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Ruzzeki Harris is amused and inspired by how people behave on social media.
FOR many people, reading comments left on social media can be a distressing experience. While there can some positive input, comment sections (on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and the like) most often tend to attract negativity from Internet trolls.
Klang Valley-based artist Ruzzeki Harris, however, finds these comment sections interesting. So interesting, in fact, that he sometimes draws inspiration from them for his work.
“For me, other than watching movies or listening to music, looking at comments by people in social media is my entertainment of the day. It’s also how I develop my ideas. By looking at how people react to certain situations,” explains Ruzzeki, 33, in a recent interview in KL.
It’s no surprise then, that Ruzzeki’s latest exhibition, Playing God, takes inspiration from people’s behaviour on social media.
The show is on at Wei-Ling Gallery in KL till July 31.
“Nowadays, people tend to play God, judging people all around without knowing their true facts or situations. And that’s really disturbing to me,” he adds.
The show’s title has a clever double meaning, referring to how people often “play God” by judging other people, usually on social media. In the process, however, they make a mockery of what they believe in (or “play” with their beliefs, so to say).
“In the past, my artwork used to have a lot of political commentary, where I commented on certain individuals, particularly politicians. But as time went by, and I thought about it, I realised it wasn’t real. I wasn’t in their shoes.” While Ruzzeki no longer addresses specific people, however, his artwork still makes reference to certain classes of people, such as the corrupt or the elite, and of course, those who play God on social media.
Born in Penang, and now residing in Shah Alam, Ruzzeki is an experienced artist, who has been active over the past 10 years. A graduate of UiTM, and a father of two young daughters, he has participated in numerous group exhibitions and has had six solo shows so far.
Playing God marks his second solo with Wei-Ling Gallery.
Ruzzeki says this current exhibition is an extension of Gone Viral, his first solo at WeiLing Gallery, which also touched on people’s experiences with technology and social media.
“Social media is very popular now. I myself use it a lot. But when we get too used to it, we lose control of ourselves,” he adds.
Ruzzeki adds that the eight works in this exhibition are darker than his previous shows. On canvas, his shades are far deeper, giving each work a sense of intensity, but he hasn’t lost touch with his satire and pop culture references.
Take The Promise, for example, which portrays the corrupt elite class as ice cream sellers, while Gavel, which uses a close-up of a toy rubber hammer, speaks about weaknesses in the judiciary.
One highlight is a piece which features an image of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture, deeply engrossed with his handphone. Hovering over his head are a number of hats: a scholar’s mortar board, a king’s crown, a kopiah (a traditional cap) and a halo. The piece is titled The Tinker ... perhaps, an apt work about how people enjoy playing experts online and tinker in the lives of others.
Two companion pieces, Dark Saint and Sinner, are self-portraits, grim depictions of the nature of social media, while Oppressed, featuring a large snake, is a striking piece with themes that speak for themselves. “My pieces are mostly centred on self-reflection. I hope people who look at them are inspired to think. That’s always been my intention. Hopefully, the art can bring about some self-awareness,” says Ruzzeki.
“You have your right to judge, and I have the right to express what I want to say.”
Ruzzeki Harris’ Playing God is showing at the Wei-Ling Gallery, 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields in KL till July 31. Opening times: 10am-6pm on Monday-Friday, and 10am-5pm on Saturday. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. For more information, call 03-2282 8323 or visit weiling-gallery.com.
‘In many ways, this new show captures the dark side of social media, and reflects on the bad behaviour you find on it daily ,‘ says Ruzzeki.
Two Face (oil and MTN spray paint on jute, 2017).
Oppressed (oil and MTN spray on jute, 2017).
Sinner (oil and MTN spray paint on jute, 2017).