Gajah is a 2013 acrylic and color pencil on canvas painting by Daud Rahim. Created as part of his Jiwa series, that speaks about the anxiety the human soul suffers when consumed by the materialism of modern life, Gajah is a beautiful explanation of Daud’s reputation as not only a master draftsman, but also a deeply philosophical thinker.
Measuring 6 feet by 8 feet, Gajah features a large drawing of an elephant across the main body the canvas, set against a backdrop of lines interspersed with type and long slim tree trunks. The linear, graphic background is perfectly neat, juxtaposing with the organic elephant that at first glance appears to be drawn as an x-ray with all of its anatomy as a biological diagram would appear. Closer inspection reveals the anatomical elements are mechanical in nature, suggestive of engine parts. The tree trunks seem to be filled with wires snaking upwards, recalling the phrase ‘information highway’. There is the impression of large organic organisms being taken over by technology, creating a dialogue of the relationship between between man and machine. The artist questions the over emphasis currently on developing tool, appliances and technology, which feed materialism, yet ignoring spiritual cultivation. Daud comments on the necessity of developing the soul to become a complete human being, for the soul is the part of man that lives in infinitely whereas everything else decays and will eventually be forgotten.
The medium of color pencil is often considered unusual for such expansive and conceptual work, yet Daud harnesses this alternative technique beautifully with great detail. Over 600 pencils in 200 colors were used in the creation of the Jiwa series, which Gajah is part of. Acrylic is sparingly used, primarily in the background, which was primed black as a first step. Daud experimented with a ‘reverse technique’ with Gajah, working to bright light onto a dark canvas instead of the regular method of introducing shadows onto lighter surfaces. The projection of light, shadow and realism when working in reverse is immensely tricky and achieved via intense layering, sitting as testament to Daud’s technical proficiency. The contrast a coal black background provides the bright palette Daud employs rewards Gajah with a haunting luminosity, which tightly draws viewers closer.
Daud explains the living organisms intertwined with machinery are an analogy of the struggle between the search for spiritual fulfillment and the quest for material things that exist in society today. His message to diligently work at both the internal and external aspects of life, that is balancing the search for worldly fulfillment with nourishing the soul, is beautifully communicated via his art. The marriage of deep thought and superior skill, both of which are achieved through dedication and discipline projects onto his audience easily, underscoring the reasons for his steadily growing reputation as one of the young contemporary artists to watch out for.
written by Zena Khan
artist : Daud Rahim
type : color pencil & acrylic on canvas
dimension : 171 x 250 cm
price : RM 15, 000.00