May 11, 2021

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A slice of life

MOHAMAD FAIZ ZAINAL ABIDIN or Faiz Z A, who comes from a family of 10 siblings, has always enjoyed being a part of family celebrations. His father, a retired village head, loves to keep photo albums of weddings, feasts, and village events.

This inspired Faiz to use these photos as the subject of his paintings depicting the culture of Malay society from years ago.

“I discovered my interest in this subject and used the reverse technique which I have mastered to highlight the subjects of my artwork,” said Faiz.

He adds: “Honestly, images of the olden days are challenging to draw as I have to combine glazing skills with textures, like the old damaged photos, which I am passionate about. However, this discovery led to the creation of my signature style, in painting.”

Growing up in a village, Faiz, was always surrounded by many relatives, village folk and their many events and celebrations.

“For instance, my artwork will not run away from the chaos and complex arrangement (in composition). At first sight, people will only notice a nice family portrait painting or socio-political narrative painting, however, a closer look will reveal various pictures merged together into a masterpiece,” added Faiz.

Reverse method

Faiz, who uses reverse techniques, paints the canvas in black first, before drawing the main subjects in white or light colours.

“In my painting, I use a dark colour as a base to differ from common practice, which turns from, light to dark colours. It’s an unconventional method and one needs to understand the value of light, shadow and the complexity of composing each subject, on a dark surface,” said Faiz, who describes his artwork as “Dark theatrical paintings”.

“The difference in my art is that my artworks are very dark while the palate knife replaces a brush. Technically, I try as much as possible to showcase my understanding of the value of light in photography, using a cone-shaped edge palate knife that is commonly used by painters to mix colours.

“I also try my best to show a Baroque visual experience, covered with monodramatic visuals and contrasting light on each character. These are reflected in my artworks titled Sketching a fire and Cabinet of Curiosity II.

Faiz who has a Masters in Fine Art and Technology from University Teknologi Mara, admits that it is challenging to determine the right amount of light, especially when creating paintings based on old photographs, as he needs to combine a collection of photographs into one big picture without using any image projection from a projector or design from a photoshop app.

He says the arrangement and composition of each image are hand-painted, directly on the canvas. Apart from light, appropriate spacing between the figures is also important to prevent the figure and supporting images from becoming chaotic.

“My artwork often visualises the spirit of patriotism, societal view on political issues, as well as historical content and context.

Covid-19 pandemic

Apart from his artworks on Malay society, Faiz has also created paintings on three different themes – “The Invisible War”, “Stay at Home” and “Invasion”, which highlight the message of hope and acceptance.

“One thing that crossed my mind as an artist was to make a series of paintings about how I feel and my experience, during this pandemic. I thought about how harsh our life is – not being able to go out, due to the movement control order (MCO). No celebration, reunion, and everything we loved to do before, we cannot do now.

“This pandemic really taught me about how tough a parent or leader of a family has to be because he or she has to make sacrifices to keep the family going during hard times

“I realised that a doctor or nurse has to confront the virus through their patients. What were their thoughts? How do they face their fears as they go to work every day?” said Faiz.

“Sometimes, I do imagine that this pandemic is an invasion of foreign elements from another planet. In fact, the MCO affected me as my oil paints ran out and I had to complete my art using only the colour that I had in limited quantity, white and black oil paint.”

However, painting is not his only talent. Faiz also creates sculptures, wood carvings, graphic design, animation video and 3D murals with his twin brother Mohamad Farhan Zainal Abidin and a friend.