Are We Ready for Contemporary ?

SHAFARIN GHANI’s fifth solo exhibition entitled Man and His God takes place at Core Design Gallery in Subang Jaya this month but the question is, are we ready for it ?

Shafarin Ghani, the 32 year old Penangite is a self-taught artist who started painting at the age of 14. Dubbed as one of the more prominent abstract expressionists dealing mainly with seascapes, Shafarin’s art is uniquely musical, no doubt influenced by his classical music background. His pieces can be said to be intense colour-wise, embodying a sort of fiery passion that goes beyond space and time. In an interview, he reveals his take on what art really is.

How do you conceive your work?

” I have no routine apart from spontaneity. I seek and then forge my own path, whether it be in composing music, painting or writing poetry. After my last solo exhibition Oeuvre of Movement No.2, I spent two years exploring – I backpacked in India and the Himalayas for six months, observing life in the different nooks and crannies of the country. As I trekked along the Rohtang pass, I saw the humility of human life set against the majestic snow-capped mountains. It’s an image that remains in my memory till this day. I embodied the image as a transcendental vibration and expressed it in the pieces in my next solo exhibition Man and His God. I began painting the series starting with Di Imogiri more than a year ago. I kept working on it until it felt right. I began on the box series unawares but I slowly realised how the box frames the mind into a focal point and when strong colour fields are caged into the box, a sort of communication ensues. It’s the marriage between the viewer and the artist as they contemplate the existential concerns that lay before them.”

When one looks at your seascape series, the paintings seem to bring colours to the eyes and music to the ears ?

“At the age of 17,one of the top violinists, who eventually became my best friend, offered to teach me music and the violin. Within two years, I mastered the violin as a performer and I started composing. I see myself as a composer of both my music and my paintings, and I am able to bring both worlds together. The Ninth painting is an evident influence from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

How did your artistic instinct come about ?

” I sought more to life than school, and left school at around age 14 to seek an apprenticeship under Abdul Rashid, the well-known portrait painter. I put on my first solo exhibition at the age of 17. Through it all, I still had my music. For me, art isn’t just about painting or visual images; it is a part of everyday life and my journey is just a journey to continuously seek art.”

Your new series seems to have changed. Is this a transition in your journey?

” I am most inspired by the nature and life that surrounds us, by what we call narrative landscape. The use of colours and strokes are still unmistakable in my new series although this time, they come with a heightened maturity. Oeuvre of Movement No 1 attests me as a painter; Oeuvre of Movement 2 affirms me as an artist; and Man and His God affirms me a man. This new series is my hardest attempt yet as I have to ensure that each painting breathes and carries a life of it’s own. It’s a challenge most abstract expressionists face – to ensure that the pieces within the series remain individual.”

Do you think Malaysian artists are ready to compete in the international art scene?

” Many people hold on to past greatness, just as Europe holds on to their Mona Lisa. We see a lot of what we define as greatness in art through the western lense, rarely through an eastern one. This can be due to the post-colonial effects that brought globalisation into our art. The rakyat of Malaysia have progressed to what we call a contemporary society. We are 50 years post-colonialism. We should be moving into the post-post-colonialist era where our art is defined by our own lense – a distinctive identity that’s uniquely Malaysian. Contemporary art is ready but do we have the mindset to facilitate such a platform?”







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