Pas­sion in pan­els

Two artists come to­gether for a pop art ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plor­ing love, com­mit­ment and so­cial is­sues.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ARTS - By TER­ENCE TOH star2@ thes­tar. com. my

THE first thing you’d prob­a­bly no­tice as you step into the art ex­hi­bi­tion Nar­ra­tion, is how bright and lush ev­ery­thing ap­pears. It’s a vis­ual spec­ta­cle. Vividly de­tailed de­pic­tions of beau­ti­ful women stare at you at ev­ery turn, their sup­ple forms brought to life in acrylic glory.

An­other glance, how­ever, re­veals that not ev­ery­thing is idyl­lic here.

Sev­eral paint­ings show women dis­cov­er­ing their man is cheat­ing on them. One has a cou­ple fear­ing their tryst has been found out. And many of the paint­ings fea­ture women hand- in- hand with smartly- dressed mon­keys: no, not metaphor­i­cal ones, but literal hairy, knuckle- drag­ging mon­keys.

Wel­come to Nar­ra­tion, a pop art ex­hi­bi­tion at Na­dine Fine Art in Pe­tal­ing Jaya, fea­tur­ing the works of noted artists In­done­sian Bam­bang Toko Wit­jak­sono and Malaysian Fawwaz Sukri. It’s a show which uses the whim­si­cal, al­most friv­o­lous style of old­school car­toons to un­der­score the darker as­pects of love, com­mit­ment and re­la­tion­ships.

Their lush, car­toon- in­spired art is ef­fec- tively used to both par­ody and crit­i­cise so­cial is­sues and con­tem­po­rary lifestyles.

“That’s the ap­peal of work­ing in pop art. I can freely de­scribe a story with a bright at­mos­phere and bright colours, but still have a hu­mor­ous, par­o­dic or crit­i­cal side to it,” Bam­bang said in an email in­ter­view.

Bam­bang, 43, is an es­tab­lished artist in his home­town of Yo­gyakarta and is one of the founders of both the ART JOG and Apotik Komik Group ( Yo­g­yarta) art groups. His work has been dis­played in many re­gional group and solo exhibitions ( with the most re­cent be­ing 2014’ s Batikkomik in Sin­ga­pore). He is cur­rently a lec­turer in the Print­mak­ing depart­ment of the Fac­ulty of Fine Art at the In­done­sian In­sti­tute of the Arts.

Nar­ra­tion fea­tures nine of his works: six on batik and three on can­vas. His choice of medi­ums ex­plore the con­ver­gences and di­ver­gences be­tween comic strip paint­ings and batik art, which are both com­monly as­so­ci­ated with “West­ern” and “Asian” styles re­spec­tively.

Works such as Dari Mata Tu­run Ke Hati and For­ever And One fea­ture cou­ples in sweep­ing, overt dis­plays of pas­sion, their comic- book aes­thet­ics em­pha­sis­ing the larg-

er than life na­ture of these ges­tures.

“The sub­jects in my paint­ings are mostly West­ern, and themes such as ro­mance are openly por­trayed. But as far as ro­mance is con­cerned, the pat­tern of hu­man emo­tions and the pat­tern of re­la­tion­ships are ex­actly the same, re­gard­less of cul­ture,” Bam­bang was quoted as say­ing by writer Shireen Naziree in the fore­word of Nar­ra­tion’s cat­a­logue.

Bam­bang’s in­ter­est in comic book art has been ev­i­dent since his child­hood, when comic books and pop cul­ture acted as a lens for him to view the na­ture of con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety.

The artist also re­cently had his art fea­tured in Love Me In My Batik: Mod­ern Batik Art From Malaysia And Be­yond, a batik ex­hi­bi­tion cur­rently show­ing in Il­ham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. His piece, Berbeda- beda Te­tapi Putus Juga, La­mar­lah Daku, Bukan

Ibuku, done in his sig­na­ture style, de­picts a cou­ple’s sus­pense­ful meet­ing.

“There is a re­la­tion­ship in terms of themes,” Bam­bang said, asked if the works in the two gal­leries were re­lated. “The work in the Il­ham Gallery is crit­i­cism of an af­fair be­cause of re­li­gious back­grounds, which is a sen­si­tive is­sue in In­done­sia. In Na­dine Fine Art, my works are about the pat­terns of re­la­tion­ships be­tween one per­son and an­other. Not only in the mat­ter of re­li­gion, but also in the mat­ter of trust, process and un­der­stand­ing.”

While Bam­bang’s works strongly re­sem­ble pan­els out of a comic book, the works of Fawwaz Sukri, on the other hand, seem to draw in­spi­ra­tion from vin­tage pin- up girl posters and the cov­ers of 1950s ro­mance comics.

“Some peo­ple think that comic art is low­brow. But I try to bring them up to the stan­dards of high art,” said Fawwaz, 29.

The artist is an up- and- com­ing per­son­al­ity in the lo­cal arts scene, with his works col­lected by the Art Gallery of UITM Lendu, Malacca, and Ga­leri Malacca, among oth­ers. He has been fea­tured in many group exhibitions; his first solo show, Satur­day’s Mati­nee, took place in 2014.

Like his In­done­sian coun­ter­part, Fawwaz’s work also ex­plores so­cial is­sues. His work is rich in vis­ual metaphor: the dis­tinc­tive mon­keys in his works, such as

Sugar Daddy and True Love, for ex­am­ple, are sym­bols of dom­i­nance, or the lengths one would go for love. The gap­ing mouth of a fish in Taboo Love is a ref­er­ence to the Malay say­ing “seperti haruan makan anak sendiri”, an artis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the in­cest taboo. Fawwaz’s favourite piece, how­ever, is The

Sin­ner, which fea­tures a maiden atop a bed of dam­aged- look­ing toys. A symbol of lost in­no­cence, per­haps?

“Even though the woman’s face in the painting looks very in­no­cent, you never know what sins she may have com­mit­ted. It’s not ex­pressed on her face, ap­pear­ances can de­ceive,” Fawwaz said.

If some of the mean­ings be­hind the art sound quite cyn­i­cal, one can hardly blame him: a lot of his works were in­spired by a breakup he had about a year ago. The girl in ques­tion was a nurse: this is why the main fig­ure in his work Love Hurts is in a med­i­cal uni­form!

“I hope my work can tell my sto­ries. Some of my au­di­ence, when they came to this show and see my art; the first thing they ask is if I have gone through a lot of break- ups? I guess my nar­ra­tion is ef­fec­tive,” Fawwaz said with a laugh.

Fawwaz’s works in Nar­ra­tion are part of his Tragic Com­edy se­ries, which he hopes to ex­hibit as a solo show some­time next year. Is there any­thing he wants view­ers to take back from his art?

The artist quipped: “I hope they will know the true mean­ing of love!”

Nar­ra­tion is show­ing at Na­dine Fine Art, 64 Jalan Ke­ma­juan, Pe­tal­ing Jaya, Se­lan­gor un­til April 5. the gallery is open from Mon­days to Satur­days from 11am- 6pm, and on Sun­days by ap­point­ment. Ad­mis­sion is free. For more in­for­ma­tion please call 03- 7954 6069 or email con­tact@ nadine­fin­eart. com.

1 Sugar Daddy ( 2016), by Fawwaz Sukri. The piece is part of the ex­hi­bi­tion Nar­ra­tion, which is show­ing at na­dine Fine Art.

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5 Artist Fawwaz Sukri with two of his art­works, The

Sin­ner, and Taboo Love. — Photos: IBrAhIM MOhTAr/ The Star

3 Is­teriku ( 2016), by Bam­bang Toko, acrylic on can­vas.

2 Mon­key Busi­ness ( 2016), by Fawwaz Sukri, acrylic on can­vas.

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4 Jomblo, ( 2016), by Bam­bang Toko.

Dari Mata Tu­run ke Hati ( 2016), by Bam­bang Toko, acrylic on can­vas.

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