Nirmala Dutt (1941 - 2016) may be called the conscience of our times. She was a pioneering figure in Malaysian contemporary art in more ways than one. Not only was she one of the few prominent woman artists to have emerged in the 1970s, her exploration of new aesthetic forms also broke new grounds. Her practice spanned documentary photography, painting, silkscreen, collage, and public art. She began her training under Mohd. Hoessein Enas, a key figurative painter, and went on to art schools in the United States and the U.K. She returned to Malaysia in 1978, and had since become a prominent figure in Malaysian art.

Nirmala's biggest goal in art was to direct our attention towards the plight of the downtrodden. In turn, she called upon the artist to play the role of a social commentator. From her early photographic account of environmental destruction and poor living conditions in the slum environment of Kuala Lumpur to epic scale silkscreen paintings that formed an indictment against world disasters and war atrocities, Nirmala remained perhaps our most socially committed artist. While her work was always deeply emotional and often painful, she demonstrated great artistic curiosity through her research into our region's aesthetic philosophies and forms, in order to experiment with new pictorial expressions that were crucial for her push towards relevance, clarity and impact.