Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this?

Written by Zena Khan

Fauzin Mustafa is one of the most respected contemporary artists working in Malaysia today. His mixed media approach, which combines thoughtful concepts with the formalistic aspects of fine art through recognisable Malay iconography, eases the boundaries between conceptual art and the public. As such, his visual language easily communicates social issues to a wide audience as can be seen in 2014’s mixed media work Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this?

Measuring five feet by seven feet, Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this? continues Fauzin’s signature style of building up textures and colour through the layering of collaging and paint. The structural integrity of mixed media work such as this is preserved by the construction of individual layers, each carefully selected with appropriate intervals between applications. The initial layer in Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this? was the patchwork of colourful batik, which created the dominant colour field. Fauzin then overlaid the batik with cut canvas patterns, coated in thick white oil paint so as to produce a monotone textural surface. As such, the dimensions of light and shadow are introduced, adding to the depth of the visual when light shines on the painting. Fauzin’s use of batik can be considered crucial in connecting the audience with the work, as it initiates a dialogue with the cultural context his art exists in. The representation of a highly recognisable traditional artefact bridges the gap between innate cultural understanding and contemporary life, thus fulfilling the criteria of contemporary art to describe the current state of society.

Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this? is a personal introspection by Fauzin into the hopes and expectations of contemporary artists working in Malaysia today. The art industry is experiencing a period of rapid growth stemming from an increase in both interest and support for the industry. Art demands contextualisation, and this is increasingly provided by the surge of private galleries, auction houses and the rise of Art Expo. As such, information and knowledge is better disseminated, appreciation is on the rise and the number of collectors is higher than ever, leading to hope within the artists themselves with respect to the appreciation and success they will be able to attain. The main body of Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this? is dominated by the portrait of a man whose face is obscured by the batik collage. In doing so, Fauzin visualises the mysterious and intangible quality that he postulates drives artists, which is not linked to money or fame, but instead is based on an indescribable personal need to create. Surrounding the figure is text from a poem, Cerita Ceriti, which the artist wrote himself as a means to intellectualise his observations on the swirling changes occurring. The ability to resolve his concept in both literary and visual form speaks highly to the depth of Fauzin’s critical thought process, and the rare inclusion of poetic text marks Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this? as an interesting piece within the artist’s beautifully prolific portfolio.

Uniting formal methods and cultural motifs in a contemporary arrangement is a signature for Fauzin. Incorporating batik evidences his thorough knowledge of the physical characteristics of materials as having both aesthetic as well as intellectual value, and grounds the work in a definitively Malaysian context. In an environment which looks to understand the rapid changes dominating the social landscape, Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this? marries aesthetics and analytical thought within a beautifully presented framework to help reconcile the past, present and future of Malaysia, from the personal experiences of Fauzin himself.


Title: Cerita Ceriti I: Whose artist is this?

Artist: Fauzin Mustafa

Size: 218 cm x 157 cm

Medium: Oil and Mixed Media on Canvas

Year: 2014


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