Mohd Noor Mahmud’s artistic practice closely mirrors the craft traditions of Kelantan. Known as the cradle of Malaysian culture, Kelantan houses deep-seated craft traditions, such as batik, kain songket (fabric woven with gold and silver thread), silversmithing and woodcarving. The influence of a strong craft culture has long been evident throughout Mohd Noor’s career, beginning with his first series, Siri Imajan (1988), and continues with his two recent works, Sekebun Bunga III and Alun III.
Continuing his exploration of utilizing traditional craft techniques to represent contemporary social themes, the artist mixes acrylic with sawdust on canvas to achieve a raw, gravelly effect, which contrasts with the feminine colour palette employed, and is nudged ever closer to the traditional process of wood carving. Mohd Noor first realized this technique in his Siri Gua series, based on the Gua Cha in Ulu Kelantan. The most actively researched archeological site in the peninsular this is where the remains of Hoabhonians and Neolithics were discovered with their artifacts. These articles, including complete human burials and grave commodities such as jewellery, pottery and stone tools, inspired the artist to experiment with coarse materials such as sawdust mixed with glue in an effort to imitate the rough textural atmosphere, enabling him to achieve this highly textural, layered effect.
Alun III is a large-scale study similar to Mohd Noor’s recent works Alun I and Alun II. Alun III, with its highly granular canvas surface, evokes natural textures found in rock formations, which could almost be seen as ongoing without the softness of the colours in the finish and the hint of a floral motif which vaguely recalls a likeness with batik, which he has employed in past works such as Siri Dikir Rambutan Rendang: Rebung (2008/2009). Mohd Noor’s affection for batik is evident in Sekebun Bunga III, which employs a gritty surface technique as well. The surface of Sekebun Bunga III is peppered with batik inspired flowers and stripes. This examination of floral motifs in batik leads to their resulting representational value within Kelantan’s society, sparking dialogues on the particular responsibilities of craft and intellectualism within society today. The technical wonder of both works is further mystified by the sculptural quality of the canvas itself. When viewed from the side it becomes apparent that Mohd Noor has stretched the canvas over a wooden frame that has waved edges, a quiet detail that adds to the surface impact and three-dimensional element of these luminous paintings.
Mohd Noor’s art opens dialogues on the synthesis of traditional artistry in a completely new presentation, and the resultant contradiction of convention. The artist feels that it is this paradox, coupled with a thorough understanding of the formal aspects of technique that enable him to produce truly original works. His artworks of staunchly Malay crafts in a highly current practice can be seen as an accurate demonstration of what contemporary art in Asian societies should strive for.
written by Zena Khan
artist : Mat Nor Mahmud
type : acrylic on sawdust on canvas
dimension : 183 x 122 cm
price : RM 25, 000.00