How one artist is exploring his roots through vibrant, surreal artworks

Hasanul Isyraf Idris is a Malaysian artist who works with a variety of different materials to present his often intricate and surreal ideas, inspired by his home country's colourful history

March 15, 2018

Hasanul Isyraf Idris is a Malaysian artist who works with a variety of different materials to present his often intricate and surreal ideas, inspired by his home country’s colourful history

Hasanul Isyraf Idris was trained at Mara University of Technology, in Perak, Malaysia

Hasanul Isyraf Idris’s fourth solo feature with Richard Koh Fine Art took place last week, showing at VOLTA art fair, New York. Titled Environment of Naga and Doubt, it is a continuation of his series Higher Order Love, which began in 2016. It depicts stories and memories of Malaysia’s past, including the racial riots which took place in Palau Pangkor in 1959. He talks about love, his childhood and the Malaysian art scene.


Your series is titled Higher Order Love. In the latest feature it deals with topics like racial riots, migration and alienation. How do these topics fit under the umbrella of a higher love? Do you think love can be found even in difficult times or places?
I feel that love is at its strongest once it is tested. I witnessed this through my parents’ experience of survival on a fisherman’s island with four children, [my dad] crossing the ocean to the mainland to secure for us a better life. For me the bond and survival is a symbol of his unparalleled love.
Your work draws a lot on Malaysia, your childhood there and the culture of the country. Does that inspire you?
The issues that I brought forward are a repeat of history. Stories, memories and the past become my subjects of interest in my creative practice. I also reflect on current global issues from my own personal angle and perspective.
You present your work in many different forms, sometimes on paper, sometimes in mixed multi-media drawings. What is the reason for this variation?
I am actually one that gets bored easily. I love trying out various styles, shapes and forms in the making of my artwork. I am not prejudiced against any types of material. I see the variety as my way of responding to my environment.
Your work combines beauty and ugliness. Is that a representation on how you see the world?
As the yin and yang philosophy goes, we live side-by-side, the good and bad. It is manifested in our taste and choices. Plato described the queasy fascination towards an executioner’s dais. Similarly, we cannot peel our eyes off accidents and atrocities.
How did you first get into art and what inspired you to start creating works of art?
I was exposed to the arts when I was about 12 years old. My older brother is a painter and brought me along to visit his artist friends at their studios. Amron Omar was then (and still) a celebrated Malaysian figurative painter. He also brought me to the local art college and it was then that I discovered formal art training and the education available in college.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Malaysia?
Art in Malaysia is still considered young in terms of infrastructure, benefits, facilities and others. There are efforts being made in advancing those aspects. I consider the deficiency as a minor issue when handled strategically with much rigour.
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