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Art Porters presents artist Naufal Abshar at Art Stage Jakarta 2017

Naufal Abshar’s jigsaw paintings look at how personal choices colour our lives

Jul 19, 2017 | By Art Republik

Naufal Abshar, ‘Junior and Senior Relationship’. Image courtesy Art Porters

Singapore-based gallery Art Porters will be presenting artist Naufal Abshar at Art Stage Jakarta. The significance of Naufal’s pieces is its philosophical content: Naufal uses laughter as a double-edged sword to comment on life. He sees laughter working to cure life’s stresses as well as a tool to criticise situations and people.  It is often said that “laughter is the best medicine” and Naufal has translated this metaphorical medicine pictorially.  Laughter is the balm that soothes away negative emotions and it is also a sugar-coated pill that makes sociopolitical criticisms palatable. His ‘HAHA’ series sees him using laughter and satire to protest some of life’s issues.

In the artist’s works is a glimpse of French philosopher Henri Bergson, famous for his theory on laughter. Like him, Naufal understands the complex nature of humour and its relationship with laughter. Laughter may not always stem from humour. Indeed, it can also be a mask to the negative emotions residing in the individual, such as anger and fear. The artist uses laughter as the balm that soothes away negative emotions, and also a sugar-coated pill that makes sociopolitical criticisms palatable.

Naufal’s latest works, which will be displayed at the art fair, are based on the concept of puzzle paintings. These are premised on the artist’s personal conviction that we are all creator-curators of our own lives. The puzzle paintings allow viewers to change the trajectory of the works’ story by arranging and rearranging pieces of paintings to suit the viewers’ narration.  In this way, the viewer experiences authorial agency.  

‘The Art of Film’ is a continuation of the puzzle paintings concept in which Naufal unpacks the philosophy of filmmaking. He sees film as the highest level of art since it incorporates “fashion, science, philosophy as well as history”. Through the paintings, he explores life as a cinematic narrative where each individual has a role to play, and each life-story has a plot that the individual has the freedom to change. “I believe we are all actors/actresses, acting our own roles, and that we can be astronauts, film directors, camera man/lady or even famous super heroes,” says Naufal.  

But there is more to this than meets the eye. In ‘The Art of Film’, the canvas is busy with people in showbiz doing what they are famous for. Texts in various sizes pepper the canvas representing comments and thoughts. Through the vacuous faces of the characters and their ear-to-ear grins, Naufal is also satirising the pretence that certain people feel the need to put up, and choose to do so.

Naufal Abshar, ‘The Art of Film’. Image courtesy Art Porters

In ‘Junior and Senior Relationship’, Naufal extends his idea about the role of film in our lives.  In this painting, Batman and Robin are depicted masked and cheerful.  The artist explains that he chose these two famous superheroes because they are always depicted in the movies where Batman is more popularly known than Robin, his sidekick and that he sees the relationship between these figures mirroring real-life father-and-son relationships.

However, true to his conviction in the free agency of human beings, Naufal leaves his audience to curate their own narratives by moving parts of the artworks around.  Exchange Batman’s head for Robin’s and the role of the characters morph instantaneously.  The power relations shift and our perspectives change with the alterations made.  As Bergson says, “there is no greater joy than that of feeling oneself a creator”.  Naufal empowers his audience by allowing them to participate in mking meaning from his artworks, coloured by his own life stories.

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This article was written by Eve Wong Nava for Art Republik.

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