Escaping reality with Haris Rashid

The 3:33 exhibition is currently held at ZHAN Art Space in PJ from Jan 4 until March 28, and features more than 40 artworks

by AZALEA AZUAR / pics source: Haris Rashid Facebook

THE reintroduction of the second Movement Control Order (MCO 2.0) this year has left many adapting to survive and yet still able to do what they love most.

Unlike during the first round of MCO that began in March last year, people are now more well-prepared to do the necessary within all the boundaries that come with all the regulations and restrictions.

Henry Butcher’s Art Auctioneers director Sim Polenn said in an earlier report by The Malaysian Reserve that the art market has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with private selling, delivery and collections reduced massively by the MCO.

Although the art market’s movement is slow during this period of uncertainty, more new collectors have been showing up.

On the brighter side, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has allocated RM89.2 million under the Malaysian Creative Industry Stimulus Package, or Prisma, to help creative industry workers in the short term.

Malaysian netizens have also been helpful in showing support for their fellow artists.

#ArtistofMalaysia is currently trending on Twitter and artists have been using it to promote their artwork to a wider range of audiences.

They have been introducing themselves and their artworks through this hashtag, as it features local artists from various backgrounds such as illustration, graphic design and surrealist painters.

Scrolling through Twitter, you would see countless talented but young Malaysian artists.

Passionate Since Young

Haris Rashid is one good example. He is known for his unconventional artworks where he uses mixed media and combined art styles in order to create his own.

The young artist was born in Kedah but raised in Damansara, Petaling Jaya (PJ), and from a young age, Haris has always been interested in art.

Luckily, he has very supportive parents who support his career in art.

“My mom was the first to encourage me to pursue art, and she continues to inspire and motivate me to develop my art skills without any barriers. As an art teacher with background studies in art and design, majoring in batik, her knowledge in these areas serves as my earliest inspiration,” said Haris.

Growing up, Haris spent a lot of time doodling on textbooks, exercise books and even his class desk (though he advises aspiring artists not to do so!). “During my teenage years, I explored countless manga and anime-inspired drawings, and later stepped into pop surrealism — a play on fantasy and ultimate creativity. The combination of all informed the kind of artist I am today,” he said.

Haris initially studied textile technology during his tertiary education, but later switched to illustration where he graduated with a diploma from The One Academy.

“As an artist, the switch came naturally as I felt that illustration was best suited for me. “With the change, I was able to embrace my

creativity in different art mediums. I was able to express my creativity through digital art, animation and storyboarding,” he said.

Prior to pursuing his dream as a full-time artist, Haris worked in several jobs to kick- start his art career.

“I’ve worked at ‘Get Crafty’ as a teacher and taught craft to children using mainly cardboards. That really brought some perspectives on the construction of art which helped me with my future art installations which are usually made from recycled materials,” he said.

He also worked as a photo editor of fashion e-commerce platform Zalora which helped sharpen his photoshop skills, a great way to enhance his creations.

An Eye for Nature

Haris’ The Empress 2020 piece from his solo 3:33 exhibition is for sale at @zhanartmy

If there’s anything Haris is known for, it is his colourful and mystical works on nature.

“I have always been fond of flora and fauna, and it just came naturally to embrace the wild. Nature is unbiased and there are a lot of metaphors that can be associated with it,” Haris said.

Nature enables him to discover new things and the elements are relatable to the human experiences. Haris believes that sometimes, the similarities are uncanny.

“The first two solo exhibitions held in 2015 and 2016 were focused primarily on animals. The first solo exhibition was called ‘Beauty in the Beast’, specifically to highlight what we may overlook or take for granted,” he said.

To Haris, each artist is unique with different interpretations on art storytelling.

During the first MCO, Haris spent his time experimenting digital art which he successfully launched several Instagram filters with his usual flora and fauna theme.

He also has a large pool of artists that he’s inspired by like James Jean, Mark Ryden and Sergio Toppi.

“James Jean’s eye-popping artwork and clever use of colours is a strong draw factor to the audience, similar to how I use colours to illustrate an artwork.

“Mark Ryden and Sergio Toppi’s artistic style couldn’t be more different, but it is the way each artist masters their own craft which is so inspiring, particularly how they master a narrative in surrealism and the usages of just lines,” Haris added.

Welcome to Another World

Haris is currently running a solo exhibition entitled “3:33” which is meant to transport his viewers to an exotic realm via his striking artworks. They display an idyllic fantasy world which would ignite their wildest imaginations.

Haris started working on the series last year in February, when the Covid-19 pandemic first erupted in Malaysia.

“With 3:33, I aimed to capture surrealism and fantasy art in a way that allows us to seek transformative experiences in the unexpected,” he said.

Haris’ artworks for this exhibition are infused with symbols, numerology, myths and metaphors where they retreat into the galaxy.

“As I do practise numerology, numbers play an important role and signifies different meanings,” Haris said.

For instance, 3 is just a number to most, but for Haris, it relates to his life path in creativity and exploration.

He said the number 3 is also a divine number in many religions as it reflects a strong representation on the aspect of mind, body and spirit, as well as denoting creative self-expression, independence and playfulness.

Astronomy and Humanity

Haris’ pieces also reflect on how people deal with anxiety and uncertainties during this current difficult period.

The works also showcase how Haris’ mind was able to escape reality and travel to sur- real places like dreams and fantasy spaces.

His exhibition is currently held at ZHAN Art Space in PJ from Jan 4 until March 28, and features more than 40 artworks ranging between RM88 and RM7,888.

“‘Astral Travel’ is based on what we went through emotionally and psychologically. As physical travels were barred, I travelled within my headspace and explored the depths of my mind and imaginations,” he said.

Haris’ other artwork “Universe 2” focuses on how mankind heavily relies on nature, but nature can survive without them.

The artwork features paintings of plants with a galaxy and starry theme.

“Dua Alam (Two Worlds)” is another one of Haris’ works which is inspired by both local and foreign folklore.

“‘Dua Alam’ is about opposing forces, may it be light and dark, fire and water, night and day, etc. living as one and complimenting each other. The moon has always, and always has been a poetic image, a mirror to reflect the human imagination,” Haris said.

Like others in his lane, Haris had high hopes that the art market would pick up after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As for my exhibitions, as I have predominantly exhibited only in Asia, I would love to explore somewhere further, perhaps Europe,” he said.

To experience and dive deeper into Haris’ fantasy world, visit @zhanartmy on Instagram.