Patterns of Green by Sharifah Fatimah and The Old Man has a Garden under his Bed by Rafiee Ghani are spirited compositions that exemplify the distinctive abstract lexicons of two prominent Malaysian artists. Sharifah, arguably the most important senior female artist from the country, utilizes abstraction as a means to capture the fundamental forms and intrinsic spirit of the objects and environs that surround her. On the other hand, Rafiee nostalgically conjures bygone memories and whimsical imaginings through the abstract language. Surging with intuitive power, both works translate roots which are deeply personal through a vernacular which is universally relatable by nature.
For Sharifah, abstract forms are pervading and omniscient, existing within every entity. Her work Patterns of Green is an explosion of bold and lively lozenges of color bleeding and blending into one another as they metaphysically suspend in mid-air, against a solid black void. While seemingly capricious and mottled, these color fields do not overflow beyond the canvas but rather, they float carefully within the structural confines of a rectangular space. Meticulously arranged, the varied forms create the impression of a pattern. In shaping her composition, the maestro summons the ornate yet austerely canonical motifs on her mother’s batik textiles, which have always served as the essence for her personal aesthetic.
As Sharifah’s Patterns of Green seeks to deconstruct reality to awaken the raw vitality of its most rudimentary facets, Rafiee’s The Old Man has a Garden under his Bed challenges viewers to look within and craft their own visual narratives. Though trained as a print-maker, Rafiee finds satisfaction in the spontaneous and cathartic nature of painting. The density of the composition and wide-ranging palette signifies the inevitable chaos that saturates life itself, something which is at once overwhelming and beautiful. The overall structure of the work relaxes towards the bottom, where he scribbles anthromorphic and floriated shapes with oil sticks. In The Old Man has a Garden, Rafiee recalls his childhood in Kelantan, Malaysia, where he had no access to books, internet or information about life outside the remote town. His father, who had traveled around Asia, would tell him tales of distant lands in the hopes of igniting his sense of imagination. The artist explains: “…he [my father] always has something to show me, something rewarding, no matter… how bad your day was, how bad your business was, or how down you felt that day… I want to show my kids that [in order to find] something beautiful… you should go under the bed and look for it. So that's the whole thing here… It's the crutch of emotions. You are in conflict. You must grasp for some hope".
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