In the mood for some salad? Just visit Face Fiction, a solo exhibition by emerging artist Nik Mohd Shazmie at the G13 Gallery in Petaling Jaya.
One of the first exhibits to greet you are three mannequins sitting at a table, beneath a green spotlight. Plates of crispy looking lettuce leaves are stacked before them.
It’s a striking image. Look closer at the work (Homecoming Dinner In Green), however, and little ironies start to become evident … the tablecloth bears zebra stripes, while the dinner guests are all dressed in animal print.
Nik Shazmie, 27, says he knows some people like that.
“They profess to be vegetarian, often just for fashionable reasons. They claim they do not eat meat because they love animals, and yet they don fur coats and leather accessories,” he says at the gallery.
“There’s a kind of irony here … about a group of people who are supposedly trying to ‘eat clean’, but they are wearing animal products from head to toe. In the fashion industry, especially, they go on a vegan diet because it is fashionable, not because of ethical or moral reasons,” he adds.
The inspiration for the art work, he reveals, came from a recent trip to Japan. Since not all the food there was halal, the artist found himself sometimes going to vegetarian places. He discovered, to his surprise, that people in smaller towns there were vegetarian out of a love for animals, while those in cities (such as Tokyo) tended to do it due to diet.
Indeed, much of Face Fiction, Nik Shazmie’s second solo exhibition, also teases the idiosyncracies of the fashion industry. The bright colours in his paintings present a vibrant feel to this show, featuring 12 paintings. Many of his works also feature subjects with rather twisted, distorted faces.
“Today, cosmetic surgeons are like painters. Their patients are like canvases,” says Nik Shazmie with a smile.
In-jokes and pop-cultural references are buried deep in every work. The Kuala Krai, Kelantan-born artist, who is now based in Kuala Lumpur, shares his unique, often whimsical views of the world, tackling issues from superficiality and discrimination to society’s difficult realities.
Striking images take centre stage at this show. When the Bees Strike Back captures the tense mood of a street demonstration, while Makanan Bintang Lima, Harga Kaki Lima (Five Star Food, Street Food Prices) is a strange painting with a woman in a space suit, preparing a grill of satay.
This work (Makanan Bintang) is based on stories from his friends who had dreams of being astronauts, but were bound to earth. “It’s a bit like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were excellent students, but they couldn’t achieve what they wanted. Many went on to sell street food instead,” explains Nik Shazmie.
Each of Nik Shazmie’s works transports the viewer into a completely different world. And that is exactly how the young artist likes it.
“I hope coming to my show will be like going to a cinema, and every picture is a different hall with a different story. They can then come to me and ask me anything about it!” quips Nik Shazmie.
Nik is also one of the famous “Nik Brothers” alongside his siblings Nik Mohd Hazri, 30 and Nik Mohd Shahfiz, 25, who are all artists.
In 2014, Nik Shazmie made a name for himself when he won the annual Nando’s Peri-fy Your World competition, which earned him his first solo exhibition (2015’s Home Sweet Home). That same year, he also won the UOB Painting of the Year Established Category Gold Award.