Sunday, 22 June 2014

All in the mind

Mindmix, pencil on paper (2014) by Haslin Ismail.

Mindmix, pencil on paper (2014) by Haslin Ismail.

Artist Haslin Ismail’s newest exhibition Mindmix is surreal, captivating and fantastical.

They gave him another man’s brain and forced him to live in a stranger’s nightmare.” That’s the tagline to Mindmix, a sociological and psychological sci-fi novel written by Leo P. Kelley, first published in 1972. The book, which tells of a man’s struggle against a deadly obscure virus, is relatively obscure today.

For local artist Haslin Ismail, however, the story fired up his imagination. So much so that he was inspired to name his latest exhibition after the novel.

“At first, I was fascinated by the cover, and the tagline. The story had these mad scientist elements in it, like Frankenstein. And its contents matched my work,” says Haslin, 30, during an interview at the G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya, Selangor earlier this week.

“But I am not representing the story through my work. It just served as an inspiration. Mad scientists, like artists, need unique visions. Artists need some evil character to create unique works.”

'I wanted to challenge myself, see how I could control the colour in a variety of shades, forms and compositions,' says Ismail Haslin about his solo exhibition Mindmix.

Mindmix, which is showing at the G13 Gallery till July 5, explores themes such as post-human horror, disenchantment, and the hybridity of man and machine. Much of Haslin’s art features nightmarish dreamscapes filled with dystopian landscapes, as well as twisted, surrealist depictions of the human form.

According to the artist, his inspirations for the exhibition came from many places, ranging from sci-fi and fantasy, to the conflicts of urban life.

“I have lived in KL for seven years since I came here to study in 2007. Since then, I have observed a lot of the city’s surroundings. I’m fascinated by the structures of the buildings. The way people live in such crowded surroundings,” adds Haslin.

A Fine Art Bachelor’s degree graduate fromUiTM, Shah Alam in Selangor, Haslin is regarded as one of the country’s most promising next generation artists. In person, he is reticent and slightly aloof, a man who seems to prefer expressing himself more through his pastels than through his words.

The Muar, Johor-born artist is the winner of many prestigious awards, including the grand prize for In-Print: Contemporary British Art from Paragon Press in 2006, and the grand prize for the Young Contemporaries (Bakat Muda Sezaman) in 2010 at the National Visual Arts Gallery. He has participated in group shows at Galeri Petronas, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Wei-Ling Gallery and many other places. His finely-detailed Book Land installation was a recent attraction on the South-East Asian platform at Art Stage Singapore 2014 earlier this year.

Robot And Empire, acrylic and oil on canvas (2014) by Haslin Ismail.
Robot And Empire, acrylic and oil on canvas (2014) by Haslin Ismail.

Back in the local scene, Mindmix is his third solo exhibition, after shows like Exorcismus Persona: Windows Into The Fantasy Worlds Of Haslin Ismail (2009) and Transfiguration (2013).

“There were supposed to be 16 pieces, but I decided to reduce it to11.” Haslin’s works in Mindmix are done in a variety of mediums, from pencils to oil pastels to collages on canvas. True to the artist’s tastes, a few of the pieces feature classic science fiction influences of the mad scientist variety. It took him six months to complete this exhibition’s pieces.

The Bicentennial Man, for example, was inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic work Frankenstein, while Away And Beyond owes its life to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.

“That novel popularised the theme of ‘alter ego’,” says Haslin about Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. “I explored that (idea) through the use of different colour tones.”

Much of the artist’s work consists of highly-detailed labyrinths of swirls and curves, juxtaposed with images of the human body, such as skulls, brains and heads. Robot And Empire, for example, features a metallic form protruding from a mass of brain tissue, perhaps symbolising man’s incessant obsession with technology. Cities In Flight, on the other hand, features smokestacks and chimneys emerging from what appears to be a pus-coated tree, allegorising the tenuous link between industrialisation and the environment.

One of the most challenging paintings for the artist was Patterns Of Chaos, a mixed media on canvas piece.

“I was inspired to do this from a neighbour in my village. She went for an operation where they put a camera into her body, and I saw the video. I saw the tissues, the muscles, the fat,” explains Haslin.

“This piece focused on one colour, peach. Which was a bit weird for me, because I’m used to very colourful paintings. But I wanted to challenge myself, see how I could control the colour in a variety of shades, forms and compositions.”

According to Haslin, his art was to reflect his personal feelings about contemporary issues close to him. These included the everlasting wars and conflicts, the constant bombardment of technologies on today’s human beings, the presence of greedy and power-hungry leaders, and the impending catastrophes caused by our own hands.

He hoped, however, that his audience would enjoy his works based on their own interpretations of it.

“I love to produce art with several layers, that can symbolise many things. What my work is about depends on the audience. It could be about war. It could be about technology. It could be about man versus machine. I think the younger generation enjoys talking about these (things) nowadays,” concludes Haslin.

Mindmix is showing at the G13 Gallery, GL13, Ground Floor, Block B, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/26, Kelana Jaya in Selangor till July 5. The gallery is open from Monday to Saturday at 11am to 5pm, Closed on Sundays and public holidays. For more info, call 03- 7880 0991 or log on to

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Lifestyle , Haslin Ismail , Art , G13 Gallery


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