There is a reconstruction of Claude Monet’s The Japanese Footbridge at Apresiasi, the art exhibition going on now at Hom Art Trans in Kuala Lumpur.
Yes, the iconic 18th century oil painting by this French impressionist painter – except that in this version, it is not oil paint.
Nor Tijan Firdaus’s take on this well-known artwork is all angular angles, unyielding and static, and resolute in its mission to make square bits fit into a circle.
And how can it not be, when she works with e-waste in this series of works where discarded electronic components are pieced together in her recreation of the works of the modern masters.
The 32-year-old’s take on Monet’s Japanese bridge over a pond of water lilies is there, alongside American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl and abstract painter Steve Magada’s Trio. If you want to take a look at a portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, well, she’s there too.
This is Nor Tijan’s way of bridging the past with the present.
Firstly, by breathing new life into these masterpieces from centuries past; and secondly, through her use of discarded e-material in making a statement about the throw-away society we live in, where excessive production of items with a short lifespan and over-consumption are the norm.
“This show gives me the freedom to further experiment with this new media, a continuation of the work I did in Hom Art Trans’ Young And New last year,” she says of the gallery’s open-call exhibition for Malaysian artists under 35, which was introduced in 2007.
Apresiasi showcases the familiarity of two artists – Nor Tijan and Aely Manaf – with their choice of medium and how far they are willing to push it. Nor Tijan’s work with e-waste, which she obtained from electronic devices and sourced from e-waste centres, is something that resonates deeply with her. She wishes to call the viewer’s attention to the effects of our current urban lifestyle.
“Since the prehistoric era, simple tools are used in intelligent ways. But with rapid change comes new technology and the mass production of electronic products that are quickly discarded in favour of new models. Many of us are far removed from the things we consume, we do not realise how much e-waste is being produced. I was moved to construct an art form based on these materials,” she says.
“I keep everything proportional to the original work and make sure that I always have small components on hand to touch up the finer details,” she adds.
Self-taught artist Aely, 43, on the other hand, has always worked with oil, and in this show he experiments with various techniques to achieve different textures. In his day job, he is well-acquainted with colour mixing as he works in the printing industry, specifically with ink in the factory, and says that he transfers this skill to canvas when he paints.
One of the techniques he plays with is impasto, such as in the dramatic Monsun, where layers upon layers of paint were used to produce the heavy texture. A rougher surface is presented in Selepas Hujan Di Kuantan where paint is directly applied to the canvas using a large palette knife.
“My experimentation with the medium is in its early stages, and there were many surprises along the way that resulted in different textures and moods. It was time-consuming to work this way – some techniques required a few days to let the paint dry before applying the next layer – but I am happy with what emerged in the end,” he says.
Aely relates his work to things we see around us. In Selepas Hujan Di Kuantan, for instance, he plays with the image of mud. In Treasure, he sees dense forests all around.
Aely and Nor Tijan are both dreamers, though perhaps in different ways in this exhibition. Still, in working with oil and e-waste in this show that throws the limelight on the material and its properties, both artists know they cannot be afraid to get down and dirty with it.
Nor Tijan shares that working with e-waste is hardly a glamorous choice and describes the sorting and cleaning process as a labour-intensive, but necessary, step in making the components safe to handle.
Her abundant use of circuit boards also meant that she did not have pretty building blocks to create her work, but instead had to make the most of what she had – mismatched colours and all.
In Apresiasi, you don’t see the limitations of her material of choice in her work, but instead, the beauty of how it comes together as a whole.
And her dream of a world where we waste not, want not? Perhaps it will be possible one day.
Apresiasi is on at Hom Art Trans, 6A Jalan Cempaka 16, Taman Cempaka in Selangor, till May 3. Opening hours: 11am-6pm (Tuesday-Saturday). Sunday and Monday by appointment. For more information, call 03-9286 7004 or visit www.homarttrans.com.