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> Saiful Razman

Solo exhibition at Chan + Hori Contemporary, Singapore

28 Sep - 20 Oct 2019

Saiful Razman in his studio. Image courtesy of the artist

There are various elements that represents a house and a home. And surely, the quality of a home is dependent on its constituency; not only household constituents or what we commonly recognise as entities who builds, owns and lives in a house. The environment and community surrounding an architecture that we call home is the essence that makes us feel at home. Losing family, friends, and members of our community through unexpected and tragic circumstances around home causes extreme distress, and often brings us to reflect on our own existence and the fragility of life.


For the believer, life and death exist with purpose and mission. They are followed by an ultimate conclusion by divine design. We could say that every living organism comes with a use by date, for which its eventual end and its passage after mortal life is unknown. For what, whom, when, where and why they are used (or purposed for) is an absolute mystery of creation and its creator. Those we call family and community are an extension of our limbs, our heart and our souls. To lose a part of it is like losing a part of our architecture, our body and vessel. Beyond its status as habitable monuments and corporeal representative of human thoughts and cultures, architecture denotes our individual and collective engineering of meta-structures necessary in shaping the essence of how we chose to design our futures. In the poetry of his own creations, it is the semiotics of architecture that our artist Saiful Razman has chosen as language between him and his public.



Left: Atap (2019)

Right: Bumbung (2019)

Medical gauze, tissue paper, polyvinyl adhesive, acrylic, polycrylic on canvas

152 x 122 cm (each)

Image courtesy of the artist and Chan + Hori Contemporary

Reflecting on the recent loss of family and members of his close community, an image of a house surfaces. Putting himself in the place of an architect, Saiful Razman reconstructs what appears damaged, he drafts and constructs to put in place parts that are missing. The artist duplicates existing structures reflected by his mind’s eye and lays them out on the surfaces we see. There are ‘tangga’ the stairs, ‘tiang’ the pillar, ‘bumbung’ the ceiling, ‘atap’ the roof, ‘tapak’ the site and ‘pintu’ the door. These elements not only houses, but also protects and defends. To become a home, a house needs ownership, and in Malay philosophy as with many other cultures, a home is also a representation of one’s dignity.


The ‘anjung’, ‘serambi’ or terrace, as an example, are where visitors are greeted and transits before being given the privilege to access other interior spaces reserved for family, friends and close community members. This separation of the private and the public lines up with principles of the Malay society’s predominant faith, Islam. In place of the corporeal, geometry also highly dominates the decorative in its architecture.



Pintu (2019)

Medical gauze, tissue paper, polyvinyl adhesive, acrylic, polycrylic on canvas

152 x 122 cm

Private collection

Image courtesy of the artist and Chan + Hori Contemporary

Made primarily of tissues and medical gauze, delicate materials, the canvasses housing these substrates demonstrates the mastery and control of technique in their handling. Each grid like composition is reminiscent of sacred geometry, an abstraction of matter and thought. Each composed image is presented in monochromatic hues, behind the white of layers of gauze and tissues. Tissues and gauze, usually used and disposed, are retained here, sealed behind the sheen of polycrylic polyurethane, a water-based varnish used to bind, protect and preserve the organic matter under it. Uniform, repeated patterns, sizes and shapes employed by the artist suggests order, structure and stability. It demonstrates the maturing of a resolution that contrasts and conceals emotional stresses and personal struggles by a calculated process.


Working with gauzes and tissues since 2015, Saiful Razman is highly cognisant of the attributes of these materials. Their porousness allows breathing and healing. They absorb, trap and remove unwanted matter from surface. They are amongst the cheapest and most accessible materials deployed on a daily basis in a slew of circumstances and it is perhaps not too outrageous to describe them as amongst the necessities of today. The artist layers his tissues and gauze to form stronger, connected membranes. The composed image we see appear like gateways, not dissimilar to the ‘anjung’ and ‘serambi’, allowing us limited access to the stories and histories that lie behind them. The geometry on the canvasses are somewhat stoic, even monolithic, giving little away. Within these limits, we feel curiously bidden into abstract contemplation. Fibers from layers of gauze creep and climb like webs and roots within what could be an otherwise minimalist structure. From the title of each canvas, we begin to understand that what stands before us are parts of a greater whole, a family, a Future Love as Saiful Razman describes. These are Saiful Razman’s reflection of personal pasts and a manifest of his processes.


Because we are generally better able to manage expectations and routines within it, architectural structures bring about order and offers confidence. In living, we habitually repeat various daily routines, creating recognizable patterns until an accident breaks our rhythm and calls for mending and healing. If then, the clarity towards our intended or inferred path is not restored, our sense of loss, deficit or misfortune, is heightened. Most of all, the mind begins to ramble, fired with questions that could at times confront logic. At work, the artist construct systems, arrange and rearrange materials, and draw tableaus to frame and tame such distresses. As ‘tragic’, ‘indulgent’ or ‘austere’ the lives of artists might appear for those peering in from the outside, their humanness is as genuine as any other.



Khai Hori - Sept 2019

Saiful Razman (b. 1980) graduated from the University (Institute) Teknologi Mara, Selangor, Malaysia with a Bachelor of Arts in Painting (2003). He has participated in the 18th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh (2018); Kuala Lumpur Biennale, Malaysia; The Unreal Deal : Six Decades of Malaysian Abstract Art, Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is a recipient of The Young Contemporaries Awards, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2017). He has also shown at Art Jakarta (2018 and 2019) and Beirut Art Fair, Menasart, South East Asia Pavilion, Beirut, Lebanon (2013). Future Love is his 5th solo exhibition.


Left: Lantai (2019)

Right: Tapak (2019)

Medical gauze, tissue paper, polyvinyl adhesive, acrylic, polycrylic on canvas

152 x 152 cm (each)

Private collection

Image courtesy of the artist and Chan + Hori Contemporary

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