Multidisciplinary artist Haffendi Anuar has had a busy year, with a residency programme in Selangor, the opening of his solo show Migratory Objects in Kuala Lumpur and the installation of his commissioned outdoor sculpture at Circus West Village in London.
If every piece of art has a story behind it, then Haffendi’s Machines For Modern Living in London, his largest work to date as well as his first outdoor sculpture ever, is one with a happy ending.
When the 32-year-old artist, together with British-born Jesse Wine, were selected as joint winners of the first commission to create outdoor sculptures for the Battersea Power Station development in London, he knew exactly what he wanted the sculpture to stand for.
The brief for the competition stated that his proposal for a sculpture should respond to either the site, the history of the place or the local community. Haffendi is no stranger to all of the above, having cycled past the power station numerous times when he was a student at a college there.
He recalls being impressed by the building. “I wanted to respond architecturally to this and was looking at recreating the feeling of the monumentality of the chimneys of the power station through the creation of four large cylindrical, column-like sculptures that have an imposing presence. The sculptures, which formally serve as surrogate chimneys, were to be placed within the grasp of the viewer, flattening the distance between the viewer and the objects they represent. The bright colours of the sculptures serve to echo the bright colours of Malaysia’s diverse flora and fauna,” he explains.
His proposal was shortlisted from an initial list of 30 international artists, and he went on to share the spotlight with Wine when they emerged as co-winners for the Powerhouse Commission, something Haffendi describes as “really awesome” and a high point of his career this year.
“Being an emerging artist based in South-East Asia, a periphery art scene far away from the major art centres, I thought that I had a very slim chance to be selected. I couldn’t believe that I had been shortlisted,” he says.
During the initial conceptualisation process, Haffendi worked from memory, recalling the sights and sounds that revolved around this site. But serendipity had other plans, and he found himself in London in July, the perfect opportunity for him to merge past and present.
“It made a big difference being there again; so much has changed as it is currently in a process of development and that trip was helpful in tidying up the concept for my proposal. Being so close to the iconic building, I was able to note how imposing the chimneys are,” he says.
The fabrication was done by London Mould Makers in London, with Haffendi working remotely from Malaysia. Instructions were given via e-mail and he had to submit a maquette of the sculpture as well.
“I had to trust the fabricators and they did a fantastic job with it. It was great to see the sculpture there when I was in London for two weeks in September and October, but I wish I could pop by anytime to see them again. It is a strange feeling to think that you have large works installed outdoors somewhere in the world and for them to be in London, even better,” he says.
Haffendi has been dedicating himself full-time to his artistic pursuits since early this year, painting lots and contemplating on venturing into other types of media like video, performances, artist books and photography, as well as exploring larger immersive installations.
“I see myself as a regional artist (in South-East Asia), practising within a larger art scene and context, though my practice and the concerns of my work are well contextualised within Malaysia and the urban environment of Kuala Lumpur. Having the time to fully commit to art-making helps a lot with the development of ideas and formal sensibilities,” he says.