04 April 2015

Ayat-ayat Semesta @ University of Malaya Art Gallery

Melukis itu Menulis - this wonderful maxim is a subject in one of Abdul Djalil Pirous's writings, and aptly describes the works displayed here. A doyen in the Bandung art scene, Pirous is also known as the pioneer in Southeast Asia who successfully melded Western abstract painting with Arabic calligraphy. Texts are moulded from marble paste and swathes of colours are accentuated with gold leaf, the combined presentation depicting Quranic verses as encased meditations mirroring inner reflections. Utilising strips of colour at its borders, two-dimensional compositions stretch beyond the canvas to encompass a wider universe, which Sulaiman Esa once described with reference to Islamic metaphysics as "...an open book, a panorama of signs (ayat) and symbols that man is constantly exhorted to study and contemplate so that he can gain the knowledge of higher Truth."

Kurnia-Nya yang Mana yang Masih Kau Dustakan? (1974)

The emotional qualities of colour field painting are more evident in exhibited works made in the 1970s to the 1990s, As one who does not read Arabic, I resort to engage with the shocking pink-purple in 'Kurnia-Nya yang Mana yang Masih Kau Dustakan?', the earthy browns, and the golden ruptures in 'Cucuku, Dia Lahir di Negeri Sakura'. Calligraphic writings are replaced with capitalised texts in works made in 2004 and later, this change of approach attributed by Kenneth George as a reaction by the artist to the Aceh tsunami, which struck Pirous' hometown and claimed the lives of many relatives. 'Apa Namamu?' and 'Mencari Air Suci I' are poignant examples of works produced during this time, where introspective statements are submerged at the lower-left corner of the painting, a gold strip separating it from a dark blue background.

Jangan Baurkan Kebenaran dengan Kebathilan! (2012)

Describing a painting that resembles a tombstone protruding from the clouds, curator Agung Hujatnikajennong states, "(m)eskipun tidak bermaksud merepresentasikan objek-objek arsitektural itu secara sangat spesifik, Pirous hendak menekankan kehadiran dimensi 'ruang' yang ilusif dan mistis, dan pada saat yang sama: absennya ruang-ruang spatial yang riil dan logis." The artist remarks in an interview, "(a)ntara aksara dan latar belakang lukisan menyatu." This conscious decision to make good art and not vacant proclamations, is a vital aspect in Pirous' works, and this survey leaves enough room to ponder whether such exhibits constitute Contemporary Islamic Art. Well lit with ample wall notes, and accompanied with a decent catalogue with three insightful essays, one eagerly waits for the next edition of the university gallery's "Asian Master Series".

Mencari Air Suci I (2005)

Tuhan, kita begitu dekat
Sebagai api dengan panas; Aku panas dalam api-Mu
Tuhan, kita begitu dekat
Seperti kain dengan kapas; Aku kapas dalam kain-Mu
Tuhan, kita begitu dekat
Seperti angin dan arahnya; Kita begitu dekat
Dalam gelap; Kini aku nyala; Dalam lampu padam-Mu
- Tuhan, Kita Begitu Dekat, Abdul Hadi WM, sajak accompanying artwork by A.D. Pirous of the same title

Tuhan, Kita Begitu Dekat (2002)

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