Duration: 5 April 2016 – 30 April 2016
Opening Reception: 8 April 2016
Venue: Galeri Chandan
Fundamental Departures: Hilal’s Reveries on Kinetic Deviation
Hilal’s latest series of wooden kinetic machines have been developed within a conscious mind aiming to create a modest and basic kinetic motion where the essence of its core form is derived from a ‘cube’. Initially, his interest was more towards creating a technologically robotic representation, however towards the end of his latest development of ideation, a pure fundamental basic form seemed to occupy his kinetic investigation. Returning to the basic geometric form in some ways has brought him to consider meditative and contemplative aspects as among his major concerns. In Shaa Allah.
In 2012, a year before I came to know him, Hilal has already marked his name in the local art scene. I recalled a memory when we together participated in an exhibition entitled ‘Metalmania’ at Segaris Art center in 2013. From my initial observation on his work in the show, I knew he was under the tutelage of my own `sifu’, Associate Professor Ramlan Abdullah. His woodwork and playful mechanical metal constructions, Devastator, 2012, reflects his boyish passion in gathering industrial materials and his capability of adding motion, sound and kinetic deviation definitely suggests another exciting talent.
As I witnessed his progress for the pass 16 months, the initial departure of his kinetic deviation was exciting and assures a great potential as the next upcoming sculptor. The struggle to counter a resolved mechanical formulation dominated most of his search and has been the initial embarking point for his post-graduate research. His earlier series of his kinetic experimentation were during the MEAA 2013/14 exhibition organized by HOM and Galeri Chandan at the prestigious hot-space Publika together with the rest of other promising young painters and printmakers. He presented a series of motorized rickety flying objects mimicking the ‘steam-punk’ works. In the catalogue review, his sculptural output was mentioned as `…,the inventor’s pleasure of creating and the exhilaration from navigating dangerous terrain and thriving in a harsh environment’ (Sei Hon , 2014)[i]. Those collections of the winged-machines surely triggered another hope for a rare kind of potential that might lead to the kinetic or robotic sculptural movement of ours.
Isamu Noguchi a well renowned modernist sculptor once averse;
`You can find out how to do something and then do it or do something and then find out what you did ‘
Like Noguchi the master sculptor, who made the statement above, the condition of an unstoppable notion for a sculptor when confronting materials and forms are familiar to all sculptors and may even be considered to be a necessary condition for those who create (Refsum,2002). Hilal sometimes stumble into the engineering issues of his sculptures and went through many unresolved experiments too. His latest series of kinetic inventions have been through many phases of studies, critics and assessments during his masters degree in UiTM. His flying machine series reminded me of Masato Tanaka’s exhibition held at Petronas Gallery in 2007, a Japanese sculptor that has been an important reference to Hilal’s research on contemplative motion. Tanaka’s ideation on manifesting technology and nature in linear structural motorized sculpture accelerates the idea of simplicity in moving mobile constructions[ii] that has also influenced Hilal’s mind.
Calculation, mathematical, precision and some physics theories are also among the crucial engineering aspects that he went through passionately. Towards finishing his research, finally, the `cube ‘ appears to be his primary-form, which actually occurred in many of his earlier wooden works. Many artist-researchers commonly practiced and further accentuate their understandings about their earlier creations when they were in the fine art post-grad; practice based studies. (Abdullah, 2010) The search will usually reflect their former life experiences and identifying their strengths and any inevitable gap that can contribute to new knowledge.
According to Lesley Duxbury in her essay, `Ways of Analyzing’, those gaps provide opportunities for speculation and reverie and the possibility to include, that which is not yet known’. (Duxbury, 2009). Artist-researchers, like most academic researchers, brought mostly their highly personal aspects to their research activities and when these are incorporated into a focused project, they can lead to innovative outcomes.
Hilal’s latest innovation includes his awareness of fundamental notion associating to his background as a Muslim as he acknowledged the `cube’ is also an idea of the `Kaabah’ and allowing his recent departure to begin from a universal geometric form that I presume will hoist continuously into a lot more interesting development. The mechanical vertical, diagonal and horizontal motions from the moving box-up structures provides another extended version of the rigid geometrical bars conceptually associated perhaps to urban time and space, motion and stillness, manual and motorized/auto-force, technology and tradition or even as simple as it is about the ups and downs of our everyday lives.
As Da Vinci’s words of wisdom avows, `Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’, Hilal’s new works would address the same reflection. To be able to design the complex engineered gears into his simple geometric construction would already be an additional skill that not many artists would dare to deal with.
Kinetic sculptures in our local sculptural context is not a common dialogue; amongst the most notable would be Latif Mohidin’s `Kinetic I and II’, erected in 1998, which displays a revolving grid–shaped stainless-steel piece that relates to the corporate identity of the Petronas Twin Towers situated at the main lobby of the KLCC tower. Another piece of local kinetic sculpture is made by our prolific sculptor Ramlan Abdullah situated at a main junction in the heart of Johor Baharu entitled `Rise’,2004, which was also meant to be a public work representing the symbol of local calligraphy `Jawi’ as its main form. The sharp flow of stainless steel composed in a dynamic `khat’ posture stands monumentally and rotates gracefully with the help of natural wind that makes it become a significant evident to our kinetic context in the local scene. Ramlan also did some series of wooden kinetic sculptures that can be categorized as a participatory kind of kinetic form where audiences were allowed to touch and spin the top part of the sculpture : `Still Standing Series’, 2007. In 2005, he also exhibited kinetic small works for his third solo show `So What’, at TJ Gallery, Plaza Damas, Mont Kiara, Damansara. Most of the works in the show were free standing three legged structures with linear kinetic touchable forms where he explored interactivities as his main concern. After almost a decade since that time, kinetic scenes were hardly discussed among local sculptors. It should be a blessing I guess, for the local sculpture scene and specifically for `sifu- sculptors’ like Ramlan, myself and our peers to see the recent presence of Hilal’s latest kinetic invention. Although the universal representation of geometric cubical might be too modernist at this present `post-mode’ time, Hilal’s potential in pursuing his kinetic series, `surpassed the limit and standard of achievement of ordinary mortals’.(Esa , 2010). He stands alone as the only sculptor that won the MEAA and managed to produce a series of kinetic works that exemplifies his technical skills in executing mechanical sculptures. His enthusiasm towards projecting the recent series of modest cubic kinetic structures should be encouraged further by the art community and their advocates. As a representative of `gen Y’ that has gained recognition at the national level, he deserves a special platform, funding or grants to continuously create his kind of sculpture which deals with materials and technical aspects that are far more costly than other visual areas.
Indeed, Hilal’s kinetic reveries will also be another hope to light up our science inspired art approach that has been abandoned for quite some time. The last event of the science art conventions was during 2006, ALAMI III, in Pulau Tiga, Sabah[iii] that gathered local artists and scientists to produce their creations through a fusion of the art + science ideas amongst them. Unfortunately, it ended there without any further initiatives. As an uncommon sculptural practice, kinetic form creations should be given a fair attention too as its potential might contribute to our future post- modern art forms that will nurture our technological abilities and advancement in the arts particularly in sculpture.
As from my personal point of view, Hilal’s works has proven to be amongst a vital reference in the area revolving around kinetic sculptures in Malaysia. His selective ways of handling materials such as wood manifests the traditional craftsmanship that he inherited from his cultural training and exposures, plus another outstanding phenomenal aspect is the handling of metalwork that consists of his ability to design geared parts like an engineer, and that surely indicates another up and coming venue for Hilal to turn his kinetic reveries into a promising reality!
Dr Sharmiza Abu Hassan
Fine Art Department
Faculty Of Art & Design, UiTM
[i] See catalogue MEA Award, Winners Showcase,2014
[ii] Masato Tanaka did his solo exhibition of his kinetic sculptures in 2007 at Petronas Gallery entitled `Tokitsumugi’; The Grain of Strands From Some Moments
[iii] ALAMI was a joint initiative between LESTARI, UKM, National Visual Art Gallery & UiTM in embracing Science inspired Arts Camp that went through 3 series of camps from 1999 to 2006, but unfortunately the camp was deferred because the chairperson (Prof Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman)migrated to USA.
- Tan Sei Hon. (2014). Malaysia Emerging Artist Award Winners Showcase 2014, The X and Y (S) of MEAA 2013/14. Galeri Chandan & HOM Art Trans, K.Lumpur
- Stephanie Buhmann (2011). Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture; On Becoming An Artist; Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries. The Brooklyn Rail, Feb 3rd Retrieved March 14 2016, from http;//www. http://www.brooklynrail.org/2011/02/artseen/on-becoming-an-artist-isamu-noguchi-and-his-contemporaries-19221960
- Grete Resfum. (2002). Contribution to an understanding of the knowledgebase in the field of visual arts. Working papers in art and design 2. Retrieved March 14,2016, from http:// www. herts.ac.uk /artdes/research/papers/wpades/vol2
- Ramlan Abdullah. (2010). Jurnal Perintis Pendidikan FSSR, UiTM, Practised Based Research in Art and Design, Why not? Faculty of Art & Design(FSSR) and ( UPENA) Publication, UiTM, Shah Alam
- Lesley Duxbury. (2009). Creative Arts Research, Narratives of Methodologies and Practices;Ways of Sense Publishers, Rotterdamm, UK
- Sulaiman Esa, (2010). BMS10-Jurors Report; Young Contemporary Art Competition: A Post –Colonial Critique. BSVN, K.Lumpur