Sunday, 6 July 2014

Art for Life: An outsider's dream

Perbualan Malam: Etam, acrylic on canvas.

Perbualan Malam: Etam, acrylic on canvas.

Hafiz Nordin’s first show at Studio 267 has put both artist and gallery on the map.

STANDING before the dimly lit porch, a stylised “267” is the only sign hinting that visitors have arrived at Studio 267.

The new creative space – based in a three-storey bungalow tucked in the leafy enclave of Damansara Heights in Kuala Lumpur – is the home of Art For Life, a collective game to host individuals with creative ideas no matter the medium.

Nini Marini, one of the founding members, says they had rented the space for two years but just “activated” (note: Nini’s exact words) it.

Nini says she first got involved with Studio 267 when she was looking for a space to work on her paintings while fellow member, designer Lukas Lim was looking for an office.

Hafiz Nordin's 'Mimpi Siang Si Atan', ink on canvas, which displays the young artist's keen surreal visions. It is part of his first solo exhibition 'The Unknown Door' at Studio 267 in Kuala Lumpur.
Mimpi Siang Si Atan, ink on canvas.

“We just interviewed each other, made sure we were all aligned,” says Nini, dramatically gesturing at Lim across the table, “and now we’re family.”

Reflecting their philosophy of creativity from all mediums, the eclectic family of Studio 267 now includes architect Danny Koshy, curator Lianna Leong, and fashion label ThirtyFour’s owner and designer Shuenn Kee.

Their first project The Unknown Door is also a first for their collaborator, graphic artist Hafiz Nordin. The Ampang, Selangor-born Hafiz’s debut sees him putting forward 48 pieces, made up of seven paintings and 41 graphite and ink sketches done over a two year period.

Nini reveals that she and Hafiz had worked in the same media company for years, though they had never really talked about their artistic pursuits outside of work.

After being introduced to Hafiz, 29, through a mutual colleague, Nini was quickly won over by his enthusiasm and art portfolio.

Hafiz Nordin's 'Nightwatch', a charcoal on paper work, which displays the young artist's keen eye for portraits. It is part of his first solo exhibition 'The Unknown Door' at Studio 267 in Kuala Lumpur.
Nightwatch, a charcoal on paper work.

Hafiz says he has wanted to do a solo show since he graduated (fine arts degree, majored in sculpture, minored in painting) from UiTM, Shah Alam in Selangor. Before this exhibition, he had slowly built up his reputation through group shows at RA Fine Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur and the Core Gallery in Subang, Selangor.

“It’s been my dream since college, and working a day job has never dampened that dream. Now it’s finally happened, I feel quite relaxed,” shares Hafiz, during a recent interview at Studio 267.

A man given to dreaming, Hafiz adds his paintings are drawn from his dreams.

He points out the surrealistic painting Perbualan Malam: Etam, which came to him in two different dreams that followed his intense research into Polish artistic duo Etam (made up of muralists Przemyslaw Blejzyk and Mateusz Gapski). His moody, black and white pieces also catch the eye, especially the pensive Nightwatch, a charcoal portrait, and the whimsical dreamscape of Mimpi Siang Si Atan, ink on canvas. Walking through the three-storey exhibition space, which Lianna Leong had deftly curated into groups by their recurring themes, one can see Hafiz’s meticulous eye for details in his sketches of women, hands, guns and even ducks.

Hafiz Nordin's 'Sweet Dreams', a charcoal and acrylic work, which displays the young artist's versatility on canvas. It is part of his first solo exhibition 'The Unknown Door' at Studio 267 in Kuala Lumpur.
Sweet Dreams, a charcoal and acrylic work.

“I got the idea of layering and merging images from working on photoshop, but instead I wanted to do it by hand,” says Hafiz, admitting that it was a lot more work than with digital, especially when he needed to correct errors by erasing and redrawing rather than pressing an undo button.

Though already a professional graphic artists by day, Hafiz says he doesn’t mind also devoting his free time to his art, treating it as both a hobby and an important part of his life.

“I just have to sketch, and the way it keeps track of my progress, my sketches are also my diary,” he explains.

While the majority of Hafiz’s work on display at Studio 267 are smaller graphite, ink or charcoal sketches, he muses that sketching doesn’t satisfy him.

“I enjoy playing with colours and textures in paintings. I’m not so controlling about execution, and I like letting the paint drip down the canvas and having it look a bit raw,” he says.

Like any good creative space, Studio 267 is never static. After hosting Hafiz’s The Unknown Door exhibition, Nini plans to have a showcase combining art and cooking.

Hafiz Nordin at his debut solo exhibition 'The Unknown Door' at new creative space Studio 267 in Kuala Lumpur.
Hafiz Nordin at his debut solo exhibition The Unknown Door at new creative space Studio 267 in Kuala Lumpur.

“Imagine a cook preparing a menu based on the paintings around this house. If he worked off Hafiz’s paintings, I’m sure it’d be something pretty dark but really interesting,” says Nini, glancing around the collection of stark and somewhat surreal drawings around her.

Nini notes that the process of finding creative contributors tends to be organic, she doesn’t actively look for participants nor do people seek out Art For Life.

In fact, in the time this writer was interviewing Hafiz, Nini had found a group of graffiti artists attending the exhibit who proposed using the space for a series of sculptures they were working on.

Who knows what this collective will be up to next?

Studio 267 is located at No. 267, Jalan Damansara, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. Art For Life can be contacted through email at or on their Instagram account @artforlifepresents. Viewing of Hafiz Nordin’s The Unknown Door is by appointment.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Lifestyle , Hafiz Nordin , The Unknown Door


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