Faizal Suhif sometimes has difficulties running his studio in Hulu Langat, Selangor. The area is very humid and prone to mist and fog, which means he needs to take regular precautions against fungus. The place is also full of insects.
Once, Faizal forgot to check on one of his artworks and discovered it had been damaged by termites.
Despite the challenges, Faizal loves the place where he has been working for the last five years. Why? It reminds him of his hometown of Muar, Johor, where he enjoyed basking in the pleasures of nature.
The artist draws inspiration for his work from the world around him. This is evident in his seventh solo exhibition, Visual Poetry, which is now showing at the G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya.
“I’m a kampung boy. I lived near a river, with all kinds of trees nearby. Even when I moved to Selangor, I tried to find a place which suited my nature. Because for me, to stay in a city, a concrete jungle, it suppresses me,” says Faizal, 33, during an interview at G13.
Faizal, a printmaker with a Masters in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi MARA Shah Alam, has been making a name for himself for a while now. Apart from local solo and group shows, his works have been exhibited in places such as the NBC International Silkscreen Print Biennial in Tokyo and the 1st Macau Printmaking Triennial.
This is Faizal’s third solo exhibition with G13 Gallery. His previous show, 2014’s Stories From The Soil, was an intriguing collection of monoprint and oil works focusing on the theme of soil.
Visual Poetry is an extension of that exhibition in almost every sense of the word. It features bigger-sized works, more experimenting with medium and technique, and a wider range of subject matter.
Many of the show’s 20 pieces, such as Pasak Bumi and Tiang Seri, are centred on the image of budding shoots emerging from the earth. Faizal says this is a reflection of the many bamboo and heliconia plants that grow around his area. They represent the human search for enlightenment.
“They all grow toward the sun. It’s natural, no one needs to tell them to. They have no thoughts, but their natural instinct is to find the light. And what more for us humans? Light has a double meaning, it is both the light you see, and your faith, that shines in your life,” says Faizal.
The artist’s love of nature can also be seen in works such as Pencakar Langit and Hutan Batu, both feature dry, barren plains, their bright orange hues making them resemble nightmarish hellscapes. The stumps of trees litter the canvas, their shapes making them resemble grave stones. These are Faizal’s visions on the dangers of overdevelopment.
Kisah Sebiji Kurma is a reference to an old folk tale that emphasises that no matter how small a person is, he or she can ultimately make a difference. This theme is furthered in the twin works of Lebah (bee) and Labah (spider).
“Everything is very important. Even if you see a tiny ant, that ant is very important to its colony. It’s just like us, we may not think we are important, but we matter to our friends, our family, and the people around us.”
This message, he adds, extends to appreciating the small things in life.
“It’s easy to get caught up. Like me, I get so caught up with my smartphone that I don’t have time to explore (the outside of) my studio, see the wildflowers. We shouldn’t take these for granted.”
Visual Poetry is on at the G13 Gallery, Kelana Square, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor till Dec 30. Open daily from 11am to 5pm except Sundays and public holidays. For more information go to g13gallery.com. Call 03-7880 0991.