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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

More than meets the eye in Fendy Zakri's art

Posted: 03 May 2014 04:45 PM PDT

See the hidden images that the artist includes in his works.

Ipoh-born Fendy Zakri has a primal relationship with his art.

He talks about appreciation of mystery and women, and in the same breath addresses – with much enthusiasm – topics like lust, desire and artistic taste.

Every line and stroke of the brush is deliberate and planned, Fendy Zakri says of the works  in his first solo exhibition Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art.

Every line and stroke of the brush is deliberate and planned, Fendy Zakri says of the works in his first solo exhibition Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art.

In his first solo exhibition at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur, Fendy challenges conventional perspectives with hidden images in his works.

The exhibition, titled Seeing The Unseen, expands on the idea of unlocking the secrets of the universe with one mechanism.

"I love black, and I love messy!" Fendy Zakri declares when talking about his works created for his first solo exhibition Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art. All the works produced for this exhibition have hidden images in them, revealed when viewed with PicsArt, a photo editing software.

[ 'I love black, and I love messy!' Fendy Zakri declares when talking about his works created for his first solo exhibition Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art. All the works produced for this exhibition have hidden images in them, revealed when viewed with PicsArt, a photo editing software.

His work might look like a mess of colours and lines on canvas, but Fendy insists that every stroke of the brush is deliberate, every line is carefully composed – not unlike what happens behind the scenes with an orchestrated car crash in an action movie.

"I play with space, texture, colours, form, composition and balance ... and then distort it to make my artwork look abstract. And to hide the images within my painting even better, I explore ambiguous space, flat space and deep space," he says.

Fendy Zakri, Seeing the Unseen. This is #13, the biggest painting at this exhibition, Seeing the Unseen.

Fendy Zakri, Seeing the Unseen. This is #13, the biggest painting at this exhibition, Seeing the Unseen.

To the layperson, this explanation probably doesn't help shed very much light on the thought process behind his works.

But if this artist's mind is an open book that is hard to read, there is fortunately an easier – and rather fun! – way to unlock the hidden images in his art.

You will need to have photo editing software PicsArt on your phone to view the hidden images in Fendy Zakri's works.

Follow these instructions:

1. Download PicsArt

2. Snap a photo of the painting

3. Go to PicsArt and click on Effects

4. Click on Distort

5. Go to the bottom bar and select Mirrors

The hidden image in the painting will now be revealed.

Related story:

Fendy Zakri's mirrors and smoke

Australian art laws: Dealing with fraud

Posted: 03 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Australia strengthens the law to deal with art fakes.

ART conservators have turned art detectives that resulted in two successful prosecutions of art fraud in Australia.

This was revealed in a talk, Building Evidence For Use In Criminal Cases – Standard Practice and Methodologies: A Case Study In Australia, by Vanessa Kowalski at the National Visual Arts Gallery (NVAG) in Kuala Lumpur on April 21.

Kowalski, from the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC), the University of Melbourne, was en-route to a holiday in Sabah before a scheduled similar talk at The Hague in the Netherlands. The talk was timely in view of fakes emerging in the local art market and the ongoing revamp of the NVAG's Art Lab conservation department.

(In late March 2010, the then Member of Parliament Wee Choo Keong brought up the matter of fake paintings based on Datuk Ibrahim Hussein's Sports Series of eight lithographs).

In the talk, Kowalski expanded at length on how the CCMC, led by art historian-turned-conservator associate professor Robyn Sloggett, aided the criminal investigations that resulted in the conviction in the Victorian County Court of pensioners, Ivan and Pamela Liberto, charged with "obtaining financial advantage by deception" in 2007.

The couple, hailing from the Toorak, Melbourne, were found guilty of selling four forged paintings purportedly by Aboriginal artist Rover Thomas (1926-1998) to four Australian auction houses, including Sotheby's and Christie's, for a total of more than A$307,000 (RM934,226) over a four-year period (May 2002-2006), and attempting to sell two others.

Sotheby's, which had earlier sold a forgedRover Thomas, became suspicious when the couple consigned a Thomas work titled Rainbow Serpent, which was very similar but bigger than the one of the same title which they had sold only six months earlier for A$150,000 (RM456,462). The ancestral spirit, Rainbow Serpent, was cited as the angry force behind the cyclone Tracy that flattened Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974, and it was this type of Dreamtime paintings that first establish Rover Thomas' fame.

Thomas was one of two aboriginal artists who represented Australia at the 1990 Venice Biennale, the other being Trevor Nickolls (1949-2012).

The highest price fetched was A$146,400 (RM447,750, including commissions and tax) for Thomas' Wolf Creek Crater which was sold by auction house Lawson-Menzies to a Swiss gallery in 2005. In 2004, a bigger Cross Roads, went for A$114,000 (RM346,911), after a smaller Cross Roads was disposed for A$58,000 (RM176,499) a year earlier.

Where art fraud is concerned, the Australian investigation came under three Attribution Assessment Process categories, which are: 1) connoisseurship, which makes use of the expert's trained eye and acquaintance with the artist's body of work; 2) analysis of documentation that will help establish or confirm provenance; 3) physical and technical examination.

Using Infrared reflectography, an investigator is able to tell the techniques involved, the preparatory under-drawing and materials used, and any compositional changes. Factors like brushstrokes, stretchers, frames, pigment identification, restoration or varnish layers – whether original or applied later or brushed over or sprayed (in the case of the Libertos as the spray effect left tell-tale droplets). Sometimes, a simple microscope or ultra-violet light examination will do.

A detailed knowledge of the work process and habits of an individual artist is instrumental to ferreting uncharacteristic anomalies in the work. Thomas was known to paint directly without any drawing and use natural resins from trees as paint, thus the natural discolorations. Colour pigments used like emerald green and titanium white also come with incriminating timelines. The Libertos' copies were also suspiciously layered with a "manufactured gloss variation." They used conte crayon pigment to imitate the red dust and clumsily mixed sand into the colours instead of the natural wind-blown effect if the works were painted in the Kimberley diamond mine as claimed by Pamela.

Similarly, artists such as Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) and Brett Whiteley (1939-1992), the enfant terrible of Australian art, are targeted because of their "personal problems" and anything amiss in the works can easily be explained asan "off day" for the artist due to them being inebriated or under the influence of drugs. A more recent case of Whiteley's fakes is related to his Lavender Bay series.

Kowalski suggested that aboriginal paintings, with the widespread use of simple geometry and dot patterns, are fair game to potential forgers, while for modern art, abstract paintings prove to be more popular targets.

Aboriginal art is tied to a sacred belief system and ritual. Its traditional methods are privy to ethnic or tribal groups, with a nomadic lifestyl,e and presided over by elders, and thus not so easily communicable and documented. That leaves huge gaps in the story to be exploited by the unscrupulous few in the art scene.

The Libertos case had resulted in two innovations to protect the aboriginal art industry which is worth at least A$100 million (RM304.3 million) a year, and rising. They are chemical fingerprinting (using unique colours to artist's palette) and a multi-layered bar coded microdot system.

Prices of aboriginal Australian art hit the roof after the Asia Society's blockbuster exhibition, Dreamings: The Art Of Aboriginal Australia, in New York in 1988.

While this was the first art fraud conviction in Victoria, the dubious honour of the first in indigenous art fraud in Australia goes to Adelaide man John Douglas O'Loughlin, in 2001, for faking works of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932-2002).

What isbaffling, however, is how an old couple (art amateurs) without any art background – Ivan was a mechanic – managed to fool the experts from four reputable auction houses. In the other successful case in 2010, the Australia artists Robert Dickerson and Charles Blackman, who is suffering from dementia, won their case against gallerists Peter Gant and Anor, and the purported counterfeits passing off as their works were subsequently destroyed.

But "fakes" is also a slippery word. In the University of California Press book (Berkeley and Los Angeles), Fake? The Art Of Deception, edited by Mark Jones, there are also other factors in determining fakes such as copying from a master and the master's liberal corrections, a "school" workshop production, variations of a theme, replicas and facsimiles, and reproductions of art which is damaged. There was some furor when two similar works on the Forbidden City by Singaporean painter Georgette Chen (1906-1993) surfaced, but the anomaly was explained as the artist's secret commission on the insistence of an eccentric collector.

On the same page: The meeting of two artists at Temu

Posted: 03 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Temu is a creative meeting of sorts for two art contemporaries.

Faizal Suhif has always been a man of the soil. Growing up, the farming life was all that he knew.

The lush vegetation, tranquillity of a simple village life, and the stories and proverbs the elders would utter to him in the evenings took shape in his growing mind like a great tree.

From a very young age, Faizal drew inspiration from these fascinating elements in his life. And like the passionate artist that he is, he would go on to paint and draw with oil, charcoal and soil these images from his earliest memories. The results were altogether spectacular and nostalgic.

Faizal and his artistic peer Jamil Zakaria, another man whose works are personifications of traditional Malay adages, feature in Kuala Lumpur-based 69 Fine Art Gallery's latest exhibition called Temu, which boasts paintings and sculptures. Both are fine arts graduates from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Jamil Zakaria with his steel wire installations

Jamil Zakaria with his steel wire installations.

The exhibition's title signifies the creative meeting of these two artists: Faizal from Muar, Johor and Jamil from Guar Chempedak, Kedah. Some of the works featured in this Temu exhibition also come from Dusun Seni, a studio in idyllic Ulu Langat, Selangor, where both these artists work from.

Though there is no crossover in terms of technique, subject matter or even theme, something else does tie their very distinct and unique artworks together.

Like his past works, Malay proverbs are evident in Jamil's steel wire installations in Temu. He is one of the few artists in Malaysia to thrive through his steel wire works, which involves a lot visualising and planning on paper before a piece can be completed.

One such work, named Mulut Meriam, depicts half a human body in a kneeling position. Where there would have been a torso, two hands and a head was a cannon in wheels. Several cannon balls can be seen all loaded up and ready to be fired in the stomach of this part human figure.

Then comes the intriguing bit. One of the legs is shackled by an iron ball, akin to a slave or a prisoner.

Seharian Di Ladang by Faizal Suhif

Honest toil: Faizal Suhif's Seharian Di Ladang, which was inspired by an old farm worker in Bali, Indonesia.

The installation seems as if to say that humans are enslaved and shackled by the tragedy called life. We have no choice but to surrender.

For the visitors in this gallery, the key is in the title of the piece itself.

"Mulut Meriam is an idiom used to describe someone who lashes out at others with offensive and hurtful language," explained Jamil, 29.

"All of us have that nature within us and we have to control that nature. That is what the iron-ball shackle represents. We have to restrain it like prisoners are restrained." Another gripping piece is one called Sarang Kehidupan. Inspired by that famous Malay adage diam-diam ubi berisi, Jamil pointed out that the installation, an oddly shaped closed structure, alludes to tuber plants, whose stems and leaves are visible to us but not what grows underground. Within the structure are tunnel-like passageways, all leading to a central organ.

"Similarly, we can see the body of an anthill but we are not aware of the government and the structure within. It's as if the anthill is non-existent.

Jamil's Mulut Meriam asks us to shackle down our inner demons which enjoys lashing out at others

Jamil Zakaria's Mulut Meriam is the artist's statement about shackling our inner demons.

"This triggered a thought within me. I wanted to show that though something seems static, like my installation, there is life within. So, when you meet someone, you can't assume that is all there is to them," expressed Jamil philosophically. Faizal's pieces, on the other hand, lend a more nostalgic stance to the exhibition. Though some are based on Malay idioms, many of his artworks point back to the times he spent in the farm.

Seharian Di Ladang, a charcoal piece, was inspired by an old farm worker Faizal encountered in Bali, Indonesia. The black and white drawing depicts a septuagenarian, chewing a paddy stalk while carrying a gunny sack on her head.

"It's a symbol of working hard and harvesting something at the end as a result of diligence. In spite of her age, the old lady is still working on the ground, energetic, harvesting paddy and I asked myself, 'Am I doing anything substantial with my life? If an old lady can do it, why can't I?'" said Faizal, 30, who is no stranger to contemplation in his work.

Faizal with his monoprint Hope series

Faizal Suhif with his monoprint Hope series at 69 Fine Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

But Faizal's most arresting piece is one called A Piece of Land. The massive, two-panelled drawing shows, well, a piece of land, with very large vegetation and at a distance, multiple tombstones lining the ground. Not too far from the land, a sapphire blue river flows and upon its bank, Faizal had masterfully woven images of a turtle and a man holding a tombstone, lying along the river.

At first glance, they would have merely looked like rock formations. But a closer look would reveal these somewhat eerie characters. There is an almost melancholic air about the painting.

"This piece is about life and death. Hence the vegetables and the tombstones. But more than that, it acts as a reminder to me that I, or anyone for that matter, should do something good with what life presents to us," said the full-time artist.

In this exhibition, both artists' works may be varied. Their techniques and forms may be worlds apart. However, what resonates the most from this Temu show is the unifying force between both artists asking visitors to appreciate the little and big things in life.

Temu is on at 69 Fine Art Gallery, Jalan Bruas, Damansara Heights in Kuala Lumpur till May 10. Visits are by appointment only. Contact Patrice Vallete (019 3012 569) or visit www.fineart69.com.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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