Artwork of GMCA

Written by : Zena Khan

Harimau is a 2013 mixed media on canvas artwork by Suhaimi Fadzir. It forms part of the artist’s Merdeka series, which attempts to reconcile the Malaysian constitution in its original form with the manner in which it is implemented, and speak of the importance of national pride within our society.

Harimau is the Malay term for tiger, and imprinted across the entire background of the canvas is a stalking tiger. Above and around him are rows of smaller, identical tigers. Haphazardly plastered across the painting are small reflective rectangles, closer inspection reveals these to be razor blades. A neat grid of toy soldiers march over the tigers and razors, and the piece is finished off with a neon light that snakes around the soldiers and main tiger. The use of the soldiers is a direct link to Suhaimi’s Toy series, and together with the printed tigers, mirror-like blades and neon light fixture act as the colour pallette.

Indeed, Suhaimi is famed for experimenting with found objects and media as alternatives to acrylics and oils to create his color fields. Creating layers of metaphors from mixed mediums and symbols is a specialty of Malaysia contemporary artists, and is highly evident in Harimau. Here, the tiger is equated to the Orang Asli in East Malaysia. Having spent the time doing research on the aboriginals in Malaysia, work for which Suhaimi received a nomination for the prestigious 2012 Smithsonian Fellowship, he feels that despite their passive, content nature, they are being intruded on by outside elements.

Their habitats have been compromised by the building of dams, chopping down of trees and over fishing. There is a clear and obvious parallel to the tiger as these activities have encroached on their territories as well, thus endangering their very existence. Due to deforestation, tigers now wander into Orang Asli villages with a frightening sense of ease, threatening and attacking the villagers.Even though the Orang Asli appear to live much in the way they always have, the development of Malaysia has impacted them on fundamental levels.

The regimented lattice of toy soldiers in army green reinforces the notion that strong countries have strong armies. A structured framework speaks of the structure and planning that is synonymous with army life, and the high levels of precision and unquestioning obedience to instructions and strategy. Malaysia’s military forces are well respected internationally, underlining Suhaimi’s desire to infuse his Merdeka series with points of national pride for his audience.At first glance, Harimau appears to be almost pop-like, utilizing trendy icons to create an easily appreciable art work. It is a true testament to Suhaimi’s skills in assemblage, the depth of his research and commitment to understanding the significance of patriotism that he is able to comment on the effect of modernization on culture, the importance of safeguarding our natural environments and national pride within the outline of relatable representations to draw in his audience, before transmitting the extent of his vision upon them.

Artwork Caption :

Artist : Suhaimi Fadzir

Title : Harimau

Size : 150 cm X 150 cm

Medium : Mix Media on Canvas with Toy Soldiers & Neon Lights

Year : 2013

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