Work x Play – sembilan Season #5

Balai Seni Visual Negara – Creative Space | 11 March – 16 April 2017

When does work and play converge and does it ever? is it Work vs. Play or Work and Play?

A month into the residency, the two artists from sembilan season #5 Tajrin Faruqi and Ahmad Rais found commonalities in their pieces in ideas of work and/or play emerging. Very inconspicuously, the theme was an undercurrent embedded into two very contrasting styles of work – of Tajrin Faruqi’s that is a contemporary presentation to a critical view of society and our environment; Ahmad Rai’s evolving conventional technical approach to exploring the stories of childhood.


Trained as a lawyer, Tajrin’s analytical critique of his surroundings has shaped his ideas on paper as a writer and poet, and on canvas as an artist. No stranger to the literary and arts world, he has published a book of poems that served as narratives to his drawings, and has shared his philosophical ideas through “consumable art” like t-shirts and bags through 4idkstudio for years now.


Participating in the residency gave Tajrin the opportunity to further develop his skills as a fine art artist, to concentrate (almost) exclusively in progressing his ideas further in larger scales. Which gave rise to his trademark interpretation of current issues into metaphoric representations.

Demokrasi(onal) is a symbolicism heavy piece telling of the dying spirit of democracy in Malaysia, from the colours of the national flag, to drips, techniques implying the nation’s naivety, the piece is like a treasure hunt map, where the search is for the one solution to the nation’s “issues” – which the artist has symbolically represented as a postcard of hope to the country.

In exploring naivety, Calme was created in two phases – the first layer of naive drawings drawn from self experience drawn in acrylic and ink, and the second layer in oil pastel and industrial paint to create images and visuals that portray life as play – enjoyable but at the same time tiring. “We are always too negligent and naïve when we look for tranquility in life. We are often too “childish” in making decisions. We are always looking far and wide to find the hidden meanings, the tranquility, but often blind to what is in front of us.”-artist statement

Tamadun (civilisation) is one of the most developed ideas of the artist in this exhibition. Exploring the concept of education by replicating the blackboard with dye on canvas, Tamadun questions development – are we blindly pursuing progress to the point of destruction?

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The Kereta (car) series in its naive form strips away any unnecessary aesthetics, except for the feeling of motion and time. Kereta I is of a single object purposed as a driver to choose its own path and destiny. Kereta II, of two cars in black and white reminds us of our world of duality where good and evil, heaven and hell exists. Kereta III poses the question of choice – do we go left or right? Or do we pave our own way down the middle?

Kereta I, II and III

Ahmad Rais, a conventional artist by background, joined sembilan with hopes to explore the real world creation of art beyond the academic. Rais takes visitors through his journey during his residency beginning with his early classical figurative paintings, incorporating local themes of culture, current issues and life’s questions.

The introduction of new characters began in works like Merdekakah kita? where a child in a Merdeka! gesture (this was the celebration pose during Malaysia’s independence) seems to be confronted with issues and challenges, and doesn’t seem as joyous as one would expect. Are we heading towards the independence which was once sought after?

Merdekakah Kita.jpg
Merdekakah kita?

Rais explores further methods in Who Am I – Dendam tak Sudah, combining the strong dynamic warm hues of oil and pastels, with the contemporary sketching, an experiment that gave rise to a contrasting outcome adept to the issue of identity crises in this work. What is the balance in a world of pop culture amidst a culture rich in tradition?

Who Am I - Dendam tak sudah_Final
Who Am I – Dendam tak sudah

The last of Ahmad Rais’ works created at the residency has a happy ever after message, a beautiful ending to his world of Work x Play – Just Let It Go reminds us of just being. Rais had chosen children as his subject for the innocence and naïveté that only youth accords. The children portrayed in ‘Just Let It Go’ & ‘Just Let It Go 2’ are actually the artist’s vivacious nephew and niece respectively.

“This work is meant to remind us to let go of the stresses of work and to not over-think things, for we are mere mortals made of imperfections. That which has passed, let us convert into memories; that which is coming, let us prepare and plan for. Nevertheless, we must always make time to enjoy ourselves, because in life, we should strive for happiness in order to carve out our very own “heaven on earth” – Artist’s Statement

Ahmad Rais’ wall of Work x Play

Work x Play features 40 works in total, including two collaboration pieces (see event cover) by Tajrin Faruqi and Ahmad Rais. A walk through the exhibition is personal and intimate as each piece tells a story of an emotion, a state and an issue that is easy to relate to for viewers. The personalised walls in each artist’s space is an overwhelming treat into the minds of the creators, and is in their own way a feature of the exhibition.

“Work and play are artificial pair of opposites, because the best kind of play contains an element of work, and the most productive of work must include something of the spirit of play.” (Sydney J. Harris)

Work x Play exhibits at Balai Seni Visual Negara from the 11th of March to the 16th of April 2017.  Follow this link: Work x Play


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