Awal Hurouf Asal Hurouf -Husin Hourmain

Man and His Nature – in between the spaces Contemporary art is a fashionable term today,but what is the primary concern on the word contemporary? “Contemporary is related to the event that is happening in the present situation. “With art, I try to reinvigorate my personal view within the current environment”. What constitutes Husin Hourmain’s work is the intellectual urgency to seek for the ‘truth’ in between physical objects. The truth is oblivious in the mind of empiricist as they tend ‘to look at’ rather than ‘to perceive’ the object an sich.

Born in 1963, Husin was raised in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. Memory of the first acquaintance with so called artwork, a gigantic painted cinematic billboard around his hometown, is clear to him as crystal. This inspiring moment became a turning point for young Husin to take his destiny into a colorful artistic journey. “I wonder how a person could produce an enormous painting. It made me curious”. Husin ventured his curiosity to another extend, searching for the ultimate reason behind the connection of man and nature. Later, Husin had worked as an apprentice painter at an advertising company in his hometown,right after he finished secondary school which benefited him from the technical aspect, widening his aesthetic vocabulary. He then received formal art education from Malaysian Art Institute (MIA) majoring in graphic design in 1982 before furthering his study in Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara (IKBN) a year later, majoring in photography. “I started my career in advertising agencies. Back then, the art scene was not as openly promoted as today, especially in fine art. The case was unheard of. Plus my family supported me to pursue my study in graphic design for it has better work opportunity.It was just a matter of time before I switched my career into fine art”, he recalled.

Husin’s oeuvre offers a deep relation between subjectivity of personal experience and the grounded rationality. These sources of inspiration later are processed as an abstraction, in which is manifested as spontaneous and expressive gestural characteristic. “Abstract is a universal language. Perhaps the best way to deal with abstract is to generate multiple view and perspective of the image. In order to maintain originality, Husin has adopted an open concept to his art making process. Thus, the meaning is not limited to the artistic mind but can also be shared in the experience of the audience. From the beginning of his career, Husin’s artworks have made reference to the connection between man and its environment. His first solo in 2004 entitled Energy confronted the audience with its whimsical forms and structural lines emulating physical and spiritual presence of human activities and his location. Two years later, Husin teamed up with fellow artist friends and together they managed to initiate an exhibition called Insight.The chemistry between them benefited Husin’s understanding of art, in which saw his progression into a new dimension, expanding his aesthetic development. The succession of his second solo exhibition in 2009, ‘Zero to something/Zero to nothing’, reflected his philosophical quest of existence, the connection between past, present and future. This series was regarded as a personal manifestation of his interrelationship between himself and the Creator, and everything that fills spaces in between.

Precursor to Awal Huruof, Asal Huruof

Islamic calligraphy is the quintessential visual art form of Islam. Besides the beauty, the Arabic calligraphy also represents power, extraordinary strength and transcendent significantly. Husin has experimented with calligraphy rigorously throughout his career as an artist although he asserted that he was not referring to any particular calligraphic style. Allah – Study (2006) was his early attempt to situate the calligraphic style within the contemporary framework. It manifested the capability of different types of art to integrate within the cultural dimension. Words are images too. With words we communicate. There are things that are impossible for us to visualize. Words are active mediator to conceptually project the meaning”. The actualization of the work progressed with his own interpretation and on-going research. tHusin starts to dig deep into how calligraphy can be portrayed in modern artistic poetic expression. I It is not about the religious point of view but more on the reflection of the cultural heritage”. The term Islamic art is still the point of argument by scholars and intellectuals today. “My work is derived from my consciousness towards my relation with Islam. I’m not making an Islamic art, but in the sense that I am a Muslim whose creating something regarding to my believe”. In fact, the term Islamic art never crossed his mind during his art construction. “I’m dealing with the contemporary issue”.

Awal huruof, Asal huruof

“What is knowledge? Where do they come from?” The reflection of this question becomes a statement in developing Awal huruof, Asal huruof series. It is a manifestation of the relation between knowledge and its origin. Awal means the beginning of; the opening. While asal means the origin; the source. They are conceptually entwined together in the binary relation between creator and creation. Knowledge is probably the most precious thing to mankind. Knowledge has sent great thinkers and philosophers on the quest for the ultimate truth, to understand human nature with relation to his surroundings. Awal huruof, Asal huruof is consequential a two dimensional installation comprising of 30 paintings of Arabic calligraphy starting from Alif to Ya. Husin has used khat as pictorial form, constructed by abstract expressive modes to compliment the composition. Each alphabet imbued with personal nuance is often referred to his childhood while studying Muqaddam. , “The challenge and difficulty I faced
in the process of making this series is when I have to ensure that each alphabet has its own character and attitude. Just like in the Qur’an in every Surah, there is a different story and message to tell. In learning the Muqaddam, you have to be focused and have determination. You have to go through the
Muqaddam page by page and step by step to be able to read well. Sometimes it takes years to complete the Muqaddam and the Quran to be able to read well. I went through the same process when I was working on this Jawi series, layer by layer, alphabets overlapping each other, knowing when to control the brush stroke. The focus and determination showed in the complete work of art”. The process and development of the installation reflects Husin early introduction to Jawi.

The first year (2009)
The whole process took three years to complete, hence dividing the work progression into three part, with regard to the period of the art making from 2009 until 2011. “Art takes time to nurture. We cannot push the creativity. We let the creative enterprise to flow out of your soul. Artwork represents the artist. If the artist is honest with his art, it will distinguish favorably”. Eight paintings were completed during that year – Ba, Ta, Tha, Rho, Fa, Qaf, Nun and Ha. Notice that the artworks were not made not in their usual order. According to Husin, he wanted to avoid regularities in his process, eluding the phrase – seen one, seen all. The second year (2010) Husin described the second year as a point of departure towards his formalistic outlook. The works of this period are in the experimentation phase as he tried to break his regularities.

The figure was not placed in the center but rather exceeded the picture plane as if we have to imagine the rest of the alphabet. In this transitional work, Husin consciously created an ambiguity. “This is a difficult period of the production as I was moving into the new studio. It took time to re-adjust live and working attitude in a new environment. I even stopped painting for six months just to get into the mood. I started to look for new inspiration and got myself into discussions with several friends in the art scene”. Art needs to be discussed within the community to get new insights and exchange ideas so that the art will constantly evolve in time. This rejuvenates its potential and creates a healthy intellectual discourse.

The third year (2011)
In breaking the regularities, Husin confronted his conservative pictorial means from various aspects. To develop a critical approach towards painting means to reconstruct its customary, from a mere plain and square traditional form of art. It exemplifies a significant change of attitude of his pictorial manner. The implication of diptych and triptych (triple panels) liberate the rigidity of confined squared surface into an enigmatic proportion. Husin continued his work with a new prospect. He adopted several aspects of minimalist painters’ work in his subsequent paintings. The use of color is restrained to monochromatic effect giving a dominant impact on the subject. Husin shifted his focus more on a distinctive shape of the letter rather than blending in.The eyes shift from color to color in an unstructured way, completely differentfrom the linear ordering of the letters. Each painting has its characters distinguished variably.In modulating the surface, the diverse gradation of the scratches implies the presence of the artist, whose hand, when hesitant, creates irregularities. The strokes following the course of the hand are not controlled; they occur as natural data. Each canvas therefore supplies evidence of a different awareness of execution. The draftsmanship and the medium appear as a proof of human being’s existence.

The three phases of Awal huruof, Asal huruof reflect the progressive attitude, endowed with the artist’s determination to break the physical and psychological boundary. The energy is transferred to the flat surface, converging into powerful mediator to convey its meaning. “My part is to actualize the idea to the world. Other than that, it depends on how the audience perceive and digest the art”. The memory of perception is a secret, it cannot be transmitted, it can only be shared – as something wonderful and extraordinary that is imposed but not explained. It is a process of receiving information through the eye and responds to these impulses; but no one is able to define the experience. Husin search for resolution to contemplate his curiosity. The act of knowing – observing and learning, become a primary force to explore the possibility and improbability, visible and invisible, short-lived and eternal.

Written by ;
Azzad Diah

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