“Andai Aku Tuah…” (“If I was Tuah…”) is a 2013 mixed media on paper and canvas work by the eminent contemporary artist Fauzin Mustafa. Featuring a large portrait of the legendary Hang Tuah, Fauzin combines traditional craft and academic art techniques with modern elements to create a wonderfully contemporary piece that pays tribute to his identity as Malay and the pride he feels therein.
Hang Tuah, famed as one of the greatest Silat masters in history, was the most capable of all of the laksamana (warriors) for the Sultan of Malacca in the 15th century. A known loyalist who took great pride in his cultural identity as Malay, he is quite possibly the best-loved figure in Malaysian history and literature to whom the rallying cry for Malay nationalism “Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia” (“Never shall the Malays vanish from the Earth”) is attributed. Fauzin begins with the examination of this statement to further his appreciation of the special qualities that one can attribute to the Malay race, such as their skills in diplomacy, refined natures and soft, calm demeanors, concluding that they are a distinct people, and that this is reflected in their art. The artist goes on to state that art should unify people, revealing his choice of Hang Tuah as his icon for irrespective of an individual’s political loyalties or sentiments towards the monarchy, all Malaysians have a strong positive affinity for the fabled warrior, disclosing a political undertone to the work. In the aftermath of the General Election of 2013 Fauzin identifies divisive lines being drawn amongst Malaysians depending on where one’s political affinities lie, yet he comments that regardless of this Malaysians need to co-exist amicably.
The visual reference used for Hang Tuah’s portrait is the prominent bronze relief of him displayed in the Muzium Negara (National Museum) in Kuala Lumpur that all Malaysians immediately recognize. Studying Fauzin’s body of works it is evident that he does not generally steer towards figurative elements in his artworks unless it explicitly defines his message, as in “Andai Aku Tuah…”. Sporadically inscribed over the image in Jawi are the words “Tuah” and “Jebat”, referencing the warrior, and his companion/adversary (Hang Jebat) as a metaphor for the positive and negative elements that exist in society which are necessary to achieve harmonious balance.
Another symbol for harmonious balance can be found in the woodcarving patterns along the top and bottom borders of this 6 feet by 4.5 feet work. A highly formal art in many respects, Malay woodcarving requires the adherence to a strict formula that is based on the ‘punca’ (source), be it a pattern or rhyme, which determines the run of the woodcarving. “Andai Aku Tuah…” draws inspiration from a pantun that describes the Malay philosophy of attaining success without offending others, and a pattern of peaceful infinity. Interestingly Fauzin incorporates both actual woodcarving pieces as well as prints of his wood carving, as metaphors for the co-existence of reality and illusion.
The grid like format, derived from joining sections of canvas and paper, some of which are over laid with Perspex blocks, signifies a further exploration into the minimalist format that Fauzin first applied in the 2011 work “Fragile”. “Andai Aku Tuah…” is particularly thrilling for his audience due to the marriage of this neoteric minimalist contemporary style with strong echoes of the Malay iconography that Fauzin’s career as an artist has long been marked by.
written by Zena Khan
artist : Fauzin Mustafa
type : mixed media
dimension : 25 x 25 cm (35 panels)
price : RM 50,000.00