Nik Zainal Abidin: Part 1 @ Interpr8

A testament of his archive's quality, renowned art collector Dato' Parameswaran is able to present a meaningful artist retrospective via a stock clearing exercise.  Wayang kulit is synonymous with the Kelantanese Nik Zainal Abidin, where a substantial number of the self-taught artist's works are displayed, along with a few oil paintings and intricate wood carvings.  It is evident that the subject matter has a significant influence on Nik Zainal's aesthetic - his figures are elongated, its forms taken from a hand-crafted tradition.  Characteristically flat, its flatness is emphasised further with the use of watercolours as his primary medium.

Drupada (1992)

Beyond the historical appeal, this exhibition provides an insight into, the factors that made these works aesthetically pleasing.  Close inspection of the paintings and pencil sketches, indicates a discipline to draw within square grids, establishing structure amongst the sinuous forms and active figures.  The artist displays a keen awareness of pictorial space, where experimentation with primary and secondary colours, black and the uncoloured, coalesce in pleasant harmony.  Multiple characters gather within a canvas, each with a different colour and facing a different direction, yet the dynamism never dampens as though a wayang kulit show is really playing.

Wayang Kulit in White (1971)

Many distinguished pieces are exhibited, but I was particularly attracted to 'Rejection', a relatively quirky work that is less crowded.  The character on the left displays a priceless expression, contrasting colours harmonise beautifully, its background light yet sombre.  I never thought entertaining can be used to describe a painting, but it seems befitting for this work.  One can glance over Nik Zainal's other figurative and landscape drawings, but wayang kulit remains the main attraction for this inimitable artist.  In a world where sculptured form and surface texture is emphasised, it is fun to appreciate attractive art on a flat surface.

Rejection (1992)