“Beautiful Decay”: Sketches of Endangered Architecture and Cultures in South East Asia
By Buz Walker-Teach
Why do I draw?
I draw because I enjoy it. Drawing can be tremendously satisfying to me - when I’m ‘on’, it is a kind of meditation to me, relaxing and enjoyable. Both the ‘act’ of drawing and looking at the end result give me much pleasure. As many live-sketch artists say: It’s about observation - drawing makes one study the subject closer, and you understand more about it.
These days, I do almost all my sketching ‘live’ on site. I find that the drawing subjects I’m most attracted to are those objects and architecture from an earlier era that are now in decline and worn, with an intriguing tarnish caused by weathering and neglect. The broken and mouldy wooden window shutters on an old shophouse immediately attract the sketcher in me. Through my artist’s eyes, these buildings seem to become more beautiful with age and decay.
The Malaysian cities of Johor Bahru, Malacca and Penang are full of “faded splendor” - classic structures from their rich history that still stand, but are endangered by encroaching ‘modern progress’. Through my drawings, I want to record these buildings before they are demolished and lost forever. In Johor alone, I’ve done more than 160 sketches since I arrived in 2012; as of today, over 50 of these sites have been dramatically altered or demolished. Yet, I also enjoy sketching in modern Singapore, where almost all older buildings have been renovated and “cleaned up”.
When I came to Southeast Asia, I knew that I wanted to do some sketching of the architecture and the cultures I’d find. But I had no idea that I’d still be here, 22 years later, with almost 1,000 drawings of my observations and profound memories of living in an environment that’s so different from my home country of America.
Buz Walker-Teach is a visual artist, sketcher, illustrator, graphic designer and arts lecturer. Born in the USA, Buz earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the American Academy of Art, Chicago, and was a graphic designer & illustrator for 21 years in California, before coming to Southeast Asia in 1995.
Buz began his art teaching career in Penang, Malaysia in 1997. Since 2002, he has been a Senior Design lecturer with the Raffles Education Group, Singapore, and currently teaches at Raffles University in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. In addition to Malaysia and Singapore, he has had the opportunity to sketch in Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines and Japan.