The Kelantanese artist gathers ideas and inspiration by paying attention to his surroundings.
People-watching can be a rewarding affair. Not in a voyeuristic capacity, though. But by simply allowing a person’s life, in that particular moment, to unfold before your very eyes.
Of course, this exercise may prove to be mundane. As challenging as it can be, it is in these ordinary moments that one gets to observe the extraordinary. Take artist Khairudin Zainudin for instance. The Bachok, Kelantan-born chap cherishes every moment he spends in the public arena. To him, it is a treasure trove of human expressions and activities. He takes strolls, he observes, he remembers and then he captures these moments through his art.
His sketch book ready at hand, he whips it out whenever someone arrests his wandering gaze and starts what he calls his “visual documentation”.
“I first started sketching back in 2008. It began as a fun pastime but I became interested in observing people, especially when there are unexpected situations. That really spurs me on,” says Khairudin during a recent interview at the G13 gallery in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
“More than that, it allows me to
notice what’s happening around me and appreciate it ... the snapshots of life,” he explains.
What makes his sketches illuminating is the fact that he captures a myriad of movements made by his subject in a single drawing.
There is a dominant figure and surrounding it are strokes of movements made by his subject; from someone reclining on the chair to something mundane like a person scratching his nose. Most of the time, this activity involves picking up on idiosyncrasies to try and guess at another person’s story.
What transpired from his countless sketches is a very refreshing, energetic collection of artworks, now exhibited at the G13 Gallery. Indeed, the title of the exhibition, Senyap Dalam Gege, speaks of the stillness amidst the chaos through which his sketches have taken shape. In the Kelantanese Malay dialect, gege, means noise or noisy. This solo show rounds off an eventful year here for Khairudin, 27, who was also part of group shows in Kuala Lumpur like the Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition in April and READrawing at Galeri Petronas in June.
Next month, he will be G13 Gallery’s representative at the Art Taipei 2014 expo in Taiwan, where he will exhibit seven other exclusive pieces from this Senyap Dalam Gege series. Despite being a soft-spoken individual, Khairudin gives much thought to the questions surrounding the works in Senyap Dalam Gege.
“When I sketch, I fully focus on that person or situation. The environment may be noisy but between me and the subject, there is total quietness. Even if the subject moves a lot and there are other people moving around them, I choose to ignore all of that. It’s like being in my own world,” says Khairudin, who is based in Kelantan.
The artist also takes photographs to document his subjects when the circumstance or time does not permit. He pointed out that he eventually became acutely aware of things and his surroundings.
It took this UiTM Masters in Fine Arts graduate nearly six months to complete his astonishing collection of 20 artworks, seven of which are graphite sketches on paper, while the rest are masterstrokes using a mixed medium of acrylic and charcoal.
All of the artworks are, in essence, the artist’s encounters with interesting people in his daily life, from the coffee shop crowd to faces in the market and people riding the LRT (when he is in the Klang Valley). All the subjects sketched are real life strangers.
One of the most eye-catching pieces in Senyap Dalam Gege is named Terima Dengan Rela. This commanding sketch is a perfect illustration of finding quiet in the midst of chaos. One could almost vicariously enter the artist’s mind through this artwork. This is the “focus” that Khairudin talks about.
For you see an old man, sitting, rather casually, on the rail track. For the longest time, he remains still, evidenced by the intricate details Khairudin was able to capture. Only his head and hands move. Also, people walk up and down the track. Why then is this old man unaffected by his surroundings? Why is he the only one sitting on the track? And his face, that nonchalant countenance when he looks at the artist, is captivating. You begin to wonder about this man’s story.
“I boarded a train from KL back to Kelantan and on the way, the train headed in the opposite direction toppled. It was quite a situation. Our journey was halted and only resumed hours later.
“In the long hours that followed, I saw many unusual characters which one wouldn’t normally encounter. So, I met this pakcik at the site of the accident. He just sat there and I thought this was a good moment to document,” recalls Khairudin.
This is exactly what makes this young artist’s artworks stand out – you get a sense of wonder and curiosity within each sketch. Beyond these encounters, Khairudin’s sketches inadvertently encapsulate pockets of his own memories and his subjects’ histories. The artist, as we discover, also has stacks of sketch pads and notebooks in his private studio in Bachok.
“You can call them my ‘diaries’ that I return to for inspiration,” he says.
We know how it feels to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to really focus on someone and block out all the noise.
But if we could do that, to really set our eyes upon a person and make all else around us a blur, we will begin to see, as Khairudin does, beauty in the ordinary and magic in the humdrum.
Khairudin Zainudin’s Senyap Dalam Gege exhibition is on at G13 Gallery, GL13,Ground Floor, Block B, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/26, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor till Sept 27. Open daily from 11am to 5pm. Closed on Sunday and public holidays. For more information, visit www.g13gallery.com. Call 03-7880 0991 or 019-2114 69.