Monday, 8 December 2008

Art: Life-like relief!


Norazlan with his relief painting titled Jambu Air.
Norazlan with his relief painting titled Jambu Air.

This depiction of pitcher plants is the second evolution of Norazlan’s wood-clay medium.
This depiction of pitcher plants is the second evolution of Norazlan’s wood-clay medium.

Is it wood? Is it clay? Actually, it’s both. Norazlan Ahmad tells SATIMAN JAMIN how he found inspiration to create a new medium for his art.

What sets Norazlan Ahmad, 32, apart from other amateur painters is that while others try to shine with outstanding artworks, he grabs attention for having invented and perfected a new medium for his art.

Although his relief paintings are nothing less than awe-inspiring, the medium he has used to create them invariably steals the show as people who see his art for the first time cannot resist asking him about it.

Not that Norazlan, 32, minds. In fact, he is quite pleased to answer questions about his choice of medium and takes pains to explain about the virtues of the new medium which he has named kayu liat or wood-clay. As the name suggests, it combines the characteristics of both wood and clay without the fully mimicking either.

“As a relief painter, I want to explore the field and bring it to a new level of acceptance. The traditional medium of choice, like clay or plaster of Paris, are too rigid and cannot provide the versatility that I want,” says the primary school art teacher.

Norazlan credits Idris Hashim Salleh, his lecturer at the Kuala Terengganu Teachers Training College, with inspiring him to create the new medium. His experiments with various types of media five years ago resulted in the use of kayu liat. However, kayu liat proved very difficult to form and once it went hard, cracks would appear.

“The cracks caused the finished painting to be fragile and to come apart easily when disturbed,” he said.

Such early setbacks did not discourage Norazlan who was determined to improve the new medium, making changes and modifications until he was satisfied. “I improved the formulation of the wood-clay one step at a time and its progress or evolution can be seen on my relief paintings,” he says.

His perseverance has paid off and today, he can make life-like relief paintings with a vastly improved wood-clay compound that remains pliant and bouncy when dry.

Ironically, his relief paintings were once classified as an assemblage because the tree branches depicted were so lifelike that people thought he had glued real branches onto the canvas!

The branches that he kneaded out of wood-clay not only had the texture of wood but were also tough and pliant like the real thing, with lifelike leaves and fruit on them.

“Unlike clay or plaster of Paris, kayu-liat does not harden when dried, so it will not disintegrate when dropped or hit by a hard object,” says Norazlan who only paints in his spare time.

“I am willing to accept orders for wood-clay artworks but I cannot give a definite date for the completion as I am holding a full-time job.”

Even during the school holidays, time is precious as he is pursuing a degree in Teaching Of Visual Arts at the Teachers Training Institute.

“Art is just a way for me to express myself. My duty is to impart knowledge to my students,” he says.

He and fellow artist Ilshah Shahbir have formed Komuniti Pelukis Hutan Bandar, a programme that allows budding painters — from students to amateurs — to hold mini exhibitions at the Hutan Bandar Recreation Area in Johor Baru on weekends. There will be one such exhibition on Dec 28.

“I want to develop wood-clay that can replace ferro-cement in a reverse evolution of an arts medium so that society can find practical uses for it,” he says.

Indeed, he is as tough and resilient as the kayu-liat he invented. Touch wood... the artist seems destined to achieve greater things in the future.

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