Some artists like to work on landscapes. They create wonderful depictions of a particular piece of scenery, capturing it on canvas. KL-based artist Faizal Yunus is a little bit different. His concern is more about natural landscapes. An ardent nature lover, the artist is very concerned about how pollution and man-made materials are destroying the environment.

His second solo exhibition Vortex focuses on the growing problem of marine debris and pollution in the world’s oceans.

“We should all be concerned about nature. This planet is our home, and we need to preserve it for our future. Right now, we are clogging it up and destroying it,” says Faizal, 29, during an interview at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur. Vortex is showing at Richard Koh Fine Art till July 14.

The gallery is on a roll with non-conventional shows, especially with Faizal’s exhibition coming after Singaporean artist Melissa Tan’s Back To Where We’ve Never Been, a show discussing urban landscape and terrain.

Born in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, Faizal spent a lot of time hiking and jungle trekking in his childhood home. His love of nature came at an early age.

As he grew up, however, he turned his attention to art, graduating from UiTM Shah Alam with a degree in Fine Art, major in printmaking, in 2012.

The Great Barrier Reef I (oil, lacquer, construction net and Polyurethane foam on canvas, 2018).

His previous show Matrix (2016), held at Richard Koh Fine Art, saw the artist using everyday trash from his surroundings in his printmaking techniques. Vortex, Faizal explains, is an extension of that first solo show, and is focused more heavily on the impact of marine pollution.

The exhibition, which takes up the first floor of the gallery space, consists of 19 – mounted and floor – works.

For his work Pacific Vortex, for instance, Faizal uses materials such as construction net and polyutherane to create what appears to be a chain of 10 islands floating on the sea. The work’s name is a reference to the Great Pacific garbage patch (also called the Pacific trash vortex), a roughly 1.6mil sq km vortex of floating litter in the North Pacific Ocean.

“Often we see on film, a character puts a message in a bottle and casts it out to sea, hoping it would someday reach land. It makes me imagine that if they try to do it with a plastic bottle in real life, the message will probably end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, merging with the huge collection of trash known as the Plastic Vortex,” reveals Faizal, with an amused look.

This phenomenon inspired the shape and content of his work.

Faizal is seen here with his series of works called Pacific Vortex. Photo: The Star/Azman Ghani

In terms of colours in Vortex, Faizal’s work is mainly blue, a representation of the planet’s calm waters. But he has added a tinge of bright, almost fluorescent hues, the artist’s representation of toxic elements slowly seeping into the ocean’s eco-system.

“I think everyone has to do their part to protect their planet. Plastic waste is a serious issue, maybe we should stop using plastic as a form of packaging. Plastics take too long to decompose,” he notes.

The average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade, he mentions, is at least 450 years.

His other works, including The Great Barrier Reef III and Branching Anemone illustrate the destruction of coral reefs and marine life. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice blobs all over many of Faizal’s works. This effect was created by mixing water with oil on his canvas, another symbolic representation of nature being disrupted.

Pacific Vortex V (oil, lacquer, construction net and Polyurethane foam on canvas, 2018).

“This technique came about through accident, while I was doing some works after my Matrix exhibition. It was a very lucky accident,” he says.

Not all of the works in Vortex are devoted to marine pollution. The scarlet-tinged Pale Fire is Faizal’s tribute to the power of a volcanic eruption, itself a form of landscape change. And Summit is inspired by a trek through the green outdoors.

“I think that in the future, I may no longer be able to see nice (hiking) views because of the landscape changing, because of pollution and irresponsible development. I can only paint what I feel. Essentially, I hope that we don’t lose these beautiful things,” he says.


Vortex is on at Richard Koh Fine Art, 229, Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur till July 14. The gallery is open from 10am-7pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays. Call 03-2095 3300 or visit rkfineart.com. FB: Richard Koh Fine Art.