Thursday, 1 January 2009

Let the expedition begins!

Picture: Penang first series 1998-shop houses roof.

There's an old saying, "Only talented people with artistic hand can make great paintings", but I believe everyone has their own talent yet to be discovered. I never went for pre-school and was brought up in the wilderness of "kampung" (malay village) with my grandparents in Penang. Thus it was rather late for me to be exposed to art (which is usually frequently done in pre-school) and only later on that I begun to discover my own talent. As soon as I learnt the meaning of the word "lukisan" (painting) I started to materialise this new found talent by sketching on the wall of my parents' home. I was then punished by my dad who got angry when he discovered the vandalism caused. Like many of us, my paintings kicked off with school homework.

I could vividly recall the moment when I started to fall deeply in love with art. It was on one fine day when I came home from school and saw my dad's brother there. After getting changed, I pulled out my homework and worked on the one that excited me most; portrait of my parents. The drawing that I made must have somehow attracted my uncle cause not long after that, he came to me and asked me to show him what I was working on. He then said that he could help me with my homework. He asked me any picture of my parents for him to use as reference. Soon after, he started to sketch something that eventually turned out to look exactly the same as the photo.. his sketch looked like a portrait drawn by professional artist. That was the very moment when I started seeing art as something beautiful. I was absolutely amazed by his talent and somehow felt that I could do the same, because at the back of my mind I kept thinking that if my uncle could do it so could I or so I thought.

Picture: Marine Life (primary school work)

Somehow though, it didn't seem as easy as I thought it would be to attain the same quality as the one my uncle sketched. Discovering how hard it was didn't put me off from trying my best to produce a sketch of similar quality. You see, I was only 8 back then and was already putting a very high benchmark compared to my ability as an 8-year old boy. I didn't care much about my schoolmates' painting because I was obsessed with my uncle's sketch. From then on, I gradually developed my skill and talent in art. My art teachers were the ones who discovered that my artwork were beyond the average of students my age and started to send me to art competitions. I never knew that my artwork was of high standard not before I was sent to join many art competitions. My parents were very supportive and encouraged me to be in art competitions. They even sent me to take part in Merdeka art competitions, family day art competitions, university's opening and many more.

This new found hobby started to influence my decision of becoming a painter when I grow up. So determined was I that I proudly write 'painter' in my school report book as my first ambition. Somehow or rather it all changed when one day we went up to my uncle's place. As far as I could recall, his home was a poorly maintained flat to live in compared to the terrace house we lived in. My uncle's place reminded me of my first year living in KL. We were forced to live in "setinggan"(slum) residential in Bukit Belacan with poor facilities that we had to endure with, which was far worse than the living condition in my "kampung". Upon learning my uncle's condition, I said to myself, I don't want to go through the same difficulties again and began to wonder why he didn't make any paintings? He's got great talent. But soon after I learnt that he didn't work as a painter because it is even harder to make a living as a painter.

The reality of becoming a painter which I'd just discovered struck me to think, "If one could hardly earn money as a painter, where on earth could one get the money to even make a painting?" My ambitions to be a painter came in second place then. Despite this new fact of becoming a painter didn't make me less in love with art. I still love making paintings. It was as if it is already in my blood, I could simply feel it inside me. I spent most of my times doing paintings. I wouldn't trade my heart with something else ever. If it was traded, it would feel as though someone is taking all my toys away from me. Now what should I put as my first ambition in the school report book then? I couldn't make a living by becoming a painter (but now with good advertisement and promotion, painters could actually earn good dosh) and I could end up living back in the slum. I don't know how or who inspired me to become an architect! My innocent mind thought that I could be rich by being an architect and this wealth then could financially sponsor my hobby; painting. I even thought that I could make as many paintings as I like. And the best thing about being an architect is that there would be a lot of drawings to do and this could be fun too...I wonder who planted me that stupid idea!

The question of what my ambition was had been sorted. I would not need to worry about it anymore. I could simply enjoy doing paintings. Since then my skills have improved a lot. I used my skill not just in making paintings but also pretty crafts. I love to be responsible of decorating my classroom and ensuring that everything is clean and tidy. Not long after that, I was appointed to be a class monitor when I was in Year 5. It was not a surprise that my favourite subjects was art lesson and I was always a member of the art club.

When I was in secondary school, I started to realise that my passion for art had further broaden into reading poem, wood carving, sculpturing, printings, and anything that relate to art. During this period, I started to save my school allowance and earn more money by selling guava, plum, and coconut drinks during the school holidays. All the monies raised enabled me to buy art materials of high quality which marked the starting point of me exploring all different sort of art materials and equipments. These new materials included a high quality paper, branded watercolour, technical pen (most people normally started using it when they're in varsity), dye, markers, oil pastels, etc. My favourite place to hang-out was our one and only Central Market (art flea market) and art store departments. I always asked the sales person at the art shop what each art material could be used for, and then bought and tested it my own. I also spent a lot of time looking at artist at work..I was always amazed to see them making painting there and then with people surrounding them.

Ever since I was in primary school, I frequently moved from one school to another following my father's transfer. My father works for Malaysian Rubber Board (previously RRIM). In total, I'd moved to 8 different schools (5 primary schools and 3 secondary schools). This experience exposed me to how art looked and practiced in various schools and states. In some of the school, I did murals on the walls. One particular school that really sharpened my skills was Sekolah Menengah Permatang Rawa, Penang, Malaysia. I was heavily involved in art club and elected as president. I was very close to my art teacher, Mr. Azhar who taught me a lot of techniques and all kind of media in art. We even spent the school holiday together building a huge sculpture of mushrooms that looked as though the mushrooms grew on a tree trunk. This mushroom sculpture could be used as a place where students could sit during recess or dinner time. That was also my first ever live constructions project because it required the use of concrete, steel wire and making foundations.

However, this heaven-like place where I really enjoy exploring and making art was not for long. Because of my excellent performance in our national test (PMR), I was selected to undergo a special programme in a boarding school (MRSM Jasin first special educational project). I thought I could continue my hobby and take it up a notch there. Although I could still join the art club, the equipment and even the participation were not very encouraging. It turned out that I was in a Science stream school! Art is not a priority. This broke my heart. But soon I realised that science is also necessary for me to become an architect. It was just that they put a lot of emphasis on science as if I were to become a doctor or an engineer. I then found my way to keep my art skill going by getting involved with class and dorm decoration, designing logo, being the design editor for school magazines and even decorating the sports team house.

Due to the lack of art materials in the school, I needed even more money to buy them. For this matter, I started to design and sell t-shirts. It brought me in touch with my skills of doing business which I love since I was a kid. My love for doing business was nurtured when I used to follow my grandfather buying stocks for his small shop and help him sell them.

Then when our final most important exam was over we were on a long holiday before being offered a place in the varsity. This was my golden opportunity to get back to drawing board. I started to paint on larger scale, with greater detail than before. I was back in KL and this gave me the chance to go back to the Central Market, art shops and started making visits to art galleries.

When we finally got our examination result, I was determined to go into architecture just like I'd decided to do since I was young boy. The good result achieved (thanks to my art subjects) guaranteed me a place in the A-levels programme which would prepare me for reading architecture in the UK. I absolutely enjoyed the A-level course. Everyone who takes A-level for Architecture must take Art subject...I just love it! The best thing about having Art as a mandatory subject is that the college must provide a proper art studio. I learnt more about our traditional art such as "batik" and transforming them into a contemporary art using traditional media. Those big canvas painting of contemporary batik were then made into souvenirs to all MRSM schools in the country. And during the A-level I got the opportunity to be on a proper art exhibition. The "pesona" art exhibitions was held in PWTC and that was my first art exhibition ever. Absolutely amazing! It was among one of my most memorable event in my life.

Our good fortune was not long as we were then told that we might not be able to finish our A-level because of the economic recession back in 1998. Despite this misfortune, we were lucky to be offered a place at the local university. In year 1 of architecture, I was amused to know that free-hand drawing was a part of our subject. It was a really basic art subject compared to what I had learnt in schools and explored on my own. Remember I wrote earlier on about my very first technical pen (profit of selling goods) which I bought when I was in form 2? Well, this equipment was only first introduced when we did our technical drawing. To me, the only new art medium taught was model making..lots of model making actually. The best thing about doing architecture is to understand design process. It helps me to develop my idea and turning the idea into a reality.

Soon after our first practical training at a real architecture firm (year 2000) I learnt that computer and 3D digital visual are highly used and more preferred in the practice. I also realised that it could save me more time and could easily update errors made compared to conventional drawing. I was soon addicted to this new "art medium" (3d digital) and keep my drawing to simple sketches. Thanks to the computer technology and my beloved partner, I found myself capable of coping with early married life with kids, working part-time, freelance and at the same time maintaining the 'A's in Design subject.

Picture: Sketches for poem tittle "Di Puncak Sepi"

One thing that I seem to neglect was to practice doing paintings. I had hardly completed a full painting. Most of them were sketches and rough watercolour. Deep inside my heart, I started to feel an emptiness but time was running against me and I needed to do something else to ensure my family's survival. Do you recall the moment when I was a lot younger and how I said to myself that being an architect could make me rich and the money could be spend on more art equipment? Well, how wrong was I. The money didn't come as easy as that! I worked hard day and night and through out the weekends in order to meet my growing family's needs.

After a few years of practicing architecture in Malaysia, I managed to secure a position in the UK. The firm where I currently work for teaches me to manage time better. As a result, I got more quality time. The quality time for me not just to raise my family but to start reading, writing and slowly start doing paintings with my two boys who fortunate for me share the same passion for art.

This is the elaborated story of my Art background and what I have become ever since. I hope today I could resume my journey in art and hunt back my precious artistic skills that I had abandoned years ago. The long narration above had somehow given me the most vital clue to hunting down the treasure chest that I had left behind. I made a promise to myself during my childhood to ensure that becoming an architect could help me raise funds for my art cravings. So today as the first day of the new 2009 epitomise new beginning to a lot of people, I would like to set off my very own expedition to fulfill that promise to the 8-year boy in me.

"We all know that art is not the truth, art is a lie that makes us realize the truth". Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

2 comments:

arkrab said...

Fadzlan! you are on time now to START the engine. Push on to the right GEAR, choose the right SPEED and shoot to the right DESTINATION.

I know you have that sophisticated sport car with all that sophisticated gadgetries and with those fantastic latest air bag technologies. BUT remember NOT to forget to fasten your seat belt for SAFETY.

Be a smart driver. Have a safe and fun filled journey. Yahooooo

Khairiah M said...

Thanks for sharing! Your writing, painting and vision is very inspiring. May the dream of 8 years old boy come true...inshaAllah.
I'm truly amaze the way you maintain n keep your quality of work! Simply superb. You're gifted with such talent.
Keep it flowing & keep up you good work.