Trio show Obscured Lucidity showcases abstract reasonings and more.
When it comes to appreciating abstract art, there seems to be an unfortunate misconception that the quality of a work is directly proportional to the age of the artist.
Wisdom and insight, after all, are often connected with age and experience. And the result of this perception is that promising abstract works get looked over just because they were not done by established names.
Obscured Lucidity, a group exhibition now on at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur, aims to change this. The exhibition takes a look at the formal permutations of abstraction in the works of three Kuala Lumpur-based artists: Raduan Man, Saiful Razman and Fendy Zakri, all of whom are in their 30s.
“Figurative works have always been in demand, but abstract works were only considered very good if they were made by modern masters. The work of younger artists were disregarded,” says exhibition curator Haffendi Anuar.
“We thought of showcasing these works to give a wider breadth to Malaysian art.”
Obscured Lucidity features 14 pieces of artwork, all of which concentrate on the idea of artistic non-figuration, and feature the strong formal influence of Abstract Expressionist works.
Non-figurative art (often referred to as abstract art) uses a visual language of shape, form, colour and lines to create artistic compositions. This is in contrast to figurative art, which describes artwork clearly derived from real object sources, with the human figure and animals being popular subjects.
Haffendi said that despite having variations in their applications and media, the works of all three artists uniformly displayed common formal traits such as the gestural application of paint, vividness of colour, and strong emotional intensity.
“We chose Obscured Lucidity as the title because of the duality in the words,” he says. “There’s clarity in the approach: how the artists produce the works, what steps they take. But there’s an obscurity that comes from not knowing what to produce when they come to the studio. It’s part of the magic. A lot of them say there’s a lot of freedom when you don’t have to create an image when coming into the studio, when you just go in and work on the canvas.”
According to Perak-born artist Saiful Razman, 34, he was drawn to the process of creating non-figurative art after suffering a “crisis of images” in 2010. Previously a figurative painter and social commentator, the artist found himself drawn back to what he felt were the fundamentals of painting.
“At that point, I felt I didn’t need images to express what I felt. I wanted to detach myself from all preconceived ideas or images. It was a return to the traditional methods, of just putting paint on a surface. It was what painting was all about,” says Saiful.
His present work can be considered as an extension of his Forms Of Void show at the same gallery last June.
A graduate of UiTM with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art in 2003, Saiful has had his work exhibited widely in Malaysia, Lebanon, Australia and Singapore. One of the most striking things about his art is that none of them feature titles, each work simply named “Untitled” and given a number.
“It’s my strategy. I want the audience not to rely on a title when seeing my painting. I try to get them to detach themselves from everything when making their interpretation,” says Saiful.
Like Saiful, some of newcomer artist Fendy Zakri’s artwork are nameless, simply named by number: others, however, feature evocative emotional names, such as Love, Rapturous and Desirability, all displayed in 2014. The artist expressed he always injected his feelings into the works he created.
“Without my personal emotions, a work has no soul,” says Fendy.
Fendy, 32, recently held his first solo exhibition, Seeing The Unseen, in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. He is known for his method of combining paint washes with scribbles using oil-pastel sticks and charcoal.
Asked his process of painting, the artist described himself as a very conceptual painter, before comparing the beauty of art to the beauty of a woman.
“If you look at my paintings, you will see I use a lot of space. Deep space, flat space and ambiguous space. And I love it. It’s the same thing when I see a woman – I see the space in her. I see the lines, the balance. There are only two things in life that hypnotise my mind: women and painting,” says Fendy, with a twinkle in his eye.
While Fendy’s inspiration comes from the fairer sex, Raduan Man, the third artist in the exhibition, draws his art from nature, more specifically Malaysian jungles such as Kenyir and Rompin. His artwork, such as Morning Gold I and II, and Landscape I, were all inspired from the outdoors-loving artist’s fishing and hunting trips.
“I didn’t want to just copy nature and put it on my canvas. I needed to think and feel about it. If I just took a picture from the jungle and copied it later, I wouldn’t like it. I needed to ‘transfer’ it to my mind first,” the artist said, when asked why he did not favour painting the jungles in a more conventional natural style.
He added that the transfer of the image from his mind to the more non-figurative style on linen reflected his artistic process, where he transferred an image from one medium to another.
“I put things in the artwork from my inspiration. Smooth lines, fine lines, small lines. And red lines, which mean, don’t bother us. Keep things natural, for the sake of our own future. There’s symbolic meaning,” says Raduan, referring to his nature paintings.
Raduan, 36, a graduate of the Camberwell School of Art, London, has had his work displayed in many group and solo exhibitions since 2000, and been featured in the arts collections of Bank Negara Malaysia, Khazanah Nasional, and the National Visual Arts Gallery. He is most well-known for his works done in the medium of woodcut and oils on linen.
According to the artist, the paintings in this exhibition were part of his new “Nature” series, which he hoped to fully unveil next year.
Obscured Lucidity is on till Oct 21 at the Richard Koh Fine Art. Details here.