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How Malaysian visual artists stay true to their art while doing campaigns for global brands

How Malaysian visual artists stay true to their art while doing campaigns for global brands

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Malaysia has been making strides in its globalisation efforts as of late. In recent times, we have witnessed tech and data giants such as Tesla and Amazon Web Services moving into the country and Microsoft and Google announcing plans to set up on its shores. Additionally, in the media industry, Malaysian adland players have garnered recognition as they climbed up the rungs of the ladder to represent the country on a global level such as when McDonald’s appointed Eugene Lee as its international chief marketing officer.

As the country steps up its position on the global stage, A+M has also recognised the growth of Malaysian visual artists who have been approached by leading global brands to collaborate with them.

For instance, in January this year, Netflix collaborated with Malaysian papercutting artist Eten Teo to create a piece of cultural artwork to celebrate Lunar New Year for Netflix viewers across Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The final artwork even remained a mainstay on Netflix screens for the duration of the holiday. Teo’s papercut piece marked the first time a physical artwork has been digitised to be featured on a local moment on Netflix, which is a specially-curated collection of titles that celebrates seasonal moments or social events that are important to local audiences. 

Don't miss: Malaysian papercutting artist catches Netflix's attention for CNY artwork

However, while these artists are being given recognition by global platforms and brands for their skills in visual art, it is also a problem when artists are forced to limit their creativity to fit global briefs, curbing their unique styles and voices that make their work special to begin with.

When A+M reached out, Teo mentioned that he chooses to collaborate with other companies, his main consideration is to look at their requirements. He believes that it is actually favourable for companies’ briefs to be strict because it saves unnecessary time lost in discussion and allows for faster completion of work, adding that generally, not every task allows for enough autonomy to express personal style.

He said:

Autonomy is not the most important aspect for me. The main goal is to implement a brand's original requirements effectively, which is why they approach me.

For Jazlynn Cheah, an illustrator who has worked with brands such as cosmetics company Lush, the reputation of the company matters most. “I thoroughly examine factors such as the organisation's financial stability, growth trajectory, and long-term prospects to ascertain its reliability and stability. Additionally, as a freelance illustrator, I highly value job flexibility, as it allows me to allocate sufficient time to deliver projects with the highest level of quality,” she said. 

The importance of autonomy

Cheah’s experiences with companies have allowed her to freely explore the boundaries of her art which, according to her, has allowed her to value her creativity and provide flexibility while meeting campaign requirements. 

“However, I acknowledge that some companies may tend to be a little stricter on the briefs for the sake of consistency. "

She added:

Although this may impose limits on creativity, I strongly believe that as an artist, it is really important to have open communication with accompany to express ideas and negotiate where possible to find a middle ground.

Moreover, she noted that it is really important for artists to find ways to infuse their own personal voices in their own works while still meeting the company's needs. 

Related articles:
Malaysian papercutting artist catches Netflix's attention for CNY artwork
What it takes to lead on a global stage, according to 3 international adland players
Tesla gets the green light to establish head office in MY

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