Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality)
Written by Zena Khan
Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality) is a 2014 mixed media work by eminent artist Suhaimi Fadzir. A colourful large-scale piece over two linked canvases, it continues the exploration of the boundary between two- and three-dimensional art and assemblage that Suhaimi has dedicated his career to.
Suhaimi has spent the last phase of his career working on a major series, Merdeka, in which he explored the themes of nationalism, the Malaysian constitution and social contract as well as political issues. The serious nature of Merdeka’s concept consumed Suhaimi, who looked to subsequently move on to a lighter concept, starting with the idea of creating a series of works to act as a visual journal of his experiences and observations as he lives and works between Malaysia and America. The duality of his life and studio practice is hinted at in the title, and indeed Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality) attempts to highlight the laws of duality that the artist observes governing life. Suhaimi equates duality with balance, as exemplified by yin and yang, night and day or male and female, thus concluding duality to be an essential pillar for maintaining harmony.
“Warung Kita” translates to “Our Stall”, and is an apt phrase for this work, which observes the daily routines of Malaysians, centered on the hawker stalls dotted across the country. Malaysia has a strong food culture that acts as a unifying force across all the ages, races and religions inherently present in a naturally multi-cultural society. At a time when conversations on race politics have arisen, particularly during the lead up to 2013’s General Election, Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality) is an apt reminder of the common grounds that exist between all Malaysians. An intricately layered mixed-media work, it captures a snapshot of a typical day at any Malaysian hawker stall, with the layers of colour, objects and imagery representing the multitude of customers and conversations that appear therein.
Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality) itself is comprised of two canvases, whose backgrounds are overlaid with mixed media prints and paint, bridged by a large canary yellow wheelbarrow. On each canvas are three-dimensional found objects, such as Coca-Cola crates and steel woks, linking the works visually to the stall scene inspiration. The work is carefully composed, with bright yellow elements originating at the top of the canvas on the left and ending at the base of the canvas on the right, thus expertly guiding the viewer through the visual narrative. Juxtaposing sleek metal and block coloured three-dimensional elements against a highly patterned wallpaper-like base creates a visual tension that immediately attracts viewers, demonstrating Suhaimi’s innate understanding of not only concepts that are relevant to his audience, but also the ability to produce a highly current and engaging aesthetic.
Suhaimi is well known for his distinct style dubbed ‘archipainting’. Archipainting is defined as a blending of fine art principles with the structural and spatial intricacies of architecture to create paintings, and is a progression from Suhaimi’s interests in assemblage art. The usage of found objects provides immediate visual clues for the audience, thus allowing them to quickly connect to the thought process which led to the creation of Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality). An energetic and colourful piece, it fulfills his desire to create a type of visual journal in order to in order to communicate his professional and personal journey, thus allowing for a direct connection between the art, audience and artist himself.
Title: Warung Kita: Teh Tarik dan Nasi Lemak (Duality)
Artist: Suhaimi Fadzir
Size: 220 cm x 242 cm x 70 cm
Medium: Mixed Media