Siti Fariza Ahmad Basri vividly recalls feeling utterly unnerved by the whole idea of exhibiting her art. The fear of receiving negative comments overwhelmed the 32-year-old artist.
“This was a very important picture, ” the mother of one daughter stresses during a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.
She was referring to the iconic image of Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaiming “Merdeka” at Stadium Merdeka in KL during the nation’s declaration of independence ceremony on Aug 31,1957.
The graphics and multimedia graduate from Universiti Tenaga Nasional shares that she spent three days straight, locked up in her room for most of the time, finishing her miniature painting, almost the size of a 50 sen coin, of the historic moment.
In this work, as with all of her miniature paintings (prints and originals), the self-taught artist used a very fine short line watercolour brush, its tip as tiny as a needle’s. And she did it without the aid of a magnifying glass.
“In the end, because I was so uncertain, my husband pushed me. He asked me to go for it and post the artwork on my Instagram page, ” remembers the Kedah-born Fariza.
What she received, however, were likes and praises. Her surgical precision and attention to detail rendered her painting, aptly called Merdeka!, a miniature photocopy of the original.
“That post received the most likes. So I was like, ‘I guess I have to keep doing this then’, ” says Fariza, who regularly posts her miniature artworks on Instagram and Facebook.
Fariza has since graduated from just posting her artworks on social media.
With the help of her husband, who manages and curates her artworks, Fariza had exhibited at several art shows, such as the Cyberjaya Multimedia Festival (2018), Pivotal (2018) and Women Behind The Arts (2019).
She even came in third at the Visual Art Pitch 3.0 event, a government funding initiative, in KL in December 2018.
Fariza also joins occasional international trade shows in collaboration with Dapo, a sustainable homeware brand by experienced woodworker Harith Ridzuan, who also happens to be a personal friend.
Interestingly, Dapo does all the frames for Fariza’s artworks, using “balau” wood for her original artworks, and rubber wood for her digital reproduction art prints.
Last July, Fariza made her debut solo exhibition at PJ-based gallery Zhan Art Space with a show called Building Blocks: A Visual Mini Series.
The exhibition featured 40 miniature artworks, carefully curated to showcase Fariza’s growth as an artist.
“Fariza’s artworks are very detailed and relatable. Each piece is something she experienced as an artist. So it’s like we’re seeing what she is seeing, ” recalls Zhan Art Space co-founder Desmond Tong.
Fariza herself calls her artworks “small windows into my world.” Indeed, it is this very experience of being transported into a miniature world that Fariza wishes for her viewers.
“Whenever I look at miniature paintings by artists from other countries, I’m drawn to these small worlds and the stories behind them. That’s the kind of experience I want to share with people, ” she enthuses.
She adds that the interactive nature of miniature art, the very act of picking up a magnifying glass and getting close to an artwork, is also equally important for her.
“We are often distracted by our screens nowadays. And our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. But with miniature art, you really need to focus and interact with the artworks. You get to appreciate the smaller and finer things in life.”
For Fariza, who previously worked as a graphics designer for a media company before quitting her job in 2014, this art hobby has changed her life.
“I’m just a person who wanted to paint. I needed more colours in my life, ” relates Fariza.
Between being a mother and managing her own online children’s clothing line (Fariza taught herself how to sew and design children’s clothes), things just got very busy.
She needed something else, something more, and creating art came naturally. You can say that it runs in her blood.
Her late father Datuk Ahmad Basri Akil, legendary team manager of the late 1980s, early 1990s Kedah football team, was an avid watercolourist.
As a child, she always admired his artworks at home. She eventually became passionate about art, one of her favourite subjects in school.
“My father never had the time to teach me because of football, but he always supported me with my interest in art. He even bought me the brushes and art supplies, ” recounts Fariza.
She took up miniature painting seriously in 2016, and has not looked back.
Funnily enough, says Fariza, miniature art has taught her how to be more focused.
“I’m a very hyperactive person. When I’m working, it’s really difficult for me to stop. But it’s the reverse when it comes to miniature painting. I really need to be focused and calm.
“Truth be told, this has been a journey of self-discovery for me. I learned how patient I can really be, ” she reveals.
Her first ever miniature art piece was a homage to her hometown in Alor Setar. Called Jelapang Padi, the 30mm x 30mm painting shows a lush paddy field, which was actually based on the Sekinchan paddy fields in Selangor.
“It just reminded me of my birthplace. And after painting this, I felt satisfied with my technique and had the sense of having achieved an important milestone in my art.”
To date, Fariza has more than 100 artworks, covering a range of subjects, from dream destination landscapes, her favourite food, planets, plants and trees, her daughter and even a portrait of pop singer Yuna.
“This is more of an art journal for me. That’s why I never plan what to draw. I just go with the flow. This is how I document my memories, ” she shares.
Fariza might be a newcomer artist, but she is also a consistent one. She already has a group exhibition lined up this month at Zhan Art Space.
Last December, she exhibited her works at a trade show in Qatar in collaboration with Dapo.
Not only that, the artist co-founded Oran & Bula, a new sustainable fashionwear and accessories brand, with Harith Green Carpenter, another venture by Dapo’s Harith.
Ultimately, what Fariza finds heartwarming is the fact that the stories behind each painting becomes a shared experience with her viewers.
“Many people have similar experiences as me. And they share it. It’s great to connect with people this way, and it’s these kind of responses that keep me going, ” concludes Fariza.
More info: www.farizabasri.art.