Monday, October 24, 2011

Contemplate on These.

Shafarin Ghani.

A student of Sri Ramakrishna said: Sir, if one gave up the I, nothing whatsoever would remain.Ramakrishna replied: I am not asking you to give up all of the I. You should give up only the unripe I. The unripe I makes one feel: I am the doer, these are my wife and children, I am a teacher.Renounce this unripe I and keep the ripe I which makes you feel that you are God's servant, His devotee, and that God is the doer and you are His instrument.
Sri Ramakrishna 'Mamu"

Be empty of worrying.Think of who created thought!Why do you stay in prisonwhen the door is so wide open?Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.Live in silence.
Rumi, The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks, p3

Why are you so afraid of silence, silence is the root of everything.If you spiral into its void,a hundred voices will thunder messages you long to hear.
Rumi - 'Hidden Music' - Maryam Mafi & Azima Melita Kolin 'Marisssa'

In silence things take form, and we must wait and watch. In us, in our secret depth, lies the knowing element which sees and hears that which we do not see nor hear. All our perceptions, all the things we have done, all that we are today, dwelt once in that knowing, silent depth, that treasure chamber in the soul.
Kahlil Gibran, Beloved prophet: the love letters, p268

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Sketching Class at MGTF.

Students of the Fairview International Schoool had a taste of the Dharma of sketching as taught by your truly. Due to the limited time, as they arrived late there was little that i could shove down their throats, but they were attentive.

Lime most who has an inherent fear of drawin or sketching on a blank piece of paper most did their best to squeeze in as as they can by working as tiny as possible and trying very hard to copy eaxactly what they see.

Siitng on the floor , bent over their works was not the most comfortable way to do the job needless to say but such is.

I believe that one's posture and placing onself in the best possible ang of one's choice to render a drawing is crucial for a good working habit when you draw especially if you know you will be spending a good amount of time in getting the job done.

This boy had the right idea when he got hold of the only available wooden box in the room to use as his low table. Most other students made no effort to move from their seats of make themselves comfortable for the task.

The students were genuinely in awe when I displayed my 100 feet long on going sketches and drawing of Georgetown which I had displayed for the purpose of showing the transition process from sketching into a colored painting on a single piece of artwork.

I feel that it is crucial for the instructo or art teacher to share his personal works with his students as this is one way one can inspire then or make them see what is possible to achieve.

This class was arranged by and held at the Museum Galleri Tuanku Fauziah at USM (MGTF) and this is one of the best activity that can bring to the younger generation to learn and appreciate art and meeting with a professional artist.

Teaching classes like these is also a boon for the artist as it helps the instructor to learn how to share his or her works and communicate it with others who are aspiring tobecome one themselves.

Other than teaching about the basics of drawing and sketching I also took them on a tour of the exhibitions that was on going at the Muzium. Most of the students asked simple questions about the works like the messy looking long piece of work hanging on the wall and most probably thinking it is not worth to be displayedas piece of art in a gallery of this stature. However when I asked them ot read all that written about the exhibition and discover how thw work was done and by whom, their view changed to a more positive and appreciative one.

I enjoyed the class and it was a good break from my daily routine of trying to get my own works done or wasting my time on the computer for lack of better things to do. It was a refreshing experience.

Incidentally while shopping for a canvass at the Nanyang art store i met two of my former students from the Equator Art Accademy and they asked why I stopped teaching there.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The fall of Gaddafi

Three Lions of Islam fell to the hands of the western infidels! With the demise of Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and most recently Moammar Gaddafi Islam has lost three of its front teeth as these three most powerful men in the Islamic world were the vengaurd who stood against the the onslaught of the West and those within their faith out to shatter and dehumanize the religion of the Prophet.
They were most probably, truth be told, also the most unscrupulous and tyranic manipulators in the history of Islam perhaps much lesser so in the case of Ben Laden who was more genuine of a religious Jihaddist than the former Presidents. What or who can carry the mantle of championing the Islamic world today is up for grabs as the pickings is very slim indeed. As we scan the horizon of the Muslim world from the mediteranian shores to the vastly muslim populated nation of Indonesia we see only weaklings who rule much like puppets whose strings are being clandestinely handled by the hands of the western interests and their own self aggrandizement and lack of faith. Islam has no more Lions whose roar is to be heard loud enough for the non muslim world to pay much attention to much less have respect for. We the Muslims have squandered the Prophet's legacy and sold our religion for the price of decadence.

As ordinary men, these three figures perhaps does not deserve an eulogy, at least by western perceptions and standards and perhaps by the Islamic codes too they had betrayed the trust of their people, those they were responsible for, (again lesser so for Ben Laden). However they still stood for leaders of the Islamic realm and as such deserves to be treated as such at their moments of death and not treated like mongrell dogs to be displayed and humilated likewise for the world to spit on! And for those who believe otherwise I say look at your own fingers, your own motives, your own self serving interests! Are they pure ? Clean and undefiled and who are you in comparisson to these great leaders? You who sits on your fingers wallowing in selfcentered sorry state while the fate of the religion is at the mercy of others?

Despite their shortcomings as men these leaders have done some good if one cares to look for the good they had done while in power,if we care to look for what is good but if we are bent on only look for the ugly side of their human nature than we too are responsible for bringing down the Religon of Muhammad, the Rasul of Allah! We, especially those who were elected into the positions of caretakers of our Rulers are equally at fault. We do not need to look far, just look at the state if Islam in Malaysia. We collectively will have to answer before Allah comes the Day of Judgement for our negligence in forsaking the teachings of Islam. The Prophet during his warring days had codes written on manners in which the fallen warriors friends or foes alike were to be treated and that is with dignity and respect and not crucified along roadside or have their heads impailed for the general public to view as was the way of Barbarians during Teutonic wars. ironically the Mongol hordes disposed off enimy leaders by placing their bodies in sacks and trample them with their horses so their blood would not spill all over, as a token of respect. And we claim ourselves as civilized! Equipped with our modern day tools we display gruesome pictures as though the world should feel gratified with such display of the fall of a world leader.
Perhaps Gaddafi being the dictator that he was as claimed by most deserves to be displayed like a slaughtered animal on every front page of the International Media and his former life being rediculed in every which way possible, however he was at one time a major instrument in the liberation of Lybia from colonialism and for this small feat the muslims who brought him down should honor his death with a measure of respect. As was Saddam Hussein, when in power he had kept the country relatively at peace but today with his removal Iraq has been in chaos eversince. The Islamic Nations as a whole is to held accountable for what has taken place today for all these years we have done very little in righting all the wrongs of these Leaders. All the Muslim rulers, Kings and Presidents could have made an extra effort to impress upon these so called dictators to mend their ways and not depended on the western countries to become the policemen who ended them. Had we done so the likes of Ossama Ben laden would not have the cause to take on the reign of terror. He would have been a champion of Islam in a more positive way.
This is just my passing thoughts as it does worries me the route we are headed not only as Muslims but as a citizen of this planet we call home. I believe in the freedom to believe and practice whatever faith of one's own choosing and no one religion or faith is better or worse than the other, it is relative and most importantly it is personally, a sacred act only answerable to his or her Maker. Most religions if not all preaches Goodness and Peace among man whether we belive ourselves to be the children of Adam or otherwise. Without religions and faith, without a sense of awe of life itself, we are worse than animals and our existence could have ended centuries ago when the barbarians ruled. Oh...when will we ever learn...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Art for Art's sake

Had a dinner meeting with Mr. Kooi an artist who works with copper tooling technique as his medium at The Ship restaurant located on Sri Bahari Road last night. His interest is in getting artists together and having shows for the benifit of various Charity foundations like the handicap and children's orphanage. The is to help promote an image for the Penang Artists as geared towards doing good for society rather than just for monetary vlaues. it is hoped that with this move proffessional artists will gain better sense of integrity and respect for their endeavors in society. it will also be an example for the younger generation artists to emulate as part of their long term goals in the service towards their fellow man.
For the past two years i tolf him and another fellow Malay Artist who was present that i have been donating two pieces of my works towwards the fundraising event of the D'Home Foundation for the mentally ill in Penang. I found out that for one of the events my works fethced RM700 when auctioned. I also shared my idea that this kind of effort has to be made in ow profile and small scale innitially so that it is given a chance to take root and grow instead of going all out with too much publicity and drawing too much unwonted attention and negative feedback. yes I strongly believe that we should and could carry out such activity which will benifit all those involved positvely in one way or another but in this day and age everything that is done even with the greatest of good intentions can turn sour if not fully realized especially if it does not agree with the rest of the Artist community or worse with those who seek to find faults when the idea conflicts with their interest.
Artists do not retire from their careers but for those by normal standards are of retirement age like yours truly should in one way or another make an effort to give back in return for benifit of society after all their years of enjoying the status of being an artist, earning an income and often well respected by their peers and the general population. Today I find more and more artist more into how to get into shows and make a killing with their creative output and sadly enough most become scrooges even among their friends whether in sharing ideas or the financial gains. In the process of One-upmanship and competitive spirit many exist on their own catering to the small circle that they benifit from financially. What is even worse i find some backbiting and critizing those they deem a potential competition to their market value. Dont ask me how i know this but i trust my heart and when I see a fellow artist my first impression of his demeanor towards me is seldom wrong whether he is genuine and sincere or he is all about self promotion and out to make it by hook or by crook.
Perhaps I am naive and has been since my younger days for i believe in creating Art for Art's sake. I remember an incident where I was doing printmaking in the studio at the University in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I worked at it for so many hours often late into the night that the University alooed me to sleep in the studio- the only student allowed to do so that i knew of. The studio loft was cleared and cleaned for me to sleep in or rest and from the loft i would have a clear view of the studio below me and across where most of my finished prints would be taped to the wall. On tghis particular morning I had made 25 monoprints of Native Americans all day and night before i climbed up to the loft and fell exhausted asleep. I was woken up by the arrival of adult students who was having a printmaking club seccesion and most were ladies. As i listened to them chatting I remembered one saying, too bad he never sells his works or had any shows. Another replied, this is creating Art for Art's sake and i felt right at the time but at the same time wished i had been selling so i dont have to scrounge around for food that day.
But i survived and had a great life in the process as i made alot of good friends who made sure that i had my lunch or dinner for the day before i got back and lock myself in the printmaking studio. Even the night security guards would often knock on the door now and then with a burger and drink in hand just in case...that was heartfelt charitable acts i owe to the society being an artist; I felt special despite being in need most of the time for when I spend the back breaking hours of working on my prints my mind was free from the thoughts of how well my works will sell but more into how those i share them with will enjoy what i had to offer them.
Other than the process and creative moments in executing my works my self satisfaction came from the look or awe and surprise on the faces of my friends or those who view my works, it gave me deep satisfaction worth all the time and effort. Everytime I visit their homes I was happy to see my works on their walls like i too was part of their lives, the feeling would have been less so had they bought my painting...I was naive in that sense...was I?
My talent is God given and as i grow older I am more convince of this fact. I am not any better or worse than most artists of my peers but for me being an artist has opened doors that would normally would be locked shut for most common man. Being an artist has led me down many paths and roads less traveled and delivered me from many situations that that would have endangered my life and for this reasons i beleive in giving back what i have been graced with in the name of my Maker.Perhaps it may be construed as egotistical by some for what I beleive and how i have carried myself as an artist over the years but i would truly want to believe that I did simply because Art tis for Art's sake.

"There are not only more people collecting, there are more people collecting for the wrong reasons, basically as the latest get rich quick scheme. They buy art like lottery tickets."
Mary Boone/ Art Collector

"Most of the people I admire, they usually smell funny and don't get out much. It's true. Most of them are either dead or not feeling well."
Tom Waits/Singer

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

At the Nadir of Creativity

My daughter Marissa is back on semester break for a few weeks and is now working part time with her old job at the Bon Ton Cafe group on Beah Street. So its dropping off and picking her up from work everyday. My son Karim is still Karim not having any idea on what to to do or become as far as his future career is concern but so long as he is happy I am happy for him. The Swiss boy is doing what he is doing which lately i have no idea of as he has decided to leave his father out of the loop of his life for now, which is fine with me, no news is good news. The flier called yesterday out of the blue and has been very busy flying all over the world and no time for the ground crew, that too is fine with me so long as he is safe and sound.
I am busy trying to put together a Mural painting that is in the process of being comissioned by the Swiss Inn Hotel in Sungai Petani which so far is still in the negotiation stage. It will be 32 feet long and the theme of the mural is simply, a garden scene. I am psyching myself up for the job as it is both a challenge and a prospect for my reputation as an artist. It will not be easy and I am not getting any younger at least physically, but I have one or two artist friends who will be helping me if and when the project gets its green light. Thus far I have been asked to submit my profile as an artist, which I did and then a day or two of silence as is common with the Malaysian way of dealing with business, in the States it would like 'dont call us we will call you' kind of situation. In the meantime I believe in being proactive when situations like these presents themselves, like getting ready with the layout of what i would work with if and when the project takes off and getting the all the help together from all those who are able and capable. I do not like digging my hole just when my guts is about to unload.
I have painted saveral pieces of abstract works, I still feel ill at ease using the term Abstract where my wroks are concern but ironically enough these are what is selling in the market or so it seems. And the other irony of it is that these were what i was doing during my earliest years when in secondary school untill i went through my formal college education in the Arts. Today it seems anyone can be an artist and sell so long as he or she knows the basics of how to apply color and know the right people. It is wrong for the likes of me to bemoan the fate of serious lifelong artists, the so called hardcore dreamers and creative deviants as Art is for all and all can be artists for so long as there are those who appreciate what is being created and willing to pay for them. Which leads us to the question of 'What is being an Artist?"
AAh who cares anymore, live and let live! Again as the good old American saying goes, money talks and bullshit walks! The man who dedicates himself to doing what he loves doing and sacrifices everything for it is misguided fool whose ideals are no more valid by any standard that is held in this day and age and he who knows how to market himself by hook or by crook has the last laugh. I salute those of my fellow artists who dared over the years to take on their careers as full time artists and often times grovelling in the economic mire of trying to raise their children or even feed themselves. These are true believers whose path has been championing the fine arts not prostituting themselves catering to the art market and its so called patrons in order to survive. These are the diehards who had taken all sorts of abuse humiliation from the general public for the sake of integrity as artists and I for one has often failed in this aspect seeking financial assistance from close friends and family as my last resort.
Being an artist is worse than being an addict as it compels one to keep doing it even when in doing so means worse than being a pariah in society. Friends and relatives frowns and those honest enough even offer the sane advice of "Get a Job!" Now i have a good picture of how my grand father and my father must have felt when they migrated here in their capacity as artists. Sadly enough at my age i can safely say that I have inherited their pain.
But as the Wise One said, "Suffering is, None who suffers." In moments like these the words of my African friend Peter OYimbo always comes to mind, he said, "You can suffer without bitterness." A tough act to follow when all around you you find gross unfairness and your self esteem becomes the victim of circumstances.

"If one can completely give up clinging to the idea of Being oneself, then being oneself will no longer be suffering. "
Buddhadasa Bikhu