses it. A bird’s eye view of the piece outlines a crescent, an icon present in both the Brunei and Malaysian flags, which is one of the oldest symbols known to mankind signifying greatness and beauty.

Multhalib is highly skilled in combining his mathematical knowledge, spatial awareness and conceptual abilities to create sculptures that resonate with his audience, both in at home in Malaysia and internationally. Easily at the forefront of the contemporary Malaysian sculpture movement, Multhalib’s ability to connect his work to the spaces that they inhabit, all the while exploring the precarious division of two and three dimensionality, brands him as an exciting artist whose coming works are poised for an electrifying future.








Bachelor of Architecture (Honours). MARA University of Technology, Malaysia.


Bachelor Degree in Design Studies. University of Adelaide, Australia.



TWIST. Wei-Ling Gallery, Malaysia.


SWIRLS. Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Recipient. Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit, Tokyo, Japan.


Merit Award. Beijing Olympic City Sculpture Competition for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.


ALAMI III ALUN Science/Arts Camp Grant, Pulau Tiga, Sabah, Malaysia.


Consolation Prize. 10 Year Anniversary Sculpture Competition. The National Planetarium, Malaysia.
Recipient. The AHC Visual Arts Residency Award Australian High Commission in Malaysia.


Honourable Mention. Philip Morris Malaysia – ASEAN Art Awards, National Art Gallery, Malaysia.


Juror’s Award. The Young Contemporaries Award Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Malaysia.
Second Prize Award of Excellence. 6th Oita Asian Sculpture Competition Fumio Asakura Memorial Park, Japan.


Recipient. Artist in Residence. Rimbun Dahan, Kuang, Malaysia.


Special Mention. World-Wide Millennium Painting Competition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Consolation Prize. Malaysian Wildlife Drawing Competition, Plaza Bukit Bintang, Malaysia.


Consolation Prize. Old Kuala Lumpur Art Competition, Plaza Putra and Art Direction, Malaysia.
Second Prize. Watercolour Competition Creative Art Centre, The National Art Gallery, Malaysia.


Consolation Prize. One World – No War Art Competition, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Malaysia.
First Prize. National Fire Prevention Week Art Competition, Galeri Shah Alam, Malaysia.


Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection, Malaysia

Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Bank Negara Malaysia, Malaysia.
Beijing Olympic Park City, Beijing, China.
Centrepoint Towers, Midvalley City, Malaysia.
Fumio Asakura Memorial Park, Oita, Japan.
Grand Hyatt Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Guilin Yuzi Paradise, Guilin, China.
Hilton Hotel KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
KLPac, YTL Sentul Park, Malaysia.
Nakamura Jishiro Memorial Fund, Fukuoka, Japan.
NAZA TTDI, Shah Alam, Malaysia.
Ordos Municipal Government, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China.
Prince Court Medical Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Perdana Leadership Foundation, Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Putrajaya Convention Centre, Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia.
Singapore Art Museum, Singapore.
Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection, Malaysia
The National Art Gallery, Malaysia.
UMW Toyota Headquarters, Shah Alam, Malaysia.
Urumqi Municipal Government, Xinjiang, China.
Westin Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Wheelock Properties, Singapore.
Wisma Selangor Dredging, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Yi Dong Yuan Sculpture Manufacture Center, Beijing, China.

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