A solo show pays tribute to classic Asian films through visually striking comic art.
Dressed in casual clothing, with spiked hair, the soft-spoken Fawwaz Sukri seems like an average young artist.
Conversations with him, however, reveal tastes that skew towards the retro: Fawwaz has a deep fondness for films made decades before he was born.
“I like Asian cinema, especially from the 1960s and 1970s. I like to watch western movies too, especially James Bond films, but I am more in favour of Asian films because they make me feel closer to my culture,” said Fawwaz, 27.
“Old movies are more interesting to watch than new movies. Even though there are no visual effects whatsoever, they manage to make it interesting and great. I like to watch movies from the Shaw Brothers. My favourite ones are The Heroic Ones, Enam Jahanam and Lady Hermit.”
The Selangor-born Fawwaz’s first ever solo art exhibition, Saturday’s Matinee, brings cinema, comic art and canvasses together in a loving tribute to some of his favourite classic Asian films.
The exhibition is currently being held at Pace Gallery, Petaling Jaya in Selangor.
After graduating with a fine art degree from UiTM, Shah Alam, Selangor in 2010, Fawwaz has steadily built up his portfolio in the art scene here.
The artist’s work has previously been showcased in (group) exhibitions such as the Spice Show 2012 and 2013, the Piece of Me Art Charity Show for Typhoon Haiyan victims, and LifeFest KL 2011. Fawwaz’s latest exhibition is named after the matinee, an afternoon showing of a cinema film.
“They were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. There would even be a performance before the film or during the intermission. It was very special! I found this out from older family members and friends. Saturday would be the day to go and see a matinee. That’s how I named my exhibition,” said Fawwaz.
Saturday’s Matinee features 12 paintings, most depicting scenes from classic Asian films such as When Durians Bloom (from Hong Kong), Bobby (India) and Madu Tiga (Malaysia).
Tan Sri P. Ramlee movies are heavily featured, in particular, Di Belakang Tabir, with Fairuz lovingly capturing its stars Jins Shamsuddin, Nor Azizah and Monica Jones, in individual portraits.
“There was supposed to be another painting from the movie, of P. Ramlee, that would have been the 13th piece in this exhibition. Sadly, I didn’t manage to finish it due to time constraint,” said Fawwaz.
Looking at Fawwaz’s art, the first thing that leaps out is how similar they are to brightly coloured comic panels. According to the artist, this style was deliberately chosen to enhance the visual impact of his artwork. His paintings are also vividly coloured to create a surreal quality to the captured image from the film.
Asked whether he agreed with the common perception that pop art was not “high art”, Fawwaz‘s opinion was that art had already moved on from this debate.
“I think almost all professional people in the art market do not hold this view anymore, just as they have discarded the same notion that abstract expressionism is not ‘high art’. In fact, pop art is having a bit of a renaissance in Europe, and is selling for record prices at auctions,” said Fawwaz, whose influences include comic artists Gene Colman and Stan Lee, as well as 1960s American pop artist Roy Lichtenstien.
Fawwaz’s pieces are striking and varied: The Greatest features a highly charged moment of the great boxer Muhammad Ali in his prime, while When Durians Bloom depicts a tender moment between a husband and wife.
Another prominent feature of his art is the use of cut-up movie poster collages, which take the appearance of jagged rips and tears on his paintings. The artist said this was intended to convey subliminal messages about the images in his the work.
For example, his painting Mat Tiga Suku (1964) features a collage of posters from the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator.
“Mat Tiga Suku’s main actor, Mat Sentul, was like the Charlie Chaplin of Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a very funny guy who created some very funny films. So, I put the Charlie Chaplin posters into the painting as a reflection,” said Fawwaz.
Asked to single out his favourite piece, Fawwaz named Enam Jahanam (1969), based on P. Ramlee’s classic story of love and revenge.
“I liked the movie so much, I decided to celebrate it in the form of a painting. P. Ramlee and Wan Azizah have fantastic chemistry! I wanted to share with the audience my experience of watching the movie,” he said.
Fawwaz added he had once watched a History Channel documentary about P. Ramlee, which stated the great filmmaker’s wish was to see his films in colour. This exhibition, therefore, was his way of realising his hero’s dream.
“I think people are starting to realise we have quite a film legacy. I’d like to share these old movies with my audience. That’s why I included their titles in my exhibition. Hopefully, they may be inspired to Google these movies, and watch them later,” Fawwaz said with a smile.
Saturday’s Matinee is showing at Pace Gallery, 64, Jalan Kemajuan, Section 12/18, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, till March 26. Opening hours: 11am to 7pm (Monday to Saturday); Sunday by appointment only. Call 03-7954 6069 or visit www.pacegallery.net for more details.