Early formative years
Raja Lope Rasydi Raja Rozlan has always been a child at heart. Born in the year of 1972 hailing from Beruas, Perak of a Raja family, he is the odd one out of his family that carries the artistic talent to trans- form his visualizations into sketches and paintings since his childhood days. Raja Lope graduated from MIA with a diploma in Fine Arts in 1992 and consequently garnered a Graphic Design degree from UiTM in 1995. In between school breaks and upon graduation, he had actively took on jobs in the arts and design fields of graphic design and film & art illustration.
Due to societal pressure, he spent much of his working life in the mundane family business varying from outlets management, accounting to being a chef. Discontented as he was, Raja Lope sought solace in his passion, constantly hiding in the dark to dabble with artistic works ranging from graphic design to illustration to animation whilst tirelessly sketching and painting out his ideas and characters from his imagination.
Giving Caricature a Serious Note
No longer being able to deny that the love of his life lies with art, Raja Lope further re-affirmed this fact when he re-connected with his art society in these recent years. Taking a bold move to becoming a full time artist, he gradually participated in various group exhibitions with the first exhibi- tion entitled ‘Beautiful People’ in 2010.
It is notably obvious that there were much Western influences from movies and cartoons in Raja Lope’s artwork previously. Priding himself with the ability to figuratively construct and distort the features of his characters with a comedic tinge, the artist presented us with his very first caricature painting of the famed director Tim Burton.
It is surprising to note that some of the earliest caricatures were found in the works of Leonardo da Vinci that were modeled after people with deformities. Caricature first experienced success amongst the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where caricature portraits of the elite few were passed around for mutual enjoyment However in our modern day setting, most contemporary caricatures are drawn by street vendors and purchased as gifts and souvenirs. Personal caricature portraits are drawn for a small fee for patrons. This is a popular phenomenon at street fairs, carnivals and weddings, providing the patrons with gentle humour.
Raja Lope however took caricature to another level; revolutionizing it to a serious art piece only apt for gallery setting. He takes the lead from Sebastian Kruger who is renowned for his grotesque yet hyper realistic distortions of the celebrities’ facial features.
Speaking with the artist, Raja Lope reveals that director Tim Burton, famed for gothic and quirky themed movies Edward Scissorshand and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, is his personal favourite and thus, was the inspiration for the painting, Tim Burton – Nightmares in his (W)underlands. The artist creatively and comically captures the quirkiness of the filmmaker. The tint of Burton’s spectacle was airbrushed to give the transparent feel of the glass. The resultant caricature painting not only brings to life the eccentricities of the filmmaker but celebrates Raja Lope’s ability to render the hyper realistic effect effortlessly. This painting reflects the true nature of Raja Lope and the fantasy of characters that occupies his world; characters which are out of this world and not merely the commonly drawn human portraits…effectively, leaving the viewer with nothing but a gentle smile on our face. Another controversial quirky painting to be talked about is Going Gaga over Madonna. The painting proves to be a satirical caricature of the two iconic pop stars, present-day Lady Gaga and quintessential Madonna. The painting portrays a perfect representation of Lady Gaga’s aim to revolutionize the pop music industry whilst acknowledging the symbolic era and influence of Madonna in the industry.
The Solace of Movies and Entertainment
To Raja Lope, he sees movies, animations, comics and cartoons as art. As Raja Lope rattles on, it is strikingly clear of the artist’s indulgence in movies and entertainment, primarily attributable to the undeniable artistic connection he shares with the movies and its artists or filmmakers. Raja Lope has possibly seen every movie that carries significant artistic traits from his idol filmmaker Tim Burton to Guillermo Del Toro.
Raja Lope’s indulgence in movies does not stop there. He reveals his liking for anime as well as he animatedly describes popular Japanese anime ranging from Princess Mononoke to Gundam and Final Fantasy. He expresses his fascination and wonder for the international phenomenon of Japanese anime whilst excitingly describes the details of the makings, where he actively researches on.
Raja Lope was first introduced to the art of airbrush during his MIA days and continues to hone his skills in various illustrative works that he has done over the years. The Message, exhibited in Figurativismo 2011, evidences Raja Lope’s exceptional airbrush-ing skills. Here presents the start of our journey into the colourful and imaginative surreal world of Raja Lope.
The Message portrays a fantasy-like dragonfly carrying a message of the world to a Dryad, Guardian of Nature, on the impending dangers to Mother Nature. This painting subtly appeals to us to consider the present-day effects on our gentle Mother Nature. The hyper realist finishings, resultant of the airbrush, clearly provides the viewers with an absorbing fascination and appreciation of his true patience, efforts and eye for details.
Subsequently at end of 2011, Core Design Gallery exhibited the Cirque du Freak show. Raja Lope participated in this group exhibition, showcasing two fresh paintings, Long Vacation II and Glue & Bold. These two paintings re-affirm Raja Lope’s undeniable niche and skills in the art of airbrushing. Long Vacation II is truly reflective of his inner child, where he envisions his favourite carousel ride in a wondrous theme park amongst the clouds. In conversing with Raja Lope, one can truly sense his deep connections with his paintings where it is really fascinating that he has created these artworks from the depths of his fantasy world, proven further where each character depicted carries a story with it.
Glue & Bold hints on the becoming of a talented artist and the current works of LOPE. This painting depicts the tiny fairy connecting to the magical yet dangerous dragon, where the artist subtly suggests a life philosophy; where you dare to dream, you will achieve! Here again, we are consistently pulled into the mystical and fantasy world of dreams yet in touch of our reality….a surreality, recognizing a pool of infinite possibilities.
The Emergence of an Identity
Globalisation is defined as the process of integration of products, views, ideas and technology between both the developed and developing world. Politically and culturally, globalisation is sometimes equated to Westernisation or Americanisation. As a result of this, artistic forms have crossed the boundaries between East and West since classical times.
More prevalent than ever, this phenomenon is evident in the Malaysia art industry. Malaysia, being a colony of the British empire prior to 1950s, have been intricately exposed to Western influences and educational practices. Consequently to our independence in 1957, Malaysia has strived to sought our own identity and traditions whilst maintaining our pursuits for advancement. In line with this, various domestic government policies have been launched to move Malaysia to a modern urban economy.
In post colonised times, it was noticeably clear that there were lack of public awareness towards art locally as the country continues to maintain its focus to technological advancement and a target urban economy. Where we lack in areas of research and studies of our local art history and culture, Raja Lope has sought to pursue his studies and research in areas which were prevalently accessible, into the global art history and techniques. Consequently it is undeniable on the global / western influences that are seemingly ‘embraced’ and present in his paintings, which springs as an after effect of our limited access to artistic materials.
Nevertheless so, Raja Lope feels a close linkage to his Malay roots. In 2012, Raja Lope ventured a step further for his personal development. He went on to discover his identity as a Malaysian Malay. Baroh (a native kampong term – kampong is a Malay term for village) translates to ‘Land where the sun sets’. This is truly a painting close to the very heart of Raja Lope where he recalls childhood memories of time with his beloved grandfather. In search of his grandfather for family dinner, the constant wondering child in him paints a mythical kingdom that is under imminent danger from the seas, where a bat-like cat ‘Batcat’ carries the message of danger to the fairy warrior accompanied by his local Grygon (half dragon half gryphon) and the gentle destroyer robot. The intricate details painted herein exemplify the artist’s skilful efforts, patience and imaginative childhood. This truly reinforces Raja Lope’s depth and never ending mind of fantasies and imagination, carefully relating his inner child, the daily realities of life and dreams…..a sur-reality.