Ori­en­tal ex­press

Khairudin Zainudin finds a way to side­step be­ing lost in trans­la­tion.

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

TRAV­EL­LING to a for­eign coun­try is al­ways in­ter­est­ing. Yes, there is al­ways the thrill of ex­plor­ing new places and try­ing new things. How­ever, adapt­ing to dif­fer­ent cus­toms and cul­tures can some­times be a chal­lenge. Vis­ual artist Khairudin Zainudin can def­i­nitely vouch for that.

Over the past few years, he made sev­eral trips to Hong Kong and Tai­wan for ex­hi­bi­tions or to gain artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion.

His en­coun­ters with these for­eign places are stylis­ti­cally ex­pressed in his lat­est solo show Ori­en­tal Ex­press: Be­yond Iden­tity, which is show­ing at the G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya this month.

“Ori­en­tal Ex­press: Be­yond Iden­tity is about my­self, a Malaysian and Mus­lim, be­ing in a dif­fer­ent coun­try. It’s about be­ing an alien, or feel­ing dif­fer­ent, in another coun­try,” says a friendly Khairudin, 29, at an in­ter­view at the gallery ear­lier this week.

“A lot of my art in Ori­en­tal Ex­press: Be­yond Iden­tity, they tell a si­m­il­iar story. They are about lan­guage and words. And also about food! They are the usual two chal­lenges I face when I’m over­seas,” he adds.

Khairudin is cer­tainly no stranger to international travel. The Ke­lan­tanese- born artist has had his works ex­hib­ited many times, both lo­cally and abroad. Some of his shows in­clude the solo ex­hi­bi­tion Senyap Dalam Gege ( 2014), right to group show con­tri­bu­tions at Art Kaoh­si­ung ( 2015) in Tai­wan and Young Malaysian Artists III ( 2016) at Ga­leri Petronas.

The artist trav­elled to Tai­wan for the first time in 2014 for his slot at the Young Artist Dis­cov­ery se­ries at Art Taipei.

Khairudin, cap­ti­vated by for­eign cul­ture, made a trip to Hong Kong the fol­low­ing year, ea­ger to check out art gal­leries and art fairs there.

His mis­sion was to take notes and ab­sorb as much cul­ture as pos­si­ble in both these coun­tries.

Khairudin has since made four trips to Tai­wan and two to Hong Kong.

“I like the peo­ple in Tai­wan. They’re very re­laxed, not very stressed. And the scenery is very nice. But most Tai­wanese peo­ple can­not speak English and it’s hard to find ha­lal food there. Although it’s easy to find veg­e­tar­ian meals!” says the burly, bearded artist.

“As for Hong Kong, it felt very nos­tal­gic to me. I like watch­ing Jackie Chan films, so a lot of places looked very fa­mil­iar. In­ter­est­ingly, there are a lot of In­done­sians in Hong Kong, so there are more mosques,” he re­veals.

His early ad­ven­tures in the Far East, how­ever, were not al­ways fun and me­morable.

One of his works, Ha Ha Ha, con­tains the faces of some Malaysian Chi­nese trav­ellers who were with him on a trip to Tai­wan.

Khairudin re­calls an in­ci­dent when they were chat­ting at a lo­cal restau­rant, and he couldn’t join in as they were speak­ing in Chi­nese.

“I was de­pressed. We were all hang­ing out at one ta­ble, and I couldn’t speak any­thing. I thought, if you all can speak Malay, why are you speak­ing in Chi­nese?” asks Khairudin.

“But when I thought about it, it was not their mis­take. I was a per­son coming into their cul­ture ... I had to learn about it.”

Khairudin, how­ever, re­alises there is one sound he will al­ways recog­nise: the sound of laugh­ter.

“For me, ‘ ha ha ha’ works in many lan­guages, it’s very global. Whether you go to In­dia, or Sin­ga­pore, or Ger­many, it’s bound to be ‘ ha ha ha’. That’s the universal choice for laugh­ter.”

Many of his works rep­re­sent his cross- cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences. Four of Khairudin’s paint­ings, in­clud­ing

Tonkat­sau Flavour and Veg­e­tar­ian Flavour, are stylised rep­re­sen­ta­tions of dif­fer­ent in­stant noo­dle flavour in­gre­di­ents, a de­pic­tion of his strug­gle to find ha­lal food abroad.

It is a task made harder by the fact that ev­ery­thing is writ­ten in Chi­nese char­ac­ters. Ori­en­tal

Ex­press: Be­yond Iden­tity isn’t a show to ex­hibit the artist’s frus­tra­tions. In­stead, it chan­nels Khairudin’s cu­rios­ity and abil­ity to adapt.

Feel­ing Dis­placed features a back­drop of two pa­trons at a noo­dle shop in Hong Kong’s Java Road. Overlaid over them are menu items, writ­ten in Chi­nese. In a twist, the words are re­versed, rep­re­sent­ing how ab­stract Chi­nese char­ac­ters look to Khairudin. Else­where, Se­cu­rity Of

Fa­mil­iar­ity shows a man in deep thought, his image splashed over with bars sport­ing a con­ve­nience store logo.

“When­ever I go some­where, I like to find sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween my orig­i­nal space and an alien space. It gives me a sense of se­cu­rity,” he says.

“Most coun­tries have a 7- 11. In Tai­wan, they be­came like a hang­out spot for me. I’d sit there with a drink and have some veg­e­tar­ian noo­dles. I’ll also sketch the peo­ple pass­ing by,” he men­tions.

In­deed, many of his sketches can be viewed in Scat­ted

Mem­o­ries, a pa­rade of Khairudin’s draw­ings fin­ished in a note­book.

Fans of the artist might no­tice a dif­fer­ence to his style this time around. While many of the works in Ori­en­tal Ex­press: Be­yond

Iden­tity feature Khairudin’s trade­mark fig­u­ra­tive lines, a lot of them now feature sec­ondary images, or have words or char­ac­ters over­lap­ping them.

Khairudin says this is his way of evolv­ing his art, while still main­tain­ing his trade­mark style.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion is a con­tin­u­a­tion of what I’ve been do­ing in my ear­lier so­los. It’s still about me ob­serv­ing the peo­ple around me. The ( Chi­nese) word­ings scrawled on some of them, how­ever, is my way to ex­press my views on lan­guage,” he ex­plains.

Ori­en­tal Ex­press: Be­yond Iden­tity is at the G13 Gallery, GL13, Ground Floor, Block B, Ke­lana Square, Jalan SS 7/ 26, Petaling Jaya in Se­lan­gor till Sept 17. Open: 11am- 5pm every day ex­cept Sun­days and pub­lic hol­i­days. For more info, call 03- 7880 0991, or email info@ g13­gallery. com. Visit www. g13­gallery. com or www. face­book. com/ G13­gallery.

Khairudin isn’t about to re­sist a laugh in front of his work, Ha Ha Ha. — Photos: RAY­MOND OOI/ The Star

Cramp ( acrylic and char­coal on can­vas, 2016).

Feel­ing Dis­placed ( oil on can­vas, sticker on acrylic sheet, 2016).

A close- up of Scat­tered Mem­o­ries ( char­coal and ink, sketch­book, 2016).

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