Chicken Wire on Plywood Base
96cm x 97cm x 7cm(d)
Written by Zoey Moo
Usia and Haluan Kiri (translated as “age” and “left-wing”, respectively), two new works by Jamil Zakaria, are particularly exciting because they demonstrate the artist’s fresh explorations into developing new technical skills and the usage of a new material, steel chicken wire, instead of the regular steel wire mesh he is known for. Moreover, it is Jamil’s first venture into creating realist portraiture sculptures after his proverb-based surrealist works.
Compared to his previous sparser sculptures, Usia and Haluan Kiri display a denser, more solid appearance. They are composed from multiple layers of wire that Jamil fashions into parts of the faces, starting with the nose as an anchor of the face’s character. Distinct facial features are also extremely useful in establishing the identity of a personality. For example, Hitler in Haluan Kiri has his signature dab of moustache, while the aged gentleman in Usia is endowed with a long, tufted beard that flows down from his face in waves.
One of the biggest challenges the artist faced was to imitate and imagine people he’d never met or seen before in three-dimensional forms. In order to shape the faces in relief form, he had to estimate the distance and measurements of each structure in the sculpture – from the heights of the noses to the contours of the faces, to the folds of the fabric from which Hitler’s face and raised arm extend.
Not unlike the process to create a two-dimensional portrait, Jamil begins developing the ideas for his portraiture sculptures with sketches. He then experiments with constructing lines, but by using different tools and methods – chicken wires, cutters ad pliers instead of brushes, pens and charcoal.
This process is in agreement with Jamil’s viewpoint that his work can be a sculpture in the form of drawing, and a drawing in the form of sculpture – because both use lines and marks. And sure enough, when observed closely, the wires in Usia and Haluan Kiri appear as brushstrokes, which are built layer upon layer to form the sculptures.