Circle of life
Fauzin Mustafa’s new solo exhibition articulates his personal ruminations on existence and purpose.
After close to 15 years, Malaysian artist Fauzin Mustafa returns with his third solo exhibition, Life Between the Dots at Core Design Gallery in Subang Jaya, Selangor. Lauded since the early days of his art career as a contemporary artist ahead of his time, Fauzin became known for his use of vibrant colours in predominantly mixed media works. His application of batik, nature motifs and Malay iconographic symbolism also came to define him as an artist in the 1990s.
But it was on his award-winning 1994 triptych, White Painting in Black Frame, that Fauzin has built his latest series. Named the winner of the Philip Morris ASEAN Art Awards, the minimalist work was a significant turning point for the artist, a seminal piece that he could not help but revisit.
Fifteen years is a long time but Fauzin is not one who can be hurried. “I think one of the reasons [why it’s been so long] is that I need to have a strong reason to have a show. There must be something that I want to share with people. It takes time to have one strong body of work and I didn’t want to create the same old style of works to fill my portfolio. There must be a new motivation behind it,” he explains.
Beginnings and endings – the cyclical notion of life – seems to fascinate Fauzin. The gold dots, seen in all 16 works of the new series, represent the condensation of his thoughts on life’s purpose and existence. Its purity of colour and idea – and the restraint that the artist has chosen to apply to it – speaks volumes of his personal and artistic maturity from his eponymous second exhibition in 2000. Life Between the Dots is akin to a report card, one in which he presents a personal “conclusion” that is nevertheless universal enough for others to read their own experience into.
Like his previous two exhibitions, this show is grouped into micro series – Life Between the Dots…, Black on Black, Searching for Convergence, Into the Deepest Light, Life is So Beautiful… and The Missing Link.
While the works are primarily monochromatic in tone, there remains an allusion to his love for striking hues in the harmonious blends of red, green, blue and brown. Even the Black on Black canvases shimmer from the light strokes of colours underneath a wave of black, creating a celestial effect.
The theme of afterlife and eternity is present in most of the works with the colour black used as a symbolism for the beginning of existence and also of death and beyond. The dots produce a sense of energy, as if travelling through in a certain direction.
“While the textures are very free, uncontrolled, there is a common objective I wanted to highlight. As a whole, aren’t we human beings headed in a common direction? We are looking for a common reason for our existence, no matter what our belief,” Fauzin muses.
It is a thought he is fixated on, one that is further illustrated in the two Into the Deepest Light works. Again, colour is used here to create a feeling of brightness even in what looks like an abyss. “It’s the same if we look at the sun – it’s so bright that it becomes black. It’s that kind of feeling,” says the artist.
In Life is So Beautiful, he illustrates beauty and freedom through the butterfly, also in reference to its short lifespan. While there is a slight iridescence in the large double works, the duality of the motif is evocative of how there is more to things than meets the eye, just as in life.
Perhaps the most distinctive work in the exhibition is The Missing Link, which straddles another series that Fauzin is working on – based on the Jalur Gemilang. Arguably his most overtly thematic piece, it signals the carrying of the conversation from personal identity and purpose into a wider arc – that of community and state.
But for now, the anchor of Life Between the Dots is the Searching for Convergence micro series. A large circular motif visually centres each piece, which are differentiated by colour. A collage made of strips of cut canvas narrows that focal point even more. Once more reinforcing the notion of life as an entangled mass of beginnings and endings, the layered works are, at the same time, macro as they are detailed, simplistic as they are complex. Yet, they provide the strongest evidence of maturity and clarity, be it in thought or articulation. The white Convergence piece especially draws inevitable comparisons to the original 1994 work, showing its artistic progression.
Fauzin credits age and experience for his ability to put things into perspective. “The value of life is the simplicity it can offer as you get older. You become more selective of what you capture and focus on. I think everyone in his own way seeks answers, and I just want my works to spark that process in people.”
Written by: Mae Chan
Published by: Options Magazine – The Edge
Publication Issue: The Week of Feb 13th – Feb 19th 2017