Duration: 19 August -18 September 2016
Location: Galeri Chandan
Quick Notes on Prōcessus
By Edroger Rosili
While obviously, one cannot refuse the glory of a finished artwork, there are however, some special interests, exciting probes into the experience of witnessing how the artworks came to be, what the challenges are and how the artists perform their creative strategies. As interesting as any enthusiast’s life stories, artist’s art making process is a similarly noteworthy journey.
We could somehow notice, when, in art, does ‘the art’ actually happen. When does the art, works? I believe there are several points in time, where ‘the art’ noticeably occurs. Of course, at the exhibit or display a presentation of the art immediately become the most obvious of the art moments (which includes art appreciation and contemplation, and artist admiration). At this moment, artworks will perform their best, to do what they are intended (by its creator). It tells stories, stir emotion, suggests or provokes ideas, serving food for thoughts, sensationate our senses, and to become the best swag prop for selfies.
However, other than that prestigious glamourous moments, (after discounting the crazy mumbo-jumbo moment of the art market- for it merely has the least sense of art moment seen there), there are other art moments, that maybe only popular among fellow artists in the members art circle, such as intellectuals and researchers. These are the moments behind the scene, the production phase. The blood, sweat and tears phase, the sensuous moment of art making. Artists were drowned in the sea of creativity love. Pardon me for signaling that art-making is as intimate as love-making! In his interview in Working, Ahmad Zakii Anwar suggested so!
Although this is usually a very personal activity, art making moment is where a real sense of artistic adventure began. The chapter may not always be a pretty sight, the artist is ‘naked’ at this particular moment. Their secrets, strengths and weaknesses are exposed, laid down all over the table. So does all the self-doubting, instrument tuning, mistake fixing and procrastinating. That is why at this period, most artists would normally choose to be in solitary, trying their best to avoid distraction. They will ignore everything, but in the artist’s head, his or her mind is boiling, cooking up ideas. They filter the noises to focus their sole attentions towards decision making and strategizing their next move in “taming the dragon” in their artwork.
Still, why then, does this particular art moment worth investing our attention into? I think because it helps a lot in completing the story of the finished artwork. It provides closure to anyone who seeks deeper depth into the artwork and the artist. You know when fans of superhero and fantasy film, who loves, say, The Avengers, could not resist to get the BluRay set, watch ‘The Making’ and interviews, and then continue to watch the film together with the commentary audio, and then have big fat laughs at the Outtakes bloopers in the Gag reels. That, I think is the immediate instance that crossed my mind, when I try to picture the intention of this exhibition.
Galeri Chandan has been known to have this special attention towards artist’s art making process, by having showcases that shares the process for the audience to investigate. To keep our references local, Galeri Chandan has previously brought to us Paperworks (2010) and Processing Form (2011). We also can get a copy of Working, the exhibition plus book project featuring a number of Malaysia’s prominent contemporary artists, which offered a golden opportunity that invites us into exploring the forbidden realm of the artist’s studio.
Prōcessus is inarguably a little nod towards this similar enthusiasm, yet narrowing its scope on a ‘case study’ of 5 fairly young artists, who are exploring the subject of human figure in their art.
Appreciating the Tradition of Art Making Process
If we would casually trace back to the earliest form of visual art from history, say, the Lascaux cave painting, at its primal sense, we can wonder if it went through the same basic art process, which indeed has evolved along with civilization. Fast forward into the future, visual arts as well as its artists become recognizable into being a part of a now elegant industry, geared by engaging criticism and appreciation which helped to build today’s so called art world. The evolution of art making process follow suit with the intention and demand of the art world whether personal or industrial, serving to produce from simple and crude form into a lavish or expressive , intricate or sophisticated new forms.
Through art books and in museums, we may come across great masters leaving some trails of their artistic process. I always admire the preparatory drawings and studies in Bouguereau’s step by step, the making of Nymph and Satyr, which evolves from cartoonish composition thumbnails, the little scribble like drawings that artists use to brainstorm their ideas for paintings, then drawings studying the individual figures that will play their part in the composition, before moving on to the color study. We can also try to look at Michelangelo’s prep drawings for the Sistine ceiling as well as Da Vinci’s intricate sketches and we’ll see that, how the pieces are made (the process), part of how it looks (the finished art), and the invincible two. The delicacy and restraint as well as the steps within every decision making process, with which these Great Masters operate here is in itself, artful. One moment in history that highlighted this realization is what inspired the Impressionist painters to decide that a sketchy study for a painting is good enough to be celebrated as a finished piece in its own right.
Key Elements in Art Making Process
There are a few recurring elements in the process of making art. It may vary from personal molds of preferences as well as experience and practicality. But these are three noticeable procedures an artist could experience in their creative process.
- Idea conception
Where do ideas come from? I like to believe ideas sparks when experiences collides into one another. It is kind of like the creation of lightning, the occurrence of a brief natural high-voltage electrical discharge between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and often thunder. Artists, as well as any other human beings do have memories, books they have read, stuffs they have seen, foods they have tasted, places they have been and things they have heard as well as emotional and spiritual experiences. These experiences would collide creating a shadow of a new experience, elusive mental images of a new information, in the artist’s case, be it a shape or color, a pose or a composition.
We can observe that there are two ways to an idea of conception that are normally practiced, it may begin with either the form, or content. Of course this will then flow back and forth like a two way street.
If it starts with the content, then approaching the form is more or less a problem solving, specifically on negotiating strategies on how is best to represent the idea of the content.
If it starts with a form, then it becomes an investigation of a pre-conceived idea, to dig or dive into the foundation of that idea. Why did the form appear to the surface? What is the experiential, intellectual, psychological origin that leads to the vision of the form to pop up in the artist’s think tank?
However may the latter be easily judged as just a mystification of a form, personally, to me, I see it as an alternative to study the artist’s self, but this of course relies on the artists’ honesty and integrity for it to be an opportunity to reverse inward, into the artist’s deep thoughts and experiences.
- Visualizing vision
This phase is initially where idea development happens, artists would lay out some kind of blue prints, of the mental vision, not too different in objective, as in engineering, as the artist would set up the composition, scale, and material decision. Obviously, this is where artists make sketches, doodles, drawing studies, color studies and even mock ups.
The concern at this stage is to entertain every possibilities that may later be led to a worthy execution stage, examining the properties that will best meet the artist’s intentions, limitations and preferences. Artists will be working with his kind of datum, an immediate object of perception which is not a material object.
Some artists do jump straight to the final piece perhaps to achieve spontaneity, but some would be more comfortable making sketches to plan his or her moves. Sketches can be a tight drawing or a loose thumbnail. Some just gather reference materials, maybe swatches of the color scheme, model or prop photography, throwing them into the blend just to preview how the elemental properties would work when applied.
After the brainstorming and planning, now comes the execution of the artwork. I fail to recall who said it, but somebody suggested to me the dimensionality of an art making process; ideas are in 1D, sketched ideas are on 2D, and the materialization is performed in 3D realm. At this stage is where all the physicality should happen, after the idea is visualized, finalized and decided, and the materials are all prepped, the studio is ready for battle.
While painting, there is still going to be room for negotiation, recalculations and all those other art making process drama. Although it sure is fun and enjoyably satisfying, it demands the artist’s stamina, to commit to the materialization of the piece, if not, it is not unlikely for a painting to be abandoned, or even restarted. Sometimes, a painting will be left halfway, to be revisited later with fresh eyes and excitation. This can actually speed up production of multiple pieces, when they alternate in between pieces. Sometimes, it is not always a carbon copy of the sketch, but the essence may remain.
More options and tricks will be available in the artists’ pallet, through experiences and maturity. At this phase as a young emerging artist, he or she can only act in utilizing whatever skills he or she is excellently good at so far, with materials they are comfortable with, in a scale already negotiated with through how much space they have. Through mileage and consistency, they will do their time, as they keep on practicing as an artist, and experience will give them more creative options to fill up their utility belt.
Painting Subject: Human Figure
Figurative art, as showcased in this exhibition, is commonly defined as a portrayal of the human figure as a subject matter of the artwork. It is the most celebrated subject in the history of art, I think because it is easier for us to relate to, as it is closer to our experiences. Since art is made by human being for another human being, figurative art has very immediate familiarity, in communicating itself to the audience.
To me, because I love graphic novels and comic books, I always see figurative art as character or characters in space. Being in this world, we are characters in this space and time. The human figure depicted in paintings, is a kind of representational art form, this is to say that it generally differs from non-representational art, which refers to abstraction and abstract art. In a stricter definition, figurative art refers to artworks that portrays recognizable objects, and with that framing, we can also include still lives and landscapes into the figurative art recognition. But commonly, figurative art would quickly refer to the artwork with human figures.
Using human figurative elements in making artwork to communicate the artist’s intention is very common practice. It has been explored in history in oh so many ways, in term of themes, the countless poses, composition, and stylizations either away or towards abstraction or realism.
Depending on style preferences, artists have practiced different methods in making figurative art, some make best with their image references whether from models or photography, and some run wild with just their imagination and anatomy knowledge, drawing figure without references, as did by many comic artists and illustrators. Some play with juxtapositions of figurative elements. The possibilities are endless. The only limit is the artists themselves.
Prōcessus: How it’s Made
The exhibition anchors on these 5 painters, namely, Hirzaq Harris, Faisa Azmi, Raimi Syafiqah Sani, Nik Shazmie and Nadia Yasliza, specifically focusing on their art making process, discussing on what are their routines and rituals in the studio while making their art from start to finish, what were their concerns at each stage of their process and how they negotiate expectation towards and from their audience while making their art. Each of them have their own personal methods and quirks, on how they get their inspiration and motivation, how they prefer their working environment to be, to get the job done.
Hirzaq demands a clean and tidy work space which was necessitated by his artwork style. Faisa is very much aware on how his background or the negative space to play along with his main subject. Light play is an important element that Raimi exploits to reveal her figures in ways that compliment her story, therefore in her preparatory works, this is her main concern. Nik Mohd Shazmie has his reference material all stocked, and while working his portraitures he would imagine himself as a plastic surgeon. Nadia Yasliza shared that the habitual cycle of her art making process (which was inspired by her mentor back in art school), is to feel, think, read, create and then repeat.
Art making: An Adventure
I remember art school years, time fly by at an incredible speed. Even after excluding typical college -non-academic-related-life-clichés-whirlwind, everyday was still destined to be a series of exciting adventure. Therefore, of everything I learn from art school, is that opting to commit to become a fulltime artist, demands your everyday to be an adventure. We encounter uncharted territory of the blank page of the sketchbook, fairly on daily basis. Artists will always be imagining their next piece, experimenting with new technics and materials and working on the problem solving. To most public, artists are known to be mistaken, whether if they are really busy, or pretending to be busy. Now, after graduating, and into being a full time art maker, it is best to find ways to retain the adventurous spirit. I like to think this is what Picasso refer to as the artist’s child self.
Finally, to end these quick notes, I must admit that the procedures of art making that I pointed out here, does not necessarily be the exact way every artist must operate. It may just be an observation on, at least how I personally practice in making my own art. There are many of us out there, who perform art making in their own unique ways, as various as how each one of us live our own lives. It is a personal preference. Yet, it is always a great experience to see how others do theirs.
Kudos to Galeri Chandan for Prōcessus, where we are offered the privilege of a little sneak peek into their kitchen, to have a glimpse on how these five young Chefs prep the food served on the menu.
Nik Mohd Shazmie
Raimi Syafiqah Sani