Ohio University

The 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture

Synergy of Curiosity: From Acid to Art by John Sabraw


Event Details

Program Booklet for the 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture

Program Booklet for the Charity Art Exhibition


  • 9:00 a.m. Registration of Guests
  • 10:00 a.m. 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture begins
    • Cultural Performances by UiTM and UPM 
    • Welcome Remarks
    • Keynote by Ohio University Professor John Sabraw, “Synergy of Curiosity: From Acid to Art” 
    • Closing Remarks
  • 12:00 p.m. Signing Ceremony 
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch and Art Sale
  • 2:00 p.m. End of Program

Formal dress for the event is requested

News Release about the Event

Playing with Acid: John Sabraw Turns Poison to Art

Ohio University’s Professor of Art John Sabraw embodies the adage “one man’s poison is another man’s treasure.”

For the past nine years, he has been working closely with his colleague, Ohio University Professor of Civil Engineering Dr Guy Riefler to extract and convert chemicals from Ohio’s streams that are polluted by coal mine runoffs into paint pigment.

Sabraw’s current art work uses the pigment produced by extracting and converting toxic acid mine drainage (AMD) from polluted streams in an effort to raise awareness on environmental issues that pose a threat to wildlife and communities.

“I make paintings that express the sublimity of nature but also the fragility of our relationship with it. All of my paintings use these toxic pigments in combination with standard artist colors,” he said.

Ohio is a hotbed for abandoned mines. A relic of the mid-18th century mining boom, these abandoned coal mines leach water laden with heavy chemicals into the state’s river basin.

Data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources show that an estimated 1,300 miles of Ohio’s streams are polluted by heavy chemicals from abandoned coal mines.

In the mid to late 1990s, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources began a program to address AMD from abandoned mines. Through partnerships with environmental groups, governmental departments and research institutes at Ohio University, the department initiated efforts to restore impacted watersheds in the early 2000s.

Sabraw and Riefler are currently working on producing the pigment on a commercial scale. They hope to channel revenue from the sale of the pigment back into the remediation process of the streams.

Sabraw will elaborate on his efforts to use art to highlight the ways in which our lives are intertwined with a fragile ecosystem at the 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture titled “Synergy of Curiosity: From Acid to Art.”

The Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak is part of the Tun Abdul Razak Chair Programme, a decade-long collaboration between Ohio University and Malaysia.

Established in 1979 and named in the honor of the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Tun Abdul Razak Chair Program at Ohio University has brought unique opportunities to advance greater knowledge and awareness of Malaysian history, culture, economic, social and political life in the United States of America. It works tirelessly to promote knowledge exchange between people in both countries, bringing innovation to the fore.

In collaboration with Ohio University, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), the Ministry of Education and supported by Yayasan Sime Darby, the 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture featuring Professor John Sabraw will be held on Monday, 3 December 2018 at the Sime Darby Convention Center.

Sabraw’s paintings, drawings, and collaborative installations are produced in an eco-conscious manner, and he continually works toward a fully sustainable practice. In his line of work, he continuously seeks alternative materials to produce art and explores visionary ideas and schemes crossing disciplines and even cultures.

Therefore, his keynote presentation is an important one for the 10th Distinguished Tun Abdul Razak Lecture as Malaysia faces a diverse range of environmental issues, such as hazardous and toxic waste problems and air pollution in addition to water pollution.

The lecture may provide Malaysian environmental professionals with new ideas and possibilities of a global-scale environmental solution that is most welcomed by the international environmental community.