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Friday, May 06, 2005

Ahmad Zakii Anwar

Interpreter of Desires: Ahmad Zakii Anwar

‘room with figure’, 2001, Acrylic on linen, 120 x 180 cm

‘room with figure’, 2001, Acrylic on linen, 120 x 180 cm

‘nine thoughts’, 2003, Acrylic on jute, 67 x 200 cm

‘nine thoughts’, 2003, Acrylic on jute, 67 x 200 cm

‘wayang larut malam 2’, 2003, Acrylic on jute, 67 x 200 cm

‘wayang larut malam 2’, 2003, Acrylic on jute, 67 x 200 cm

Please tell us about your creative process. For example, what frame of mind do you have to be in?

AZA: I think momentum is more important than frame of mind. The thought of a painting in the studio awaiting completion is a great motivator. Normally if a painting is already underway I can paint in whatever mood I'm in. Once I start I will be totally absorbed. But starting a new piece is something else. There's a lot of hesitation and doubt initially, so it's best to just sort of bang away. If I think too much, I'm never going to start. When an idea hits me (or even half an idea), I start work on it immediately.

What happens if the finished painting is not what you have seen in your mind's eye?

AZA: An artist might have a vision before he begins; but once the painting is taking shape he must be sensitive enough to recognize the signals the canvas is sending. I rarely finish a painting 100% the way I intended. Ideas change along the way. The painting might lead you to unexpected areas.

You act and the canvas reacts; the canvas acts and you react. It's like a dance; sometimes you lead and the other times your partner leads. But sometimes, when the stars are aligned right, artist and canvas are cosmically in tune. At such times, every stroke seems perfect. When idea and execution are in total harmony, a painting is finished quickly and the result is immensely satisfying. But such times are rare. Most times it takes a bit of sweat to get things right.

You have produced a substantial body of work and are an artist who can pursue new directions. What inspires you?

AZA: Difficult to say. Inspiration is such a misused word. I would say that I am inspired by life. But specifically, as a realist I am interested in forms and most importantly its essence. The relationship between various forms provides the basis for my work. I often see the painting in my mind before I start. It is this vision that I trust rather than the idea behind it.

Instinct is a powerful tool. It is the subconscious hinting. Although the motivation behind it can be unclear, the compulsion to create overwhelms reason. I find that too much intellectualisation before starting work results in self-censorship. The battle should be on the canvas, not in the mind. The reasoning behind a body of works becomes clearer much later after most of the works have been done.

In your latest work we can see that you are returning to the theme of an earlier series entitled Meditations, could you tell us what fascinates you about disguises and identities?

AZA: My interest in masks triggered the Meditations series. I started this series in 1998 and have worked on it periodically between other series for the last few years. It concerns Man's search for his true identity behind the various masks he wears throughout the course of his life.

It is only recently that I have managed to partially resolve it. The early works in the series were an exploration into man's inner psyche. This path has led to the present chapter in the series, which addresses the question of divinity.

The progression is natural. Unravelling the intricate layers of man's nature ultimately leads to metaphysical examinations. The relationship between the creator and his creation forms the basis for this query.

‘trio’, 1998, Acrylic on canvas. 69 x 206 cm, 3 panels
‘trio’, 1998, Acrylic on canvas. 69 x 206 cm, 3 panels

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