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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

German artist Ilse Noor: Engraved enigma

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

German artist Ilse Noor trawls through 30 years of mystery-tinged artworks.

An incomplete sentence opens more possibilities than one with a full stop ever can.

In her latest exhibit, Enigma: Intaglio, German-born Ilse Noor attempts to show, not tell, with a mix of her more mysterious intaglio prints. The exhibition at the Project Room Fine Art gallery in Kuala Lumpur showcases 16 of the veteran artist's prints, dating back the late 1980s leading up two to pieces done this year.

One of them, Enigma, which lends its title and mood to the exhibit, is actually unfinished, admits Ilse.

"I'm usually more clear with my work, I want to round this one up more. However, the exhibition date was set, and I wasn't," she says with a small laugh. Despite its unfinished state, Enigma still captures the imagination, a teka teki (rhyming Malay riddle) tucked beneath a serene orb that dominates the upper half of the image.

The Jewel of Hang Li Po (etching and aquatint, 2014).

"The idea of the piece ... doesn't demand to be finished anyway. Sometimes, things need a little mystery to let dreams wonder," says Ilse.

Ironically, her technique of choice for the last 50 years – intaglio etching – is associated with fine detail to the point that Ilse uses a magnifying glass to etch in the fine shading lines.

While the end result is on canvas paper, Ilse's aquatint engraving requires her to use acid to etch images onto a copper plate. Its popularity among French impressionists led to the technique being called peintre-graveur (literally painter engraver), for how the painting was done through pressing the engraving onto paper rather than directly painting on the canvas. The painstaking method means Ilse takes a minimum of two weeks to finish a smaller piece, though she revealed that some pieces have taken months and even years before she feels they are complete.

The 73-year-old's longest running project, The Jewel of Hang Li Po, is also on display at the exhibition. The original sketch and four trial prints each have a date and the word "zustandsdruck" (condition of print) which marks it as a work in progress, written at its foot. A whopping 13 years in the making, the series gives audiences a unique perspective on the evolution of Ilse's work.

"I get the image for the next piece even as I'm working on one already, which keeps me moving forward. But I also have to remind myself to come back to a piece and finish it!" Ilse explains during a chat at the Project Room Fine Art gallery.

Hourglass (etching, 1994).

She notes that there is always the danger of overdoing it to a point it does not look good anymore. "It's metal, you can't paint over it like a canvas. You've got to let go and decide it's done." Shooting a look at one of her earlier pieces, Ilse admits: "And some do look overdone."

The Jewel Of Hang Li Po is a continuation of Ilse's Istana theme, a series of underwater castles based on seashells. Several other Istana pieces, including Istana Samudra (1999) and Istana Mutiara (2002) are also in the exhibit.

"I call it an Istana, but it's a shell that's been made into something else. Your fantasy is not given limits," says Ilse. She reveals that her fascination with oceanic elements began after she was comissioned to do a piece for Unesco, which lead her to experiment with studying shrimp, then shells. Ilse also acknowledges Malaysian keroncong music as an influence, saying its percussion sounded like waves and wind beating against a ship's hull.

The prints at the Enigma exhibit are all for sale, though Ilse keeps the original plates to herself. Assuring collectors, Ilse says she maintains the tradition of scratching the plate after the final edition is printed.

"If you don't, you devalue the work and you devalue yourself," says Ilse, her smile revealing a golden tooth.

Bunuhku Aku Akan Tetap Menyanyi (etching and aquatint, 1989) is one of the early pieces on show at the Enigma: Intaglio exhibition.

With each print being done by hand from start to finish, there are invariably minor differences between each finished piece, leading them to be called "multiple originals".

While a plate could be used create anywhere from 30 to 75 prints before it begins to degrade, Ilse makes it a point to only create 10 copies of the finished version.

For those interested in learning how to create their own Intaglio prints, Ilse will be hosting workshop sessions at the gallery (June 7) and her private studio in Lembah Beringin, Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor (June 14). Materials will be provided including copper plate, paper and etching tools.

IIse Noor's Enigma: Intaglio is showing at Project Room Fine Art, Lot 7, Level 4, Great Eastern Mall, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, till June 16. The gallery opens 11am-9pm daily. Visit projectroom.com.my for more details, or e-mail info@projectroom.com.my or call 03-4257 4007 to book a place in the workshop (limited to 10 participants).

The Print Room: Body language

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The Print Room's latest exhibition explores the whole notion of the human form.

Nudity. Stark, sensual, blatant. Those descriptions do come to mind when it comes to celebrating the human form. It is a complex – often forbidden – subject in some circles. Everybody has an opinion when the word "body" is mentioned in relation to photography, or through similar artful mediums.

When English photographer Paul Gadd, the director of The Print Room in Petaling Jaya in Selangor, revealed the theme of his gallery's then upcoming exhibition, he said people took it with a pinch of salt.

"We had some problems because as soon as you mentioned the word 'body', people sort of backed off, thinking nudity was involved. But that was not the case. You can represent the body however you want," explained Gadd.

And that is exactly what the gallery's latest photography exhibition called Body set out to do. When you walk into the exhibition space, you would probably pause momentarily and muse. Slowly, your perception on the whole topic will begin to take another form and you will realise that nudity is not the be all and end all, after all.

Featuring the works of 11 photographers, including three South Koreans, the exhibition mostly moves away from the ubiquitous naked human form, and looks at the subject matter rather differently. The group exibition features works by Gadd, Koh Yeo Myoung, Melissa Lim, Linda Chin, Kim Do Han, Lisa Foo, Phes, Johan Hamidon, Gaithiri Siva, Shung Yen and Kwon Hyuk Min. This exhibition, which is The Print Room's first this year, challenges the whole notion of body and endeavours to depict different facets of it.

"We tried to represent the body without being too obvious and blatant about it," asserted Gadd.

What's more, all the photographs in Body were shot using film, which is the signature format of The Print Room.

Nature #3 (Phoebe)

Nature#3 by Phes

The results are both stunning and intriguing. Take for instance the series of photographs by Melissa Lim. Using light and shadow, Lim stripped away the complexities of the human body and focused instead on its simplicity. The silhouetted human frame – reminiscent of the "shower curtain scene" in the movie Psycho – is shown through a muslin sheet.

"From behind the muslin emerges a silhouette that conveys a sense of drama, emotion, freedom and mystery, allowing one's imagination to wander and ponder," said Lim.

Linda Chin, on the other hand, shot oysters for her Venus series. At first glance, they may appear as nothing more than oysters but the allusion comes across more clearly later on.

"The Venus series aims to highlight the individuality of the human body, and the position that no one should be pressured to conform to unrealistic expectations imposed by those around them," stated Chin.

Lisa Foo's series Discover The Full Body is also a highlight. Her work is printed on blocks of wood, which added the element of art installation into this exhibition space for the first time. By using liquid light, as we found out, film photographers can use different surfaces instead of paper to bring their images to life.

Gadd's own series, called RGB, referring to the three primary colours in light (red, green and blue), is a vibrant rush of photographic instinct and technique. Depicting only body outlines, Gadd added a new filter for every shot, creating new colours and giving a three dimensional sense to a two dimensional image.

Some images even looked like a steam-punk version of a Picasso painting.

The enigma of the body – seen through the eyes of these talented photographers – is too hard to resist and so is this exhibition.

Body is on at The Print Room (49, Lorong 16/9E, Section 16, Petaling Jaya, Selangor) till June 15. Open weekends from 2pm to 7pm. On weekdays, the show is open for viewing by appointment. Call 012 337 2903, log on to theprintroomkl.com or e-mail info@theprintroomkl.com.

Haafiz Shahimi plays with pyrography and burns himself into his art

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Haafiz Shahimi fires up the art scene through the scorching technique of pyrography.

Having your work called a joke is probably one of the most unpleasant things that can be experienced by an artist.

This, however, may not be the case for Haafiz Shahimi. The Kedahan from Sungai Petani is one of the few artists in the region practising pyrography: a unique printing process which involves heating up metal blocks to create artistic images.

As the story goes, he was meeting up with some friends one day when one of them made a joke about the fiery nature of his craft.

"Before this, I usually did geometric patterns," says Haafiz, 28, during an interview. "But one of my friends was joking around, and asked, 'Why don't you do a pattern of a fish?' Then it can be ikan bakar!"

"So it started from a funny thing! Later, I cut the shape of an ikan kembung out of a metal block, heated it, and printed it. And I was surprised the piece got a good response!"

Haafiz Shahimi's 'Nocturnal', oil on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz Shahimi's Nocturnal, oil on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz has his monotype pyrography works on display now at the Core Design Gallery in Subang Jaya, Selangor as part of his first solo exhibition, RAGE: Raising Awareness of Greater Existence.

Apart from his pyrographic works, the exhibition will also be showcasing his oil paintings and charcoal drawings. The show features 14 works. Many of his paintings, such as Kami Mudah Lupa and Kembali Bernafas, are brimming with bold strokes of movement, with Haafiz chanelling his background as a B-boy and silat practitioner into his art.

Some will remember him dancing or "action painting" on a canvas at the Nando's Peri-fy Your Art presentation in Kuala Lumpur back in 2012.

I met the artist for an interview in an outdoor studio in USJ, Selangor, where he was working on his exhibition. Long haired and jovial, his clothing speckled with paint, Haafiz seemed quite an animal lover, showing me some of the pet birds in the studio.

When it comes to art, however, fishes are one of his major themes. One piece, for example, features a school of fish, arranged to form a portrait of the artist. The title? Self-Fish.

Self-Fish, pyrography print, charcoal, spray paint and oil on canvas finished with 2K matte paint, 2014.

Self-Fish, pyrography print, charcoal, spray paint and oil on canvas, 2014.

"In Malay, selfish means sombong, but it's not a narcissistic thing! I just like the humour. I like that people will be wondering about it. I hope it encourages people to reflect about themselves," adds Haafiz with a chuckle.

Another piece, untitled at the time of the interview, will incorporate elements of wayang kulit. An image of a fish, done on a two-surface print through either pyrography or oils, will be illuminated, resulting in a unique double image formed through the interplay of light and shadow.

How did Haafiz get into pyrography? The same reason many people go into art to begin with: as a form of rebellion.

"I got into pyrography when I was doing my degree. I was majoring in print making at the time. There were all these conventional ways of printmaking: silkscreen, lithography, etchings, that sort of thing. But I was rebellious in those days. I liked to explore possibilities. I was seeking other ways of making visual art," explains Haafiz.

He graduated in early 2011 from UiTM in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Haafiz ShahimiĆ¢¿TMs 'Dance of the Unleashed Spirit II', oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz Shahimi's Dance of the Unleashed Spirit II, oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

The term "pyrography" is usually used to describe the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks, resulting from the controlled application of a heated object. Haafiz's methods, however, are slightly different: he cuts metal blocks into shapes with a plasma cutter, which he then heats up and presses onto a PVC canvas to create images.

The beauty of his method of pyrography, Haafiz says, is that it is a marriage of the arts and sciences.

"I was doing research about the art world. And I realised I had to push the boundaries, I had to look into other fields of knowledge. I tried combining the principles of physics with visual arts. Like the laws of thermodynamics. This printmaking works on the concept of the exchange of energy through heat," says Haafiz, adding his work had been influenced by Tokyo-born, Seattle-based artist Etsuko Ichigawa.

The challenge of pyrography, Haafiz says, is applying the precise amount of heat onto the metal blocks. Too much would burn the canvas, although this is not always a bad thing.

"The best thing is when the image you get is not like the one you were expecting. That's the accidental image! I like it when the fire 'eats' a little of the canvas. But not too much of course!" says Haafiz. "A little bit of destruction makes it more interesting."

Haafiz Shahimi's 'Kami Mudah Lupa', oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz Shahimi's Kami Mudah Lupa, oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

As our mothers warned us, playing with fire can be dangerous, and Haafiz says he has had a few mishaps (non-serious!) in the course of his work.

"One time, I was cutting a metal block, and it fell out of my hands. It landed by my feet. If I hadn't been wearing shoes, it could have been real serious," says Haafiz.

"Another time, the metal split and hit my hands. But it's good to feel your heart beating. If you feel pain when creating something beautiful, it's all worth it."

Haafiz Shahimi's RAGE: Raising Awareness of Greater Existence will be showing at the Core Design Gallery at No. 87, Jalan SS15/2A, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor till June 27. Monday to Friday, 10am – 7pm. Saturday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. For more information, visit malaysiacontemporaryart.coredesigngallery.com or contact 03-56121168.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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