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