Connecting the dots
Veteran artist Fauzin Mustafa fuses birth, mortality and philosophy in his latest exhibition.
Everything begins with a single dot.
To write something, you start by putting a dot on a paper with a pencil or a pen. Many dots, however, become lines, lines become letters, which eventually dorm to be come words, sentences and paragraphs.
To artist Fauzin Mustafa, this philosophy of small parts adding up to a greater whole rings true not just for writing, but for life itself.
To him, life is a series of travelling from one stage, or “dot”, to another. This is why his latest exhibition, which is showing at the Core Design Gallery in Subang Jaya in Selangor, is called Life Between the Dots.
“We start from the beginning, the first dot, at our birth. Then, we go through childhood, then move into our teenage years, go to college, and then find out what life is about as an adult,” says Fauzin, 50, during a recent interview at the gallery.
“In a sense, the exhibition is also about my personal journey, not just through art, but also through my life. In my early days, when I was younger, my works were very colourful, and I wanted to try everything. But today, at this stage, I’ve developed a sense of minimalism in my work.”
Fauzin, a contemporary artist, has been renowned for his mixed media practice since the 1990s. He won several notable awards, such as the Young Contemporaries competition, Salon Malaysia, Asean Youth Painting, and is perhaps most well-known for his work White Painting in Black Frame, which won third prize at the Philip Morris Asian Art Awards in 1994.
Life Between The Dots is the third solo exhibition by the Teluk Intan, Perak-born artist, and his first with Core Design Gallery.
In a way, this show marks a return to the spotlight for him. His last solo Fauzin Mustafa was held almost 16 years ago.
“Normally, if I want to do a solo show, I need to have a strong and serious subject to share. But I also thought of the people who had supported me since my first solo show. So it isn’t fair to them, if I have nothing to show,” says the artist with a chuckle.
Previously a full-time designer at a TV station, Fauzin quit his job in 2008, before going on to do his Masters in Fine Arts at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam. After he graduated in 2010, he dabbled in a few group exhibitions, before finally preparing for this solo two years ago.
And it was certainly worth the wait. True to the exhibition title, gold dots are a major feature in Fauzin’s works, appearing in whorls, speckles, and elaborate patterns all across his art pieces.
The 16 collage works in his show examine the complexities of life and human existence. Many of them are depicted in a lush, monochromatic hues, as can be seen in works such as Life Between the Dots: Black/Red/Blue/Green and Searching for Convergence: White.
One particularly unique work is 3, 2, 1, where Fauzin covers a layer of bright, vivid colours with another layer of dull greyness. This, he says, is an analogy for how a person’s kind deeds will always show, no matter the circumstances.
“The philosophy behind this is, that in our life, whatever we do, will always be visible. Many people who do good deeds, don’t like to tell others, but then people will be able to see the good in them. In this 3, 2, 1, work, even when it is covered with dark grey, you can still see the reddish, brownish tones here and there,” the artist says, referring to the painting.
Elsewhere, his piece Into the Deepest Light, grapples with themes of birth and death. The work’s title references emerging from the darkness of the womb into the light of birth, then returning to darkness upon death, and hopefully, transcending into the light beyond.
Life is Beautiful, on the other hand, uses epic butterfly images to convey messages of beauty and temporality.
Another piece, The Missing Link, wrestles with patriotism and nationalism, themes that have featured prominently in his previous works. It sports a large, sun-like “glow” on the left of the canvas, which appears to be emitting rays in the colour of the Jalur Gemilang.
“I started this piece around the time of a recent Merdeka day celebration. Every time during Merdeka, you see many people hanging up the flag. But when a flag falls by the wayside, we see no one picking it up. We just see the flag as a ritual, or formality, to look patriotic, and it means nothing else to us. And I think that’s the “missing link” we have about our love for the flag,” explains Fauzin.
In creating his works, Fauzin provided us with dots, which can represent various stages of our lives. And as viewers, it is up to us to connect them.
Written by: Terence Toh
Published by: Star2, The Star
Date of Publication: 22nd January 2017