A critically acclaimed resident of the contemporary Malaysian art scene, Suhaimi Fadzir is well-known for his relief-like mixed media works, which straddle a boundary between two dimensional and three dimensional arts. While his works abound with an atmosphere that could easily be categorized as pop art due to the highly relatable iconography and on trend palette he employs, they resonate with a depth that is derived from the multiple layers of both content and fabrication that each individual work is infused with. The rapport he easily establishes between his artworks and his audience is evident in his new trio of works, Red Marilyn (JFK and Marilyn), Red Horns (Kapuki and King) and Red Shoes (AFK and Zena).

Suhaimi is coming off his last major series, Merdeka, in which he explored the themes of nationalism, the Malaysian constitution and social contract as well as political issues. The commitment to such a serious subject matter over a length of time left the artist with a desire to move on conceptually to a lighter subject matter, and he has been exploring much more personal themes of late as he formulates his next series. Red Marilyn (JFK and Marilyn), Red Horns (Kapuki and King) and Red Shoes (AFK and Zena) are exciting in context of content, for they represent an introspective insight into a male artist who traditionally focuses on social or political discourse as artistic themes.

Red Marilyn (JFK and Marilyn), Red Horns (Kapuki and King) and Red Shoes (AFK and Zena) follow on technically from Suhaimi’s previous work Harimau. Each square canvas measures a neat five feet by five feet, and is worked in the intricately composed and hyper detailed style that acts as a distinctive signature for the artist. While the works are exhaustively planned, linking the process to Suhaimi’s architectural background, the multitude of layers results in a conclusion that the artist admits always surprises him. As before, Suhaimi began with transferring images onto a primed canvas, before adding on the layer of razor blades that form the metallic pattern over and around the surface, and then arranges his strict grid of toy soldiers, which have an echo of his acclaimed Recycled Toys and Found Objects series. The finishing touch is the bright neon light that illuminates the images and artifacts preceding it, a highly current addition that Suhaimi has been experimenting with since the 1980’s and now revisits enthusiastically.

Keeping in line with his desire to begin working on an almost therapeutic series, Suhaimi has chosen three sets of symbols for love and relationships. Red Marilyn (JFK and Marilyn) features the iconic American actress, Marilyn Monroe, who is famed for her seductive beauty, and well known for her husky rendition of  “Happy Birthday” to the late American president John F. Kennedy. Until today, the public idolizes Marilyn Monroe, as well as the late John F. Kennedy, for their important individual contributions to society. Red Marilyn (JFK and Marilyn) can be seen simply as the formal relationship between an actress and her president, or as hinting at the rumored love affair that the two shared, which infuses this work with a melancholic sense of longing.

Red Horns (Kapuki and King) features a series of prints of a mother and baby eastern black rhinoceros, King and his mother Kapuki who live in the Lincoln Park Zoo. Eastern black rhinoceroses are critically endangered, and the arrival of little King in 2013 marked not only the success of Lincoln Park Zoo’s breeding programme, but also acted as the source of great joy for conservationists and animal enthusiasts internationally, as a cause for celebration moving into a positive period for these creatures. As is evident from Suhaimi’s earlier works, the environment and preservation of wild animals resonate strongly with the artist.

Suhaimi considers Red Shoes (AFK and Zena) as a highly current work, a snapshot of time being recorded instantly, which is an idea he is looking to explore keenly moving forward. It contrasts with his usual themes of working on historical contexts, and can also be viewed as an insight into Suhaimi trying to engage his content to be as contemporary as his technical skills. The image Suhaimi works with is a recent photograph of Malaysian contemporary art collectors Aliya and Farouk Khan, who are major collectors of Suhaimi’s work from his earlier periods up till present time, and their daughter Zena Khan, an art writer, at the seminal Great Malaysian Contemporary Art Show, where the artist displayed his work Harimau, the technical basis for these three new works. In Red Shoes (AFK and Zena) Suhaimi looks to express the significance of his relationship with his major collectors. Historically collectors provide patronage, which instills confidence in an artist and leads to greater artistic creativity and experimentation thus resulting in boundary-pushing artworks. Suhaimi’s desire to represent this relationship reflects its value to him as an artist, and also underpins the necessary role of patronage in contemporary art, from the artist’s viewpoint.

Red Marilyn (JFK and Marilyn), Red Horns (Kapuki and King) and Red Shoes (AFK and Zena) are a wonderfully personal insight into a dynamic mixed media artist, which is especially interesting given the generally social statement driven work produced by male artists in a contemporary landscape. Suhaimi’s energetic, colorful canvases clearly work well as a type of visual journal through which his audience can follow his journey, professional and personal, thus allowing for direct communication between the art, audience and Suhaimi himself, and builds excitement for the series that is coming off the back of these new works.

written by Zena Khan

artist              : Suhaimi Fadzir

type                : mixed media

dimension    : 152 x 152 cm

price               : RM 50, 000.00


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