MIMIC by Hairi Hassan, 23 Oct - 7 Nov 2009

By Rachel Jenagaratnam

The third and last artist for HOM’s art residency programme this year is Hairi Hassan. The UiTM graduate has been occupying a corner of the HOM studio space since February and the result – featured in the present exhibition, Mimic – is a corpus of about thirty paintings, all portraits.

Hairi has equated his time on this residency program as a journey of sorts. “It has been about searching,” he notes, jokingly adding that the total experience has been like “a fourth semester” back in university, where he’s been able to focus on specific areas that he wasn't able to develop strongly before.

Painting techniques has been one of them. Hairi graduated majoring in printmaking and has been a backdrop and mural artist for the last few years, so this residency has been a “second chance” for him to hone his skills in this area.

And, choosing to focus on portraiture – the second-highest ranking genre of painting – has been a winning formula for the Kedah-born artist. He believes portraiture has given him the leeway to balance the minute details visible to the eye - tone, texture, colour, and depth, for example.

Fittingly, Hairi’s works are visual evidences of the artist’s development of skill. The paintings, almost exclusively close ups, are portraits of friends and studies of found images. They can be divided into three parts and audiences will note a steady progression between these sectors, therefore, grasping a sense of the practical experience of Hairi’s time on the HOM residency program.

The first group of works is smallest in size and monochromatic. The execution is simple and it foreshadows the second batch of works, which feature more colours and emotions in the faces of the subjects. The final group, consisting of Hairi’s self-portraits, can be seen as the pinnacle to the young artist’s journey, where he reaches maturity in both skill and content; facial creases are more pronounced and they are more evocative in nature.

Painted in bold, unnatural colours, the Kedah-born artist believes these self-portraits are manifestations of his journey in developing his painterly skills. They do, however, also represent another dimension to Hairi’s journey, albeit a more personal one; the studio practice has given Hairi the chance to introspect and contemplate his inner-self.

Hairi’s focus on portraits is, therefore, poignant, as portraits arguably serve as reflections of our selves and the next person. Viewing portraits is a reflective experience akin to looking into a mirror; you never merely consider the subject alone, but also relate it to yourself by questioning your own identity too.
For Hairi, these portraits have helped him discover his own identity and true calling in life: to be an artist. They are the total result of his time spent in the city, living independently, and in viewing these portraits, we are given an entry into the artist’s very soul.

The artist also believes the works in Mimic represent his emotions on this artistic journey, from the apprehension he felt before beginning the residency to the anxiety he felt at the task before him; he felt it was difficult to create art and worried about high expectations from others. At one point, Hairi even contemplated giving up. But, like his paintings, which are defined by trial and error – “it’s about getting it right,” he muses – he found the inner-strength to continue.

This might have something to do with the fact Hairi wasn’t alone on this journey. Not only did he share the studio space with the other two resident artists on the programme (Azizan Talkis and Melissa Lin), he’s also had the opportunity to learn from members of the MATAHATI art collective, who have been on hand to offer guidance and share knowledge.

Their assistance has been rewarded by imitation, one of the most sincere forms of flattery; there’s an undeniable lineage in terms of content and form between Hairi’s works in this series to that of the senior artists. The large faces looming before us are not dissimilar to Ahmad Fuad’s infamously large self-portraits, Hamir Soib’s influence can be detected in parts, and, Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s mastery of the figure hasn’t been far from Hairi’s mind either.

Ultimately, the portraits in Mimic sum up Hairi’s dual-journey into the artistic world. They are the product of his desire to hone his painterly skills and discovery his true self, and with Mimic, it can be said that Hairi has succeeded at both. And, we wait eagerly to see the products of his next artistic voyage.

Self Portrait I/2009/Acrylic on canvas/133 x 94cm
Self Portrait II/2009/Acrylic on canvas/133 x 94cm

Self Portrait III/2009/Acrylic on canvas/133 x 94cm

Self Portrait IV/2009/Acrylic on canvas/133 x 94cm

Self Portrait V/2009/Acrylic on canvas/133 x 94cm
Azizan Talkis / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 131 x 180 cm

Dadi Setiyadi/2009/ Acrylic on canvas/180 x 122cm
Mel / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 131 x 180 cm 

Ady / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 131 x 180 cm 

Buden/2009/ Acrylic on canvas/74 x 74cm

Monologue/2009/ Acrylic on canvas/64 x 132cm

Zul/2009/ Acrylic on canvas/74 x 74cm

Bow / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 74 x 74 cm 
Depression in K.L I / 2009 / Mixed Media on canvas / 59 x 59 cm 

Tutup Satu / 2009 / Mixed Media on canvas / 59 x 59 cm 

Depression in K.L II / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 108 x 132 cm 

Tak Tahu Hala Tuju / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 59 x 59 cm 

Force / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 59 x 59 cm 

Look Up / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 74 x 74 cm 

Untitled / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 59 x 59 cm 
Blur I - VIII / 2009 / Acrylic on canvas / 22 x 30 cm