A reunion with a different perspective

‘Pameran Empat Persepsi’ is currently being held at the Creative Space in the National Art Gallery until Dec 31



IT WAS July 1984 when the four friends first met. They had just started their first semester at the School of Art and Design (now faculty) of Institut Teknologi Mara (now Universiti Teknologi Mara or UiTM).

Taufik Abdullah, Mohd Noor Mahmud, Prof Hasnul Jamal Saidon and Fauzin Mustaffa were impressionable young men who shared the same goal — to move the art world with their ideas and concepts via their artwork.

Taufik was the philosophical one, while Mohd Noor seemed more like a loose cannon with unpredictable ideas. Fauzin, on the other hand, seemed a little more structured in his works, and Hasnul, the more eloquent among them, would always have stories to accompany his creations.

Upon graduation, while their peers were still figuring out their directions, the four did something bold and different.

They became among the first in their batch to hold their first group art exhibition at the old National Art Gallery in Hotel Majestic, Kuala Lumpur (KL).

The exhibition was called “Pameran Empat Persepsi” and it was held in 1989.

As they move on, the four have continued to mature as they solidify their ideas and skills that could be seen in countless other exhibitions.

Somehow, 30 years later, they found each other again and decided to have a reunion by having another group exhibition of the same name at the current National Art Gallery in Titiwangsa, KL.

Former National Art Gallery DG Wairah Marzuki (left) launching the ‘Pameran Empat Persepsi’ exhibition earlier this month

Same School, Different Perceptions

“The exhibition is about our collaboration or a reunion after 30 years from our last group exhibition back then in 1989. We might come from the same school, yet we have our own perceptions,” Taufik said.

Apparently, each of them took on a different career path as they parted ways after the first exhibition.

Hasnul flew to the US for a young lecturer scheme, and he went on to become a lecturer.

“Hasnul is doing new media art and then I think he was almost the first one who ventured into digital art. In fact, he studied digital art back then in the US — in Detroit and New York,” Taufik said.

Back then, digital art was new in Malaysia and not many knew about it.

Mohd Noor also headed towards the teaching path after he pursued his studies in the UK and ended up as a teacher.

“Mohd Noor was doing the subject of jeans through paper mache. Now, he’s more into calligraphy and he’s been doing very well,” Taufik said.

On the other hand, Fauzin started off as a set designer at TV3 until he decided to go full time as an artist several years ago. He has been holding several group and solo exhibitions since.

“Back then, Fauzin’s subject was on nature and now, he is more into social politics or social critics about the Palestinians,” Taufik said.

Taufik himself started off as a sculptor, and his works moved him to other countries including Japan and Mexico. He later decided to focus his ideas as a painter.

“I became a sculptor for 26 years. I think that is enough. I want to go back to the fundamentals of painting,” Taufik said.

Currently, Taufik’s paintings lean towards a mix of surrealism and symbolism.

“I went to Japan and Mexico, and then I came back and stayed in Kelantan for many years. Only last year, I thought that I should continue my study here. So I came back to UiTM to continue my master’s degree,” Taufik, who is pursuing his masters at UiTM Jalan Othman in Petaling Jaya, said.

It took the 4 friends about 10 years to finally get their arts together for the exhibition

The Doers and the Thinkers

Most of us would have that one friend who’d give dating advice, although they’re still single.

That friend is usually the one who’d act like our own parents and the one friend who seems to be a walking and talking encyclopedia, and is always fun to be around.

For Taufik, that one friend is Hasnul.

“I think the most prolific and the most clever among us is Hasnul and of course, he was also the best student. That’s why he was chosen for this young lecturer scheme and sent to the US to further his studies,” Taufik said.

Taufik would visit Hasnul when he was doing his masters in New York.

“I like to be with him and listen to his guitar. He plays the guitar and writes music too,” he said.

Of the four, Taufik said Mohd Noor and Fauzin could be the most prolific and very versatile with their works.

“They’re really focused on producing art compared to me and Hasnul because we are more into ideas and concepts,” Taufik added. He said coming home is important to him, so that he could really get back to the basics and make art instead of just being carried away with ideas.

“When you start to think about something and then try to finalise the image, then you have a problem… because art is simply about just doing it. The meaning would come later.”

While he is more result-oriented, Taufik said he still believes that process is as important, something he began to realise since he began pursuing his masters.

“Currently, I’m studying studio practice as a research, so that’s the process. Now, the process is much more important so I have to work all this and change my beliefs, my mind and objective, and try to do more process and take it as research,” he said.

An Exhibition that Took a Decade to Plan

Fauzin, who spoke to The Malaysian Reserve in a separate meeting, said everybody has changed. All four of them have their own families and are very much engaged with their own careers.

“So, when we get together, we can see the difference. Yet, we can still get back to our old selves and do the show. Even though we are different individuals, we are together when it comes to the philosophies of life,” he said.

It took the four friends about 10 years to finally get their arts together for the exhibition as each of them has been busy with their families and careers.

“I jokingly told Taufik and the rest that the next time we get together for another group exhibition, someone might not be around anymore… And it could just be a tribute and really a reunion,” Fauzin laughed.

As they move on, the 4 have continued to mature as they solidify their ideas and skills that could be seen in countless other exhibitions

Of Youth and Maturity

Fauzin missed the physical energy during his younger days. He said the reunion with his friends has somehow given him the energy back.

“I think it’s a process here. When you are younger, you want to try everything, and then from time to time, and over time, you’d grow to become very selective. Your thinking has become more mature,” he said.

Luckily for Fauzin, his transition from being a set designer to a fulltime artist has been smooth sailing.

“So, I got into this TV station working as a set designer, and at the same time, I still had the ambition to be a full-time artist and work for myself. I managed to do that even after 18 years working with TV3,” Fauzin explained.

From Life to Sacrifice

In the “Pameran Empat Persepsi” exhibition, you will see the works of the artists that have been displayed from the first exhibition back in 1989 till today.

Right after Fauzin graduated from college, the theme for his artworks have been very much on nature.

“Nature is just a symbol for life. From time to time, we change accordingly to the development and then the surroundings,” he said.

Fauzin is still using the subject of nature to explain about life and sacrifice, where he depicts it in his artwork “Bunga Putih di Pusara”.

He portrays death in an interesting way, using white flowers, instead of the black-cloaked, scythe-wielding Grim Reaper we would have seen in horror films.

“It’s just a part of a process. Of course it’s sad when we lost something or somebody. But we can look back and then it’ll become beautiful memories when you try to recall it,” Fauzin said.

Meanwhile, Fauzin’s social politics artworks about the Palestinian territories occupation is about sacrifice and people fighting for their lives.

He also made the works more universal because he believed that the fight is for everyone, not just limited to Muslims.

“It’s not just for me personally. Painting is not just about me expressing my feelings, myself. It is about others. I try to show people that it is about sacrifice — fighting for peace. Not only for Muslims. It is actually very universal,” he said.

The painting “Al-Aqsa” depicts the mosque of the same name and is painted in monotonous colours. It also features white pigeons.

“I used the white pigeon as the bird represents freedom and peace. Al-Aqsa mosque was our first kiblat.

When people talk about Palestine, they’ll always associate it with the Dome of The Rock — the golden one.

“Al-Aqsa is actually the other one, the Black Dome,” Fauzin said. Currently, he is working on a Tugu Negara (National Monument) series which will also be black and white.

“The philosophy of Tugu Negara is about fighting and sacrifice and I’m working on that now,” he said.

“Pameran Empat Persepsi” is currently being held at the Creative Space in the National Art Gallery until Dec 31. The gallery is open from 10am to 6pm daily, while admission is free of charge.