Liv­ing the proverbs

Of Malay proverbs, mo­bile phone art and a jour­ney of self- dis­cov­ery.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ART - By TASHNY SUKU­MARAN star2@thes­tar.com.my Visit: car­go­col­lec­tive.com/hyru­lan­uar or malayproverbs.tum­blr.com.

MALAYSIA is rich and re­plete with lovely Malay proverbs ( perib­a­hasa) – some are witty, some are gen­tle, some are scathing and a fair num­ber are just plain odd. The con­stant, how­ever, is that we’ve got some wise or funny say­ing for nearly ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, as artist Hyrul Anuar, 27, dis­cov­ered dur­ing a stint work­ing at an art space ( Fabrica) in Italy last year.

His vi­brantly- coloured vivid take on var­i­ous perib­a­hasa has earned him wide ac­claim, but while th­ese draw­ings will bring a smile to your face they were in­spired by a tough time in the work­place.

“My job in Italy was my first ‘ baby’, it was a huge deal for me. But I de­vel­oped some is­sues with a col­league and in re­ac­tion I was bad­mouthing her. Then I re­alised that it was me who was act­ing poorly – so I drew an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the perib­a­hasa about ‘ spit­ting into the sky’ us­ing Sketch­book for Galaxy ( Note 3). It con­tin­ued from there,” says Hyrul in a re­cent in­ter­view in Pe­tal­ing Jaya.

His perib­a­hasa can take any­where be­tween 10 min­utes to an en­tire day to draw, de­pend­ing on how in­spired he is.

“If I feel a proverb fits a sit­u­a­tion I’m in, I just draw it. When I was a kid, I loved to draw and de­sign fash­ion but was never in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing it as ca­reer.

“Af­ter STPM I went to ( arts in­sti­tu­tion) Aswara and stud­ied film and tried my hand at pro­duc­tion. I fi­nally wound up in ad­ver­tis­ing,” re­veals the art di­rec­tor.

Now the se­ries, which is view­able on his In­sta­gram ac­count at @ malayproverbs, has taken on a life of its own. So­cial me­dia has given it a wide au­di­ence be­yond Malaysia.

Hyrul was also fea­tured on BBC’s web­site and his mo­bile phone art is cur­rently be­ing shown in The Vis­ual Se­ries Of Malay Proverbs ex­hi­bi­tion at Fabrica Fea­tures in Lis­bon. The show ends on March 28.

The Vis­ual Se­ries Of Malay Proverbs was first shown at a two­day ex­hi­bi­tion at Yas­min At Kong Heng Mu­seum in Ipoh last Au­gust.

But de­spite its pop­u­lar­ity, Hyrul doesn’t want to turn this into a job.

“I don’t want to ko­torkan benda tu den­gan duit ( spoil it with money) be­cause I started do­ing it out of sheer pas­sion,” he main­tains.

Some of his favourites are Me­lu­dah Ke Lan­git, Akhirnya Muka Sendiri Yang Basah ( do­ing some­thing fool­ish that back­fires) and Mengikat Pe­rut ( bind­ing the stom­ach, or to save money by eat­ing less).

“Yes­ter­day a mu­si­cian asked me about al­bum art. I’m con­sid­er­ing it but I don’t want to make this as a money thing – I don’t even know how much to price things, I just give them away for free. Be­cause I like it when peo­ple get in­spired and want the art to be part of their life. I’m touched.”

This is just his hobby, he un­der­lines, as he loves his job in ad­ver­tis­ing where he says he has just found his own voice.

“I don’t want to de­stroy that pas­sion for art by mak­ing it my job. Af­ter the Lis­bon ex­hi­bi­tion I want to turn th­ese proverbs into a book and maybe cre­ate an an­i­ma­tion too.”

Hyrul also plans to ex­pand the pro­ject, which has about 30 im­ages, into a re­gional se­ries, and has al­ready been look­ing at the proverbs from coun­tries like Thai­land and Viet­nam to in­ter­pret them in his own unique, colour­ful style.

Hyrul’s art is a means of ex­press­ing him­self, an al­ter­na­tive to “just com­plain­ing on Face­book”. His art is a dizzy­ing mix of im­pres­sion­is­tic art and sleek ad cam­paigns, with an in­tensely Malaysian touch as he takes on top­ics like black magic, mythol­ogy and lit­er­a­ture.

He en­joys ex­plor­ing any kind of style and medium (“I like all of them!”), ex­plain­ing that while some artists stick with one style, his youth spurs him on to ex­plore his op­tions.

There is a heart­felt piece about his late mother.

“I miss the way she gets an­gry with me. If I had the chance to talk to her again, that’s what I want – for her to scold me. She gave me ad­vice, but in a mem­o­rable way by scold­ing me. This and the Malay proverbs pro­ject re­ally re­flect who I am, my per­son­al­ity comes out.”

Hyrul is a lit­tle as­ton­ished by the praise his proverbs se­ries has gar­nered, as it wasn’t about at­ten­tion or fame.

“I just want peo­ple to be in­spired and strive to be bet­ter. Some peo­ple don’t like my art and I know from the start I’m not a great il­lus­tra­tor or painter – but I have a story to tell, I have a rea­son be­hind it, and I want peo­ple to know what it is. I don’t want to por­tray my­self as the best painter. I do it to ex­press my­self, and hope­fully some­one else will like it. I just want peo­ple to like the stuff I do,” he says, jok­ing that he pre­ferred scold­ing to com­pli­ments (“must be a Malaysian thing!”).

And what’s next for the Sabak Bernam- raised lad? He is cur­rently work­ing on a new pro­ject for ( in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zine) Vice about dark love and black magic; and also wants to make a short film about his mother, who he de­scribes as an “in­spi­ra­tional and prac­ti­cal woman” who al­ways threw her sup­port be­hind him and his en­deav­ours.

“Be­yond that, I want to ex­plore hu­man emo­tions, hu­man sto­ries, rather than pre­tend to care about other things. But I also want to ex­plore that from the plat­form of ad­ver­tis­ing, since it’s so large. The in­dus­try, we need to do more for peo­ple. We must be real in ev­ery­thing,” he says.

— Pho­tos: HYRUL ANUAR

For a side of melo­drama, hyrul’s Makan Hati ( eat­ing one’s own heart) warns of the dan­gers of self- pity.

Lak­sana Meng­gigit Tan­gan Yang Menyuap­kan Nasi ( bit­ing the hand that feeds you), which ba­si­cally shows how some peo­ple re­pay gen­eros­ity or kind­ness with in­grat­i­tude and in­jury.

Laut Dalam Da­pat Diduga, Hati Manu­sia

Si­apa Yang Tahu ( The sea’s depth can be pre­dicted, but no one knows what’s in an­other per­son’s heart).

Me­lu­dah Ke Lan­git, Akhirnya Muka Sendiri Yang Basah ( do­ing some­thing fool­ish that back

fires).

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