Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam
Written by Zena Khan
The evolution of new techniques has always been a prominent concern of contemporary art. Experimental innovations are usually motivated by aesthetic criteria, fitting in well with the notion that art is primarily a visual medium. Emerging artist Haafiz Shahimi fits well within this position, merging the laws of physics with the fundamentals of printmaking. He creates fresh new visuals that are used to transmit cultural values to his audience, as exemplified in his latest work, Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam.
Haafiz majored in printmaking during his time at UiTM, and the immersion in such a traditional and technical genre explains his dedication to the academics of art. An exhaustive researcher, he turned to subjects outside the realm of fine art so as to add fresh dimensions to his work. In the course of his research, he came across the laws of thermodynamics and was immediately able to correlate it to the printmaking process. The artist immediately began searching for a solution to harness the energy thermodynamic laws stipulate result from heat, in order to elevate his printmaking process to new heights. This led to the emergence of his highly innovative pyrographic prints. The agility, with which Haafiz is able to work his inventive medium, calls attention to the experiences and knowledge that stem from his extensive experimenting. First images are carved onto blocks of metal, which then must be heated to temperatures specific to the exact mark he wishes to impress on his surface. The vagueness and spontaneity of each step in the pyrographic print process are testament to Haafiz’s confidence in himself and his technical capabilities, hallmarks of an artist who has dedicated himself wholly to his chosen craft.
Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam derives inspiration from an old Malay proverb: Kalau engkau bukan garam yang dapat membaiki ikan yang busuk, janganlah engkau menjadi langgau yang hanya menabur naji dan kuman. (If you are not the salt which can preserve a fish, don’t then be like the fly which serves to contaminate.) The usage of proverbs within Malay culture can be seen as a show of wit. Manipulating words convey messages metaphorically, often sugar coating them so as not to appear harsh. Such politeness is regarded as a high form of morality amongst the Malays till today. Haafiz employs this trait to deliver a fairly sharp critique on the lack of support within the contemporary Malaysian art industy from the majority of museums and galleries. As the artist sees it, there exists a minority who provide the much needed support structure, and yet often receive a backlash. Indeed, the rise of the contemporary art movement has brought with it a new intellectualism that the older generations, who are entrenched in Malaysian art institutions, fail to comprehend. The two sides of the industry are reflected in the two human figures aligned back to back that cover the surface of Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam. As in Eastern philosophies of balance, he notes that positive is unable to exist without negative. Cojoined, the mirror image figures produce an impression of the proverbial fly, which as the adage warns serves to contaminate. Haafiz underlines the ability within all individuals to either contribute to their environment, or bring it down. The large wings which protrude across the bottom half of the jute canvas were achieved mainly by Haafiz’s signature pyrography printmaking, enhancing the atmosphere of decay associated with flies. For Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam, Haafiz pushes his technique forward with the inclusion of oil, paint and salt over the print. The salt acts as a preservative, as suggested in the proverb, improving the image by adding an effect and securing the delicacy of the pyrographic print itself. Layered over the human/fly hybrid are quick, gestural pencil drawings, calling attention to Haafiz’s wonderful ability as a draughtsman, and adding movement and abstraction.
Haafiz sees the responsibility of an artist technically and conceptually as expanding on existing values, searching for presentations that will enable old ideas to connect to current generations, linking his content in tightly with his explorations on medium. The signature style he is rapidly developing appeals to critics and collectors, who are constantly on the lookout for new formalistic developments in contemporary art, and marks Haafiz out as a young print artist to watch out for in the contemporary printmaking scene of Malaysian art.
Title: Selera Langau Tidak Pada Garam
Artist: Haafiz Shahimi
Size: 153 cm x 153 cm
Medium: Pyrography Print, Charcoal, Spray Paint, Oil and Salt on canvas finished with 2K Matte Paint