Written by : Zena Khan
Hantuhantuhantuhantuhantu… is a 2013 freestanding metal sculpture by a renowned contemporary artist, Ahmad Fuad Osman. Standing at 3 feet tall and 7 feet wide, this sculpture marries Fuad’s hallmark Sufi style of philosophical thinking with an entirely new method of working, thus acting as a prime example of Fuad’s mantra “The Medium is the Message”.
Hantuhantuhantuhantuhantu… is visually centred around a US one dollar note. On to rectangular sheets of steel, the likeness of a US one dollar note has been printed on the front and back. Fuad worked the smooth steel surface by laser
cutting the word “LIVE”. When viewed from the reverse side, this subsequently as “EVIL”. This plays on word mirrors the tittle, which combines the Malay words “hantu” (ghost) and “tuhan” (god) repeatedly, thus changing the meaning
depending on where the viewer reads from, and is based on a childhood game of the artist’s.
The US dollar is one of the world’s most dominant reserve currencies, and the currency in which a large majority of international transactions are conducted. Therefore, it can be viewed as a universal icon for money itself. By cutting out
the word LIVE/EVIL into the dollar note, Fuad makes a statement that the pursuit of money is the cause of a great deal of evil in the world, be it crime, corruption, war or the like. The artist is not however rejecting money, as is evident from the LIVE side of the cut out. Fuad acknowledges the necessity of money and comments it is not a dollar itself that is evil, rather the misuse of it.
A close study of a US dollar bill reveals it to be a beautiful artifact, intricately designed with a glut of symbols and details and, according to urban myths, secrets and codes. The secrecy of the symbols present in the note parallels the artist’s notion that despite its fundamental role in everyday living, few people are aware of the design on the implications of cash, physical and theoretical. With Hantuhantuhantuhantuhantu… , Fuad wants to open a dialogue amongst his audience where he encourages reflection on the flip side of money.
Fuad works successfully across all areas of art, painting, sculpture, installation and videography, commenting the medium ought to simply be the best vehicle for transmitting a particular idea. In Hantuhantuhantuhantuhantu… Fuad employs high polish digitally printed stainless steel and laser cutting for the first time in his career. The physical characteristics of the sculpture tie in neatly with the concepts from which it originates, be it the free standing laser cut that allows the viewer to read both LIVE and EVIL depending on their position, to the high polish reflective finish, that physically urges the process of deliberation on such a routine artifact.
The quote “Worldly attachment is the source of life’s suffering” by Buddha can be considered, in a nutshell, as a simple explanation of the Sufi thread that runs through all of Fuad’s work. Works such as 1998’s Fragile or 1999’s installation Mat Jenin can be seen as early precursors to the Sufi philosophies that permeate all of Fuad’s work. While Fuad often reworks these basic themes of juxtaposing light and dark in various conceptual incarnations, his ability to evolve his mediums through technology and the refinement of his own skills ensures that the artist is able to transmit his view to a highly receptive audience, as is evident in the excitement surrounding Hantuhantuhantuhantuhantu…
Artwork Caption :
Artist : Ahmad Fuad Osman
Title : Hantuhantuhantuhantuhantu…
Size : 100cm x 210cm x 45cm
Medium : Digital Print on Stainless Steel
Year : 2013