Temu is a creative meeting of sorts
for two art contemporaries.
Faizal Suhif has always been a man of the soil. Growing up, the farming life was all that he knew.
The lush vegetation, tranquillity of a simple village life, and the stories and proverbs the elders would utter to him in the evenings took shape in his growing mind like a great tree.
From a very young age, Faizal drew inspiration from these fascinating elements in his life. And like the passionate artist that he is, he would go on to paint and draw with oil, charcoal and soil these images from his earliest memories. The results were altogether spectacular and nostalgic.
Faizal and his artistic peer Jamil Zakaria, another man whose works are personifications of traditional Malay adages, feature in Kuala Lumpur-based 69 Fine Art Gallery’s latest exhibition called Temu, which boasts paintings and sculptures. Both are fine arts graduates from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor.
The exhibition’s title signifies the creative meeting of these two artists: Faizal from Muar, Johor and Jamil from Guar Chempedak, Kedah. Some of the works featured in this Temu exhibition also come from Dusun Seni, a studio in idyllic Ulu Langat, Selangor, where both these artists work from.
Though there is no crossover in terms of technique, subject matter or even theme, something else does tie their very distinct and unique artworks together.
Like his past works, Malay proverbs are evident in Jamil’s steel wire installations in Temu. He is one of the few artists in Malaysia to thrive through his steel wire works, which involves a lot visualising and planning on paper before a piece can be completed.
One such work, named Mulut Meriam, depicts half a human body in a kneeling position. Where there would have been a torso, two hands and a head was a cannon in wheels. Several cannon balls can be seen all loaded up and ready to be fired in the stomach of this part human figure.
Then comes the intriguing bit. One of the legs is shackled by an iron ball, akin to a slave or a prisoner.
The installation seems as if to say that humans are enslaved and shackled by the tragedy called life. We have no choice but to surrender.
For the visitors in this gallery, the key is in the title of the piece itself.
“Mulut Meriam is an idiom used to describe someone who lashes out at others with offensive and hurtful language,” explained Jamil, 29.
“All of us have that nature within us and we have to control that nature. That is what the iron-ball shackle represents. We have to restrain it like prisoners are restrained.” Another gripping piece is one called Sarang Kehidupan. Inspired by that famous Malay adage diam-diam ubi berisi, Jamil pointed out that the installation, an oddly shaped closed structure, alludes to tuber plants, whose stems and leaves are visible to us but not what grows underground. Within the structure are tunnel-like passageways, all leading to a central organ.
“Similarly, we can see the body of an anthill but we are not aware of the government and the structure within. It’s as if the anthill is non-existent.
“This triggered a thought within me. I wanted to show that though something seems static, like my installation, there is life within. So, when you meet someone, you can’t assume that is all there is to them,” expressed Jamil philosophically. Faizal’s pieces, on the other hand, lend a more nostalgic stance to the exhibition. Though some are based on Malay idioms, many of his artworks point back to the times he spent in the farm.
Seharian Di Ladang, a charcoal piece, was inspired by an old farm worker Faizal encountered in Bali, Indonesia. The black and white drawing depicts a septuagenarian, chewing a paddy stalk while carrying a gunny sack on her head.
“It’s a symbol of working hard and harvesting something at the end as a result of diligence. In spite of her age, the old lady is still working on the ground, energetic, harvesting paddy and I asked myself, ‘Am I doing anything substantial with my life? If an old lady can do it, why can’t I?’” said Faizal, 30, who is no stranger to contemplation in his work.