Steel life

Vet­eran artist Mad Anuar Is­mail un­leashes a se­ries of wall pieces in his long-awaited first solo.

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

NOT so long ago, vet­eran lo­cal sculp­tor Mad Anuar Is­mail was vis­ited by his friend, fel­low sculp­tor and artist Tengku Sabri Ibrahim. Mad Anuar was plan­ning to have an ex­hi­bi­tion back then, and so asked what his friend thought he should do.

Tengku Sabri’s an­swer? That he should look at his walls.

“He said, ‘Your walls are empty!’ And I re­alised he was right, all my sculp­tures stood on the floor. He said I should do some­thing about that,” re­calls Mad Anuar, 65, dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view at his stu­dio in Rumah Pena in KL.

In­spired, Mad Anuar started work on a new se­ries. The re­sult is 14 wall pieces, which will be ex­hib­ited at the Ge­taran ex­hi­bi­tion, which opens on Aug 5 at the White Box, Pub­lika in KL. Two floor sculp­tures will ac­com­pany the show.

Ge­taran, or­gan­ised by Fer­gana Art, is Mad Anuar’s first solo ex­hi­bi­tion. He first worked with Fer­gana when he showed at the group ex­hi­bi­tion Look­ing Ahead: 15 Malaysian Artists in early 2015.

This crit­i­cally-ac­claimed artist has been ac­tive in the lo­cal art scene in the past 40 years. And this solo show has been a long time com­ing.

The ami­able artist re­veals that it is thanks to the work of the show’s cu­ra­tor Jaa­far Is­mail that Ge­taran has be­come a re­al­ity.

“I’ve met peo­ple be­fore, they were full of talk, say­ing they were go­ing to help me or­gan­ise this and that. But I didn’t believe them. But Jaa­far, he can do it,” says Mad Anuar.

Mad Anuar isn’t the sort to lose sleep about ca­reer firsts or the pres­sure of ex­pec­ta­tion (for a first solo show).

“I don’t feel any­thing. It just feels nor­mal, like an ev­ery­day thing,” he adds with a smile.

At his stu­dio space, Mad Anuar is an easy-go­ing, friendly soul, an­swer­ing ques­tions in a ca­sual, laid-back man­ner as he smokes a pipe.

The artist, who grad­u­ated with a fine art de­gree from UiTM in 1977 has been in­volved in coun­tex­hi­bi­tions less group over the years. He was also a for­mer set and graphic de­signer with the Min­istry of Youth, Sports and Cul­ture in the 1980s. His port­fo­lio also in­cludes many prom­i­nent pub­lic projects, in­clud­ing the re­design­ing of the Mon­u­men Pahlawan Negeri Perak and the de­sign of the door of the Pekan Mosque in Pa­hang.

As a mem­ber of the Anak Alam col­lec­tive in the 1970s, Mad Anuar is known for his work of com­bin­ing for­mal­ist tech­niques with Eastern aes­thethics, and his ma­nip­u­la­tion of form to reaf­firm iden­ti­ties within the con­text of post-modernism. Ge­taran (vi­bra­tion) cen­tres around the emo­tional and spir­i­tual im­pulses given out by peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly those who are bold or heroic. It com­prises mostly new works from the artist, cre­ated over the last three years.

“I’m just hoping that through this, peo­ple will see that there are Malaysians mak­ing sculp­tures. Most peo­ple see them in books and there are a lot of th­ese be­ing made in Europe, China and Ja­pan. But there are Malaysians mak­ing them too,” says Mad Anuar.

Most of his wall pieces come from his Wayang se­ries, and are named af­ter char­ac­ters from the Hindu epic Ra­mayana. Ac­cord­ing to ex­hi­bi­tion notes from film­maker/art col­lec­tor U-Wei Haji Saari, the char­ac­ters were cho­sen be­cause of their definitive traits: Rama for his gen­tle­ness, Sita for her pu­rity, Lak­samana for his power, Hanu­man for his wis­dom and Ra­vana for his lust.

“Al­most all wayang kulit per­for­mances now are putting Ra­vana in front, for his power and greed. Must be a sign of the times,” ob­serves Mad Anuar.

A huge floor sculp­ture Perentas Ribut #18, fea­tur­ing fish­er­men strug­gling to keep afloat in a huge storm, will also be shown at Ge­taran.

The mild steel sculp­ture is the largest work cre­ated by the artist

so far.

Perentas Ribut #18, ac­cord­ing to the artist, is a work that rep­re­sents the triumph of the hu­man spirit, and was in­spired by his early life grow­ing up in a fish­ing com­mu­nity in his home­town of Dun­gun in Tereng­ganu.

“The fish­er­men go down to the sea ev­ery day, and fight with the very strong waves. It’s a sym­bol of how the hu­man spirit can over­come any­thing. It’s why I chose that sub­ject,” re­veals Mad Anuar.

Med­i­tasi #4: Penghor­matan Kepada Ibu, the other floor sculp­ture in his show, is an in­tri­cately de­tailed piece in­spired by the Is­lamic con­cepts of moth­er­hood.

Mad Anuar takes a mo­ment to re­flect on the wall pieces in Ge­taran. For him, it has been a sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, with the artist mak­ing sure he blurred the lines when us­ing dif­fer­ent art tech­niques in the stu­dio.

“I didn’t want to ap­proach this in the nor­mal way of how peo­ple made wall pieces. I wanted to do things dif­fer­ently. I wanted to com­bine el­e­ments of paint­ing, sculp­ture, ev­ery­thing. So that peo­ple wouldn’t be sure what to call it. Wall sculp­tures? 3D paint­ing?”

If any­thing, Mad Anuar seems to create art with visual am­bi­gu­ity and maybe, he en­joys the way it plays with peo­ple’s pre­con­ceived per­cep­tions.

He takes pride in his dis­tinct and unique art style. It’s what got him first recog­nised, and what keeps him go­ing.

Mad Anuar, af­ter all, is hap­pi­est to just be with his tools, cre­at­ing art in the way he loves best.

Does he think he has changed much, since he first em­barked on this jour­ney?

“Yes. I’ve grown older,” says Mad Anuar with a hearty chuckle.

“Other than that, I don’t think so. I think that what­ever we have, has al­ways been in­side us. Peo­ple say, ‘Oh, you have changed’. I think there’s no such thing. What you have has al­ways been in­side you. Phys­i­cally, you change. But in­side, you don’t!”

Mad Anuar Is­mail’s Ge­taran will be show­ing at White Box, Pub­lika, So­laris Du­ta­mas in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 5-13. Open­ing times: 11am to 7pm. Ad­mis­sion is free. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit FB: Fer­gana Art.

Pahlawan #5 (bronze, mild steel and stain­less steel, 2017).

‘Al­most all wayang kulit per­for­mances now are putting Ra­vana in front, for his power and greed. Must be a sign of the times,’ says Mad Anuar. — ZAHID IZZANI/The Star

Mad Anuar’s at­ten­tion to in­tri­cate steel craft can be seen in Rawana (oil on can­vas with steel struc­ture, 2017).

A de­tail of Rama (oil on can­vas with steel struc­ture, 2017), which is in­spired by the Hindu epic Ra­mayana.

A close-up of Mad Anuar’s Lak­samana (oil on can­vas with steel struc­ture, 2017). — Pho­tos: Fer­gana Art

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