The Artists of Kuala Lumpur Illustration Fair 2024, Part Two


Last week, we introduced some of the artists that caught our eye at the Kuala Lumpur Illustration Fair, which took place over the weekend of 3rd to 5th May 2024. This week, we cannot wait to show you another three artists who stood out to us among all the other talented illustrators exhibiting at GMBB.


GrimmyGranny is a sister duo, composed of Sara and Nicky Chong. Their art style stands out instantly from the crowd, their eccentric choices of colours and imagery commanding the eye’s attention as it takes in all the details. Dogs fly through the sky, jet fire issuing from their behinds. Four-eyed, four-mouthed creatures frolic in psychedelically colourful night skies.

How did you start as an artist?
Sara: In our family, there’s no one else doing art. I randomly decided, “I want to study graphic design.” And my sister saw me doing assignments everyday and she thought my work was so cool. I was like, “No! Please don’t do this.” (laughs).

Nicky: After I graduated, Sara and I were in the same industry, graphic design. We started working and quite a lot of people appreciated our art and styling. During MCO, we had nothing to do, so we thought we could customise stickers and also a lot of people supported us. We thought that we could try to expand this and it could be our retirement plan.

Sara: We studied graphic design, so we’re good at coming up with merchandise. And I was thinking that we needed to use the most low-cost method to sell stuff, so stickers were very cheap. Cult Creative featured us and after that other brands like TAPAUfest asked us to do their event poster. After that, coffee shops asked us if we wanted our stuff featured in their shops. We started with posters but that became creating other illustrations and art eventually.

How would you describe your style?
Sara: Psychedelic, grunge, symbolism, nonsense.

Nicky: You can see in our artwork, that there’s a lot of texture on texture, a lot of noise. Because we don’t like minimal things. We like weird things.

What inspires you artistically?
Sara: We collect vinyl albums, we talk about bands, and when we started to talk about art, we feel that in Malaysia, there are a lot of people doing minimalist styles. But we always wanted to try something different. More uncomfortable things. We are in advertising, and when the client wants something simple and straightforward it can be a bit boring for us, so this is like our alter ego. We wanted to try something that can never sell in the commercial world.

What was it like being at KLIF?
Sara: Very impressive. We got to meet a lot of artists with different styles, so that was very nice. This year, there’s a lot of unknown artists.

Is there a message you want to convey with your art?
Sara: We do this for fun. Some of our artwork is just random and chill. I hope that Malaysians become more open-minded to art and open to different kinds of styles and content.

Follow GrimmyGranny’s Instagram page here!

Kala Mandala

Kala Mandala is a fantasy project centred on Southeast Asia, created by Munkao. Munkao’s art is gorgeous, detailed and realistic pencil art depictions of fantasy worlds, complete with heroes, monsters and lush vistas. Unlike most fantasy worlds you might be used to, this does not feature any knights in shining armour or wizards in flowing robes. Instead, Munkao’s art showcases fantasy inspired by Southeast Asian folklore. Other than illustrations, Munkao also designs and self-publishes modules for Dungeons and Dragons (a fantasy tabletop role-playing game) through Centaur Games, allowing players to play adventures set in the aforementioned Southeast Asian fantasy worlds.

How did you start as an artist?
My brother’s a comic artist, so I’ve been drawing since I was young; he taught me as a kid. I was a lonely kid, so drawing was escapism. I worked as a freelancer, illustrator and all those kinds of things, but I only recently truly enjoyed drawing again as a form of escapism.

How would you describe your style?
A work in progress. It’s still a kind of journey, it’s not a final look, it’s constrained by what I am able to do. In terms of art style, I guess it also depends on people, some people see my art style as realistic, and some people see it as quite cartoony I think.

What inspires you artistically?
A lot of reading of stuff like historical trivia, stuff like magic. Stuff like that really excites my imagination and makes me feel like, “Why don’t we know about this? It’s history.” I’ve been working on this for nine or ten years already. It started when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, I started drawing my character and more fantasy stuff, and I kind of realised, “Why is this all European?” I felt a bit disconnected on some level, and from there there was this impulse to try and visualise what Southeast Asian fantasy could look like, what it could be.

I think it’s the sort of commonality of it, even though regionally a lot of things are very different, like for example between Indonesia and Thailand, the ideas of things like local spirits or magic are very familiar. That shared history and myth. There are versions of Penanggalan all over Southeast Asia, with different names, but the idea and concept are the same.

The adventure module Stirring the Hornet’s Nest at Het Thamsya (an adventure module about rescuing a meditating monk from a temple of automatons and giant wasp monsters) was inspired by stories of Buddhist monks who go into century-long meditations and stay alive. I was also quite captivated by wasp’s nests, they’re gross but I can’t look away, and that kind of stuck in my head. I slowly built that up, thinking about what kind of threats (could challenge the player).

What was it like being at KLIF?
I’m a germaphobe actually, so the pandemic hit me extra hard. Only this year, I started going out so KLIF was very scary at first. But it was surprisingly okay, people were very welcoming, very friendly, very helpful. They also responded quite positively to what I was interested in and what I was sharing. So the experience was actually pretty good.

Is there a message you want to convey with your art?
When I was doing this, a lot of the fantasy that was already available was very ethnonationalist. I wanted to move away from that and instead explore shared histories of a region, and overlapping cultures. Do not imagine Southeast Asia through the lens of ethnonationalist-centrism. In Malaysia, we often say there are three main races. But that’s a modern, colonial way of thinking. I’ve seen a lot of Asian fantasy transpose these three main races into their fantasy, and that’s a bit limiting in terms of imagination, and a bit racist also.

Follow Munkao’s Instagram page here, and also check out his game publishing page as well for updates on his adventure modules!


Kawanlab is a designer toy maker, helmed by Johnathan Hong and two partners, that makes charming, high-quality toys with designs that are a fusion of famous kaiju (giant monsters) combined with iconic Malaysian dishes. For example, their most iconic toy would be the Puffzilla, which as the name suggests is a fusion of Godzilla and a curry puff. Another cute design is a fusion of Godzilla’s nemesis King Ghidorah with Satay and Ketupat. Kaiju have never looked so delicious before!

How did you start as an artist?
At first, we started out collecting toys. But we felt that Malaysia needed something of its own, as every other toy maker was making international toys. We wanted to make a brand that makes locally-inspired toys. After a year in R&D, we started the brand in 2020 with Godzilla as that was a very recognisable image that could put us on the map and really establish our identity. After three more monsters, we will move into our own completely original designs for the toys, while still tying it back to Malaysian food.

We also felt that our toys would be a way for people who visit Malaysia and eat our local food to have something to remember the food by, something to take home.

How would you describe your style?
It has to be fun. Cultural, with a bit of commentary on political and current issues. We’re not trying to be offensive, just have a bit of fun.

What inspires you artistically?
Traditional Japanese woodblock prints are a big inspiration, like Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Malaysian batik as well.

What was it like being at KLIF?
The response at KLIF was better than expected! A lot of passersby during the event stopped to check out the toys.

Is there a message you want to convey with your art?
Support local! Embrace your own culture.

Give Kawanlab a follow here!

For more BASKL, click on the links below!



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