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Friday, 31 May 2013


Originally published to accompany Fauzan Omar's solo exhibition, 2007.

“FAUZAN OMAR : RESONANCE” presents a repertoire of latest expanded paintings and installations by renowned Malaysian artists, Fauzan Omar. It is a continuation of his previous solo exhibition entitled “Sustainable Development Through the Arts” (SDTA) held last year at the USM-ABN AMRO Arts & Cultural Center, Penang. Since moving to Penang to teach at the School of Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Fauzan has been engulfed by the idea of sustainable development as propagated by the University’s ‘garden concept’ and ‘ESD’ (education for Sustainable Development) initiatives. As a result, his first solo in Penang was distinctively indexed by creative, inventive and intriguing fusion of organic natural objects with used, discarded and found materials. In doing so, he complimented the scientific approach towards the idea of sustainability with his creative, expressive, romantic and intuitive readings.     

Through Fauzan’s personal research, exploration, experimentation and interpretation, these materials were de-formed, de-framed and transformed into myriads of 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional artistic forms which include paintings, installations (wall relief installations, floor installations) and wearable art. Other than biting visual impact, the works also teased his audience to ‘re-frame’ their casual reading of nature. His well-known formalistic dexterity and newly-found ‘recycle’ aesthetic were further expanded to lure his audience to ponder, contemplate and dwell into the notions of sustainability, human consumption, and depletion of natural resources.

Initially known for his post-formalist abstract “Layer Series” in the 80s, Fauzan’s subsequent journey in the 90s was marked by his extensive series of technically-demanding, laborious and highly tactile paintings inspired by multifarious forms and characters of his natural and cultural environment. The series came under several sub-themes such as interdependent, diversity, growth, blossom, decay, erosion, and fossil, all of which were expressed through Fauzan’s vibrant color range, rich visual language and explorative tendency in expanding the language and nuances of painting. His commitment towards mounting an exhaustive range of techniques, processes and surface treatments was highly influential. The influence of his acute formalism can be traced in the works of his former students such as Mastura Abdul Rahman, Rozana Mohamed, Mohd Noor Mahmood, Fauzin Mustaffa, Suhaimi Tular, Azhar Manan, Raja Shahriman, Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, the rest of the Matahati members and certainly, the person who writes this essay.

“Resonance” embodies recent outcome of Fauzan’s unyielding perseverance in expressing his meditation and readings of nature and its intertwining symbiosis with cultural conditioning, values and expression. The word ‘resonance’ connotes several ideas, mostly related to the character or quality of sound. Different resonance suggests different quality of sound, musically known as timbre and tone. ‘Resonance’ can also be explicated in terms of frequency, or the oscillating vibration of sub-atomic particles that emit and absorb energy. In the quantum world of sub-atomic particles, everything exists in an interconnected whole – a symbiotic coherence, synchrony and an infinite symphony of energy patterns. Thematically, resonance implies an attitude or disposition, temperament, personality and even sometimes – ‘nature of a person’. Upon deeper connotation, resonance suggests the malleable aura or a person’s individual ‘energy field’ that connects him or her with others, especially his or her surrounding natural environment. Nature through such reading, is approached as pure energy that ‘resonates’ in many forms – both tangible and intangible, inside and outside. 

Fauzan Omar’s resonance entails the need to journey within, to reverberate in synchrony with the intangible universal energy and remind us to return to our ‘fitrah’ – our true nature. It signifies Fauzan’s submission to the larger inter-dependent whole. Humans, culture and nature exist in a symbiotic wholeness. Through his recent works, Fauzan whispers to us the fact that nature is not merely out there to be artificially represented, but ‘resonates’ deep within our own soul. Perhaps we may be blessed with glimpses of such resonance when we are enveloped by the feeling of awe in the presence of ‘natural beauty’. Such resonance carries us beyond myriads of differentiated and dichotomized forms to reach a sense of oneness.

In comparison to Fauzan’s previous emphasis on the surface quality of painting, his recent works can be read as a study of space. Despite using a deep space perspective in his monochromatic canopy series, the intricate organic patterns of overlapping trees, branches and twigs in multiple tones create an alluring spatial mood and a sense of humility. His more recent atmospheric paintings in various shades of tertiary grays feature shallow space that leaves his audience with an ambiguous field of view. Such space instigates an infinite voyeuristic feel. It also leaves a trail of mystery as if one is meandering aimlessly in a hazy jungle.

Such treatment of space makes an interesting reading when compared to the way space is treated in other forms of pictorial representation such as Persian miniature painting, Chinese Scroll painting and even the local Malay crafts. The reading and representation of ‘natural space’ in various cultural and artistic traditions around the world may come in many interesting forms, all of which may give us a sense of understanding that ‘space’ does not necessarily comes with a ‘vanishing point’ through converging parallel lines as in the commonly-used perspective system. As our natural space is increasingly changing to manufactured space and fictionalized destination, it is important that we have a rather comprehensive view about how we perceive and live with our own space or environment.

The space in Fauzan’s paintings was made more ambiguous through the use of a limited range of highly de-saturated tertiary colors in mostly middle and lower keys registers. Fauzan’s recent palettes are more somber, solemn, subdued and mature, in contrast to his previous vibrant, flamboyant and clashing color schemes. The use of low contrast in rendering images of some plants against the monochromatic backgrounds teases the audience to inspect his paintings closer. Upon a closer look, the surface of his paintings is intricately rich and dynamic. Fauzan’s current paintings emit feelings of contentment and enveloping tranquility. The common temperament is meditative and contemplative, perhaps hinting at an older and wiser Fauzan.

Another aspect of Fauzan’s latest exposition is his focus on trees as his subjects of observation. From a simple or rather literal imitation or representation of trees, Fauzan’s preoccupation has turned to humans’ intervention and humans’ relationship with the generic substance of trees – wood. Eventually, as he explores the various wood-based products produced by human interventions, he began to sense the subtle resonance of different types of wood. He began to notice how such resonance in some forms of wood-based traditional artifacts relate to his own, in some form of invisible quantum communication. In many forms of traditional wood carving, the spirit of the wood (or an energy pattern that it emits or absorbs) is said to reside not only in the object, but more importantly in a combined resonance between the carver and the object (carving). This gravitation towards intangible idea (or quantum energy) rather than the usual tangible form is perhaps traceable in Fauzan’s use of natural objects and discarded wood-products for his installation pieces.    

Fauzan’s installations are expansion of his paintings. His modular installations can be arranged in many different ways, implying several key principles that can be traced in the natural phenomena itself. Amongst them is interconnection, in which a small or micro unit is interlocked with other units to form an ever-changing larger interdependent whole. Each unit can stand on its own while simultaneously exists as a part of a larger macro form. His audience may approach his installations from various entry points, which will induce different viewing experience. Such democratic multiple entry points create a highly interactive and dynamic encounter. Through this installation, Fauzan has expanded the narrow field of engagement with paintings to a larger field of options for his audience to engage with the work. The expanded field in return, induces a sense of infinity. One may feel that the modular units of his installations can be infinitely arranged and expanded without any particular definitive border. By focusing on the principles rather than merely physical representation, Fauzan has brought us to the idea of resonance as a form of ever-changing energy patterns that bind humans with their natural environment.

Through “Resonance”, Fauzan has merged the observer (himself as an artist) with the observed (his objects of reference and artworks) into a beautiful solo symphony that will hopefully resonate beyond the walls of the Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah USM. For those who are surrounded by a highly mechanized reading of natural space, such resonance can be a welcoming delight.      

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