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Where Sculptured Glass Leaves Thrive

Right on the windy but scenic Teluk Bahang main road, along the halfway point to Balik Pulau, sits Art & Garden by Fuan Wong. The one and a half hectare-large land mainly comprises of durian trees and half a hectare is where Fuan’s sculptured glass leaves thrive. Imperious, statuesque with lovely pointed tips glinting in the sun, these leaves are punctuations among richly hued leafy plants such as bromeliads.
It has taken Fuan three and a half years to cultivate this garden that fuses works of art and natural plants, a space where his large pieces of glass sculptures inspired by the graceful bends and folds of leaves can show off their imposing beauty and thrive in their full glory. It’s also where his collection of bromeliads thrive, allowing the leafy glass sculptures a lush background which he opened to the public around August 2015.

Just months into its opening, Fuan’s sculptures have already garnered plenty of attention for commissions for his magnificent sculptures. This is because, when it was impossible to imagine how these large glass pieces can fit into an alien or natural environment, it is now possible to see their significant contribution in amplifying an ambience.

Fuan on his Art & Garden
What’s the idea behind Art & Garden?
Being a plant collector, I had propagated them to a point where I had to either get rid of them or sell them or something. So, using them to dress up my family’s rather plain durian farm seemed like a good idea. Also, I had gotten to the stage in my glass (sculpting) career when I wanted to experiment with big work for the outdoors.

What sort of art governs Art & Garden's style or concept?
Eclectic. And contributed by various artists.

What are the main plants you've grown at Art & Garden?
Mainly Bromeliads because they are a passion of mine. There are also some specialised ferns like Staghorns as well as species orchids and other funky stuff, for example, there are various species of plants that live symbiotically with ants, called myrmecophytes and they come from various families of plants – I grow two species found in our jungles. I also like airplants, Tillandsia, and they are bromeliads too. Some Tree aloes that are related to aloe vera but will grow into trees if conditions are right and sarracenias, which are pitcher plants from North America.

What do you hope a visitor will derive from the Art & Garden experience?
I think it is actually quite beautiful, so there is the visual impact. But a more important factor is engendering interest in art and plants in otherwise indifferent people. And it really pleases me when it gives a kick in the pants of other gardeners. There’s been a lot of feedback from people who feel inspired and energised to go back and do things to their own (garden) patch.

Who would appreciate Art & Garden?
It’s a wide spectrum. Mostly people who enjoy beauty and like plants but we have had hardened urbanites who like it.

Besides absorbing the art, flora and fauna, what else can a visitor expect at Art & Garden?
I am sometimes there and will hold a tour if the visitors are interested. That can be a plus (I think)! So far, everyone is mostly left to wander about but the artwork is captioned, the interesting plants are labelled and there are explanatory notes for the more important stuff. For example, we have two Staghorns named after Ridley and Holtum – both gentlemen were involved in Penang Botanic Gardens, one was instrumental in kick-starting the rubber industry and the other pioneered methods of orchid cultivation which revolutionised the then nascent industry. I don't think however that the general public would know about this, which is a pity.

To do and absorb
It’s a place that will incite a small kind of wonder, perhaps even inspire you to open up a sketch book to immortalise the intermingling of the manifestation of human creativity with nature or the garden’s many nooks and corners that burst with colours, art and plants. Other than that, it’s also an open air art gallery showcasing sculptures, artwork and photographs of various artists such as Howard Tan, Tom Powell, Phillip Hemnell, Khor Guan Kheng, Ch'ng Kiah Kien, Jonathon Yun, Nizam Abdullah, Nina Rupena and the like. There are hardy, beautiful wooden benches for you to sit and contemplate the environment and the garden’s inhabitants, if not life itself.

For a reprieve from the warmth of the outdoors, you can browse in the bright, spacious gift shop offering unique goods such as sculptured jewellery by Jonathan Yun, woven mengkuang bags, handmade soaps and Fuan’s own glass sculptured creations. Although it is a garden, and even though most gardens are friendly to children, this place is somewhat more sophisticated and require some decorum for children to appreciate its beauty and open spaces.

To get there
The Rapid Penang bus #501 that travels the Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang route is a possible transport to the garden and by car. It’s also possible to hire a taxi for half a day or a couple of hours to take you there and back again to your start point. It’s recommended to spend at least a couple of hours strolling, sitting and breathing the air lightly perfumed by foliage at the garden.

By car: From Batu Ferringhi, whose road fades into Teluk Bahang road, keep going till you hit the Teluk Bahang roundabout and then turn left right up to the dam and toward Balik Pulau. Once you’ve passed the Tropical Fruit Farm, Art & Garden is less than a kilometer on your right.

By car: From Balik Pulau town, follow exit signs indicating Batu Ferringhi and a little after the halfway point to Teluk Bahang town, keep an eye out on the left for Art & Garden. If you see Tropical Fruit Farm, then do backtrack for around 800 metres and you’ll find Art & Garden.

Other details
Art & Garden is open from 9am to 6pm and is closed on Tuesdays. They supply spritzes of citronella insect repellent to stave off the niggly little insects at the entrance. There’s water available at the gift shop. Wearing cotton pants and long sleeves may help against sunburn and light insect bites while a wide brim hat helps keep your face shaded. Slathering on some sunblock is a good idea to prevent sunburn. Fees are RM30 per adult and 20 per cent off for MyKad holders. Get onto their Facebook or call 013 – 533 1232 for clearer directions or other details.