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Portraits of Malaysian King, Former Rulers Adorn Airplane-Turned Restaurant

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23  — From a distance, two young men were  seen diligently sketching something on an aircraft body under the scorching sun while occasionally wiping sweat away from their forehead.

If you think that these two lads were doing vandalism, hold your thoughts. They are actually mural painters responsible to draw the faces of the Malaysian current and former rulers on the aircraft body which will soon be turned into a restaurant.

Although the aircraft body is sometimes too hot to the touch, Rushdi Ahmad, 32, and  Muhammad Syaq Kholid, 26, remain committed to sketching their artworks on a Boeing 737 that was ‘parked’ near the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel in Seri Kembangan.

For Rushdi, it was not an easy task. In fact, it was a new and different experience for him since he ventured into the field some 10 years ago.

Besides the unpredictable weather, the artist who hailed from Kuala Rompin, Pahang admitted that the curved surface of the aircraft body often made the job more challenging as he needed to maximise his skills, focus and patience to turn a design into a painting.

“Transferring an image onto a curved surface is more difficult than a at surface. Sometimes, the artwork seems fine when we look at it from a straight angle, but when we take a look from a lower angle, the image was distorted.

“So, we need to work in pairs. One artist will paint the artwork and another one will be observing from below and will immediately notify his friend if  there is a need to rectify an image,” he told Bernama recently.

Among the images drawn on the aircraft body are the portraits of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj and Tengku Permaisuri of Selangor, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin.

There are also portraits of the 15 former Yang di-Pertuan Agong as well as Queen Elizabeth II, who was among the VVIP guests at the hotel during the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The identity of the hotel such as horses, a dragon and a Phoenix bird is also displayed on the aircraft body and its wings, besides the logos of international events that used to be held at the hotel such as the World Golf Championship and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, as well as fitness activities such as running and cycling.

Rushdi and Muhammad Syafiq who worked together under their own company Tongkang Art Empire began painting the mural in mid-December last year and were assisted by seven other painters.

In sharing their experience, the holder of a bachelor’s degree in art and design from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) said when he was approached to take on the job, he thought that it would only involve a small aeroplane statue.

“However, during the first site visit in December, I was shocked to see that it is actually a real aircraft! So, this is my chance to turn my dream of  producing a large-scale artwork into a reality,” he said.

Fellow artist  Muhammad Syafiq said the cost of producing the mural was more expensive than that of normal murals as it required additional equipment such as iron scaffolding, sky lift rental and wage payments for other artists.

“This is not merely about profit but what is more important is the satisfaction from producing the artwork,” he said, adding that almost 30 barrels of five-litre paint were used to complete the mural on a 5,000 sq. ft. aircraft body.

Country Heights founder and  executive chairman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew said the 45-tonne Boeing 737 was previously used as a restaurant in Bukit Bintang before being purchased and taken to the Mines Wellness City.

“It will be a new attraction to rejuvenate the domestic and international tourism in the area,” said Lee who expected that the restaurant would be opened soon with various interesting offers.

Meanwhile, a fine arts lecturer in UiTM Machang, Kelantan, Suhaidi Razi said mural painting has become a trend with commercial value and often chosen by various quarters especially corporate companies as their new attractions.

“If previously mural painters were often called to beautify ordinary buildings such as schools and kindergartens with a moderate payment, but now the demand is increasing and it creates a healthy competition in the industry.

“Paintings, if displayed at strategic locations, will make a difference and attract people’s attention,” he said, adding that murals that were produced using oil paint could last up to seven years.


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