Fendy Zakri’s minimalist art balances faith and spirituality

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 18 May 2019

Fendy poses in front of a new work called 'Tahajud' from his 'Moonlight Fragment' series. His new works follow a minimalist artistic path. Photo: The Star/Norafifi Ehsan

There seems to be a new and assured rhythm in the way contemporary artist Fendy Zakri’s expresses himself these days.

He is calm in conversation and also hints that he’s settled in creating art that contains more self-searching and deep reflection.

For Fendy, 37, this journey of self discovery began during a visit to New Delhi, India in 2011.

At that time, he didn’t know that this would eventually culminate in a solo exhibition. Fendy’s Moonlight Fragment exhibit at Taksu Gallery in Kuala Lumpur is a spiritual and artistic rebirth, of sorts.

In a recent interview, the artist recalls his visit to South Delhi’s Banglewali Mosque, the birthplace of Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement, where he listened to Muslim scholars talk about “love, religion, humanity and getting deeper with God”.

In India, Fendy also discovered the works of Persian poet Rumi. He returned to Malaysia after four months, fascinated with Rumi’s writings and enlightened by the experiences in India, elements that would heavily influence his Moonlight Fragment series, which features 29 artworks.

Back in 2014, Fendy had his first solo exhibition called Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art in KL, featuring boldly abstract paintings.

There was even a novelty factor in Seeing The Unseen.  By using a photo editing software (on a smartphone), viewers could uncover the hidden mirrored counterparts in those early works.

But he says even then, something was missing. He says the expressionist style which he adopted was influenced by his mentor Yusof Ghani, a veteran Malaysian abstract painter.

Fendy's Nightfall Twilight (acrylic on linen, 2019). Photo: Taksu Gallery

“Back then, I was still searching for my identity. I thought I was an expressionist (painter). But slowly, I felt like that direction was not me.

“I couldn’t force myself to do those kind of paintings. I had to stop. Even if I could paint in that style, it didn’t feel right,” he admits.

The affable Fendy, who has an engineering background, is frank about the progress of his art career.

He says he “mellowed down” in his second solo exhibition called Hyphen Jocund (2016) by adopting a more minimalist approach and focusing on simple shapes.

The idea was to have less “noise” on canvas. He continued down this path and began looking to the heavens, literally. For fresh inspiration, he just went back to basics. Fendy talks about spending many nights just looking at the moon, studying its contours, texture and the different colours the moon and the sky exuded.

He says that once he spent two days straight without sleep, just to get the feel of things in the quiet night sky. It has all come together in this new series Moonlight Fragment, which Fendy says is a turning point in his personal and artistic life.

Dhuha (acrylic on linen, 2019). Photo: Taksu Gallery

“I think I have found myself. I’m enjoying what I’m doing right now. It doesn’t feel like I’m faking it. It has been a humbling experience to get to this stage. “The basic idea of looking at the moon and the skies reminded me of how small and insignificant I am compared to the Creator,” he says.

Fendy’s artworks in Moonlight Fragment, which consists of symmetrical albeit fragmented parts of the moon, are simple, clean and minimalist in nature, a far cry from his early works.

Harsh brushstrokes by a young artist have now given way to a more polished and sophisticated style by an artist who has matured in his craft.

His large 183cm x 244cm Tahajud piece shows a fragmented moon, grey and heavily textured. Two half circles symmetrically fill up the linen canvas, one fully the surface of the moon while the other depicts part of the black sky. The mathematical precision is uncanny.

This artwork, says Fendy, is reflective of the tahajud prayer time which begins at three in the morning. The artist wanted to capture the colour of the moon when Muslims generally leave their hujud or sleep for a time of prayer.

Another work in a similar vein is called Dhuha, referring to the prayer usually performed at the rise of the sun. This painting only shows one half of the moon, which takes on a blue-ish grey hue. The left corner of the artwork is painted in light blue while the right corner is black, reflecting the transition from night to day.

“I’m putting a lot of work into this style (minimalism). This is more me. This is my passion and my way of moving forward,” says Fendy.

Moonlight Fragment is on Taksu Gallery, 17, Jalan Pawang, KL till May 24. Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm. Visit www.taksu.com or call 03-4251 4396.

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