The Art Bug
Evanna Ramly 
Kupeh Rodriguez’s artwork was based on the shape of the Beetle

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1938, the Beetle’s distinct shape has evolved through the years, yet its charm and unique characteristics remain. Loved across the world, numerous artists have used the famed car as a blank canvas, a tradition that looks set to stay.

“The Beetle has a very unique place in popular culture, and the car has been transformed by the world famous names in the art scene,” says Erik Winter, managing director of Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia. “Its shape is one of the most recognisable and iconic in automotive history and though the car has been face-lifted over the years, it still maintains its design roots loved by many.”

This year, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia collaborates with nine local artists to celebrate the Beetle. The #BeetleInspired campaign delves into their creative minds as they interpret the car through their respective mediums.

The artists are Afiq Afify, Dudu de Doodle, Eleanor Lim, Kenji Chai, Kupeh Rodriguez, Pantun Pins, Pestle & Mortar, Shani Ahmed and Zami Musa, and they have produced a range of graffiti, paintings, calligraphy, doodles, illustrations, pins and various other artworks, showcasing home-grown talent at its most vibrant.

“What we wanted to see from the artists was how the car inspired them, and how they would inject their own creative DNA into the design of the Beetle,” says Winter. “We’re delighted to be able to provide this platform for local artists to showcase their talents, and it’s been amazing to see all the great Beetle-inspired work.”

Afiq wanted to capture the Beetle’s vintage appeal

Art supporter

“Art and design have always been among the key elements for Volkswagen,” Winter enthuses. “Around the world, the Volkswagen Group has been an active supporter of arts. We enjoy a long-standing partnership with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and have also supported art exhibitions around the world, including the largest ever exhibition of German contemporary art in China.”

Previously, the marque embarked on successful partnerships with Malaysian fashion designers such as Melinda Looi and Alia Bastamam. Winter is pleased to work with passionate people who are drawn to the Beetle. “It was extremely interesting to see how the different forms of art came together, and the incredible art that was inspired by the Beetle.”

Happily, fans of Volkswagen and art enthusiasts alike can expect more of such creative platforms in the future. “We hope to continue supporting and providing local talents with a platform to showcase their work. There are a lot of budding artists and creative people who have taken the time to produce their own artwork so this is definitely something we want to continue to explore.”


Creative forces

Afiq Afify is known for his colourful murals as well as for his fashion label Aku Design. Originally from Melaka, he now resides in Kuala Lumpur. He has produced artworks all over the country as well as in Australia and Indonesia.

“I love the silhouette and the lines of the Beetle,” he smiles. “The line-up of colours for the car is very interesting, especially the Bottle Green.”

His idea was to celebrate those colours and the car’s technology. “I’ve been experiencing the Beetle in the urban environment. I wanted to capture the Beetle from its vintage look to the more contemporary design, and express it through geometrical shapes in my artwork.”

A banker by day and an artist in his free time, Dudu de Doodle prefers to remain anonymous. His style is very experimental and he loves using unique elements like coffee stains in his art.

“The Beetle looks exactly like the namesake insect; the nice curvy lines give it a very artistic look,” he muses. “I’ve created this artwork starting from a cute little bug, a beetle with a big dream to evolve through the generations and to become a better vehicle.”

Eleanor Lim, a student at Sunway University, loves experimenting with calligraphy when she doesn’t have her nose in a book. Her work is quickly gaining attention in the local arts community while her following on social media is growing rapidly.

“I was inspired by the vibrant colours of the Beetle, and how it’s such a classic, yet lives on today as a modern icon,” she reveals. “I wanted to lend a feminine touch by adding soft strokes as well as warm and fun colours to attract the younger crowd.”

Formerly a graphic designer, graffiti artist Kenji Chai moved from screen to real-life art because he felt he could do much more meaningful work when it involves the community. He travels around Asia for collaborative work and leaves his creative signature with the trademark Chaigo spray.

“I felt so happy to be a part of this project,” says Chai, whose style has always been influenced by nature. He also hopes to create awareness for animal conservation. “In my artwork, the Beetle was transformed into a ladybug, and I drew an environment to match the new Beetle.”

Kupeh Rodriguez is a designer at Vision Animation. His illustration style is very quirky and eccentric, which has made him a favourite with international brands. “I like the new Beetle in terms of the shape, where they have twisted the old design but maintained the original curves. When you look at the Beetle, you will fall in love with it.”

Rodriguez’s artwork is based on the shape of the Beetle and is titled Make Love. Why? “Because love comes from the heart,” he winks.

Pantun Pins has a strong following thanks to its whimsical range of lapel pins that evoke Malaysiana. The creative team is headed by famous graffiti artist, Cloakwork. “The Beetle is really an iconic car; the shape is truly unique and even after being modernised, still maintains that old-school charm,” he says, adding that the inspiration for the collaboration was mostly graffiti-driven.

Home-grown fashion label Pestle & Mortar was co-founded by Hugh Koh in 2010. Its design concept is based on Malaysian trends and culture, and its sub-brand, Major Drop, curates international streetwear for the local market.

“The Beetle comes from a long history – we’re talking over 70 years,” says Koh. “We wanted to show that the car has really stood the test of time, and we wanted to do that using the backdrop of old Malaysia.”

Shani Ahmed is a visual artist from Maldives currently residing in Malaysia. Mother of a two-year-old, she likes to paint beautiful women and nature-skewed artworks. For her, it is the retro feel of the original car that makes it very interesting.

“I love that it uses a lot of vintage colour themes, which are some of my favourite colours to paint with,” she says. “When I looked at the new Beetle, I saw that it has very distinctive curves. This reminded me of the curves of the bird of paradise, hence my inspiration for this collaboration.”

Shani connected the Beetle’s distinct curves with birds of paradise

Owner of a design studio, Zami Musa is also a renowned doodler whose style perfectly exemplifies how it is all in the details. His artwork sees iconic Malaysian buildings showcased within a silhouette of the Beetle.“It inspired me a lot how they have transformed the Volkswagen Beetle itself, to fit the current design trends until today.”

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 263.