Coded Diaries

Wei-Ling Gallery is pleased to announce our exhibition, ‘Coded Diaries’ by legendary Malaysian artist Norma Abbas in her first collaboration with the Gallery.

After a hiatus since her last exhibition in 2016, Norma Abbas presents a body of new works, revealing magical spaces, a ‘hidden’ genesis, and demonstrating an incredible arc of creativity to articulate the meaning of her existence. 

These deeply-reflective paintings, ‘marrying’ semi-abstraction and figuration are delightfully-eclectic – an homage to her feline companions, and a spiritual awakening in its most profound sense.

One of the most striking aspects of ‘Coded Diaries’ is Norma’s unleashing of constraints, resulting in works which are enveloped in a windswept sense of ‘freedom’. The influx of themes close to her heart serves as a metaphor of the human condition, of someone who survived and thrived despite impossible situations.

Coded Diaries’ has nuances of printmaking-like qualities, exquisite angles, a delicate colour-palette and hints at a Cubist approach. As the artist quietly expresses, “I prefer Braque to Picasso”, she is wonderfully-modest about an illustrious career spanning decades, and in these times of artists experimenting with wildly differing persuasions, Norma Abbas never wavered. Her paintings unveil a vulnerability yet simultaneously shows us gusts of the most intimate relationships of her life.



My artworks are true expressions of my own inspiration, spirituality and reality. Love, peace and compassion flow through my heart and actions on to the canvas with absolute intent to cause other hearts to stir with passion and spreading consciousness to all like-minded souls all over the world. If art is true to the artist’s inner being, then this fact, above all, makes everything meaningful.” -Norma Abbas-

Norma Abbas was born in 1951 and was trained in various disciplines: –

1969 – Pre-Diploma Foundation Studies in Art Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

1975 – Bachelor of Arts, Printed/ Woven Textiles, Manchester Polytechnic School of Art, England.

1982 – Masters in Autographics Print Making at Chelsea School of Art, London.

She began exhibiting in 1975 in England and later with Malaysia’s National Art Gallery, Shah Alam Gallery, Art Salon Gallery, Maybank Gallery, Galeri Citra, Badan Warisan and Smith’s Gallery, London to name a few.       

At Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), her classmates included Tajuddin Ismail and Fauzan Omar, and her teachers were Joseph Tan, Redza Piyadasa and Jolly Koh.

During her third year at UiTM, Norma decided to continue doing a Degree in Fine Art, but was told her prospects afterwards were limited. At the time, UiTM began offering student loans and after speaking to one of her teachers, she applied and was amongst the first to acquire one and journeyed to Manchester Polytechnic School of Art before completing her Diploma course.

In her third year at Manchester, Norma was offered to do her Post Graduate Studies but unfortunately, UiTM had ceased providing loans of that particular vein.

She soon returned to England, working part time and painted whenever time permitted and was soon accepted to do her Masters in Fine Art at Chelsea School of Fine Art.

In 1989, she held a two-person show with Khalil Ibrahim, ‘Liku-Liku Hidup’ at Galeri Citra and began a 20 year collaboration with the establishment.

At the urging of the late Tan Sri Zain Azraai, Norma began preparing for her first solo, and ‘Spreading Consciousness’ was held at Galeri Citra in 1995. ‘99 Names of Allah Part 1 in 1999’ was held at Galeri Citra, and ‘99 Names of Allah Complete Collection’ 2001 with Badan Warisan.

Even from the beginning of her artistic journey, Norma has always explored themes encompassing relationships, intimacy, love and contemplation as a way to commune with her Maker and those she is close to.

Her works in the 70s and 80s primarily focused on printmaking, leaning towards etching, monotypes and lithographs. Her love-affair with Cubism is apparent, but Norma puts her own signature on every piece – colours are heavily stratified and exceptionally detailed, resulting in her ‘characters’ dancing their way out the frames.

Norma Abbas is one of Malaysia’s most esteemed women artists, whose works stand alongside illustrious artists Ruzaika Omar, Nirmala Shanmughalingam, Siti Zainon Ismail, Fatimah Chik, Kalsom Muda and Sivam Selvaratnam.

Norma observes, “When it comes to my works, you have to read between the lines. The messages are there, albeit hidden. Those who can see would immediately understand.”

A comprehensive collection of her works, ‘A Colourful Journey to a Promise’ (Kembara Pelangi Menuju Janji) was held at the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery in 2016.

Norma Abbas currently works from her home-based studio accompanied by her feline family, Titat Girl, Matisse Boy, Hiyo Boi, Mavrik Girl, Bojie Boy and Poody Boy.

Coded Diaries’ is featured at Wei-Ling Gallery from 24th September – 22nd October 2022.

Wei-Ling Gallery is located at No 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm.

Exhibition is open by appointment only. For appointments and further assistance, please contact +60322601106 or e-mail