Suhaimi Fadzir- participating artist in the GMCA (Great Malaysia Contemporary Art)
Written by : Zena Khan
Photography by : Puah Chin Kok and Artist Contribution
About the Artist
Archipainting can be defined as the blending of fine art principles with the structural and spatial intricacies of architecture to create paintings, as is seen in the large scale three dimensional works of Suhaimi Fadzir. Trained as an architect but living as an artist, Suhaimi marries the two creative practices with his dual life in Malaysia and America to create compelling relief like works that burst with inferences to history, society and his own experiences of the two cultures.
Suhaimi has exhibited internationally in several solo and group shows, among them The Dublin Biennale where he won the Dublin Biennial Award of Excellence in 2012, the prestigous 12th and 13th Venice Biennale (Architecture), Venice, Italy in 2010 and 2012, as well as alongside , photographer Ansel Adams in America and was granted the Art Saint Louis Residency programs in the USA. His work has been extensively collected in public and private collections in Malaysia, Korea, Ireland, China, USA, Indonesia, Singapore, UK, Japan, Philippine, Spain, Uzbekistan, Germany and Mexico.
Suhaimi trained as an architect in the 1980’s at the Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri; despite this he has always viewed himself foremost as an artist. Personifying a modern nomad, Suhaimi, who is from Perak, maintains two studios, one in Malaysia and one in America. His constant shift and cultural receptiveness between the two countries offers him unique insights into local social themes, be they environmental, political or historical, and allows him to merge them with Western art, architecture, and Abstract Expressionist and pop icon references. In his own words, travel creates discourse and discussion that enhances his understanding of his subject and audience that help him to produce work that is highly relatable and entertaining yet filled with cultural resonance.
An architectural background is evident in the construction of monument-like structures on Suhaimi’s canvases. His works are a fusion of art and architecture, stemming from his curiosity in the world around him. Suhaimis’ early series Kehidupan explores relationships between people, objects and the environment. Featuring collage and assemblage work in an earthy colour palette, found objects explode from the background in animated compositions, enhanced by raw charcoal marks and expressionist brushstrokes. This progression neatly segues into the aptly named Object Series, an amalgamation of sculptural works such as Reflection which heave with objects such as salvaged metal rods, Plexiglas, ladders and cement, the rough metals and architectural elements commenting on international politics, climate change and cultural upheavals.
2010 ushered in Suhaimi’s RTFO series- Recycled Toys and Found Objects. It has been said that contemporary art thrives on contradiction, whether between concept or medium, and this is exemplified in the juxtaposition of cheery childhood icons alongside cast off building materials. Suhaimi utilizes the contrast stemming from the innocence of children’s playthings sat alongside items one can imagine were left behind from the destruction of a man made building to discuss the aftermath of a natural disaster and open the possibility of human redemption that can be found within. Works such as Defense incorporate toy robots and green glass on a background of splattered paint, twisted metal rods and parts of a ladder. The artist shows the development of his colour palette from the monochromatic earth-based tones of his earlier series into brighter shades that empahasise feeling of chaos and energy. This also marks the beginning of his study of existing artifacts applied directly onto the surface instead of paint as the basis for his colour fields via the intense green glass, red tin sheeting and colourful toy robots neatly lined up across the main body of the canvass. In 2010 the RTFO series was exhibited alongside Ansel Adam’s photography at the Schmidt Art Centre in America, a major endorsement of the quality of this body of work.
2012 saw Suhaimi being awarded a prestigious Smithsonian Fellowship nomination for his in depth research on the Orang Asli of Malaysia, and comparisons between indigenous tribes here in Malaysia and in Africa. This research ties in with his Merdeka series and exemplifies the value of society, culture and history to Suhaimi as an artist.
“Merdeka” is the Malay term for “independence” and commonly denotes Malaysia’s independence from the powers of colonial Britain. The artist wanted to explore the Malaysian constitution in terms of the original structure, what it was meant to convey and the subsequent interpretations in modern times. From his extensive research he has produced a body of work that is strongly rooted in the assemblage style that is now clearly typical to him, while incorporating strong Malaysian iconography via the Malaysia flag, images of Tunku Abdul Rahman, gasoline lamps, rubber tapping knives and fish traps which clearly symbolize the way Malaysia was at the time of Independence. The installation Apa Erti Kemerdekaan: Pribumi Penjajah Pendatang? from this series that was exhibited at the Dublin Biennale projects Suhaimi’s views on politics and the weight he attributes to national pride.
Suhaimi has expressed his admiration for artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg, indeed parallels can be drawn between their approaches in terms of structure within paintings or the re purposing of everyday artifacts to a higher conceptual value. With a strong belief that “art doesn’t have to be traditional” Suhaimi pushes forward not only in the execution of his work but also in his research and the deepening of his conceptual understandings in an effort to underline his view that it is always the next work he produces that will be the most important, and keeps his audience keenly anticipating his coming direction.
Born 1963 in Lenggong, Perak, Malaysia
1983-89 Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
1989 Master of Architecture
1986 Bachelor of Art
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2013 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: + +’, Saatchi Gallery London & M&C Saatchi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Sept. 2013)
2012 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: Campur Campur’, 6th Art Expo Malaysia/G13 Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2010 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: RTFO Belleville (Two-man show with Ansel Adams)’, Schmidt Art Center, Belleville, USA
2009 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: SCCAP’, Lenggong Archeological Museum, Perak, Malaysia
2008 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: Paintings’, Art Saint Louis at KitchenK, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
‘Suhaimi Fadzir: Eight Times Lucky’, Pace Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1994 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: Violated Perfection’, Isetan Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1991 ‘Suhaimi Fadzir: Earth/Us’, Componere Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
2012 Dublin Biennial 2012 Award of Excellence, Dublin Biennial, Dublin, Ireland
Smithsonian’s Artist Research Fellowship (Nominated), Washington DC, USA
13th Venice Biennale (Architecture), Venice, Italy
Effetto Biennale, Merida, Mexico
Yogyakarta International Art Exhibition, Jogja Art Museum, Jogjakarta, Indonesia
7th Berlin Biennale (Artwiki Project), Berlin, Germany
ArtBasel Art Fairs (GZ-ArtBasel), Basel, Switzerland
Dublin Biennial, Dublin, Ireland
The Aliya & Farouk Khan Collections, Malaysia
Schmidt Art Center, USA
National Art Gallery, Malaysia
Merida City Museum, Mexico
Johor Museum and Art Gallery, Malaysia
Sol Art Gallery, Ireland
Lenggong Archeological Museum, Malaysia
National Film Development (FINAS), Malaysia
National Department of Heritage (WARISAN), Malaysia
Tourism Ministry, Malaysia
Malaysia Embassy, Ireland
Khazanah Nasional, Malaysia
Tun Daim Zainuddin Collections, Malaysia
Dublin Biennial Gallery, Ireland
Corporate and Private Collectors/Clients in USA, Malaysia, Korea, Ireland, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, UK, Japan, Philippine, Spain, Uzbekistan and Germany