Seascape of artistic passion

Poetry, music and art come togetehr to complete M. Shafarin Ghani’s passion for the arts. Prasanna Raman observes how that fusion is reflected in his paintings.

For now, this is M.Shafarin Ghani’s ouevre. Although the French word, which means the sum of the lifeworks of an artist, writer or composer, would fit as a final tribute to one’s work, in Shafarin’s case, it is quite the contrary. His solo exhibition, Ouevre of Movement 1 opens up a chapter in his book of life that is still far from completion. Now on display at Core Design Gallery in Subang Jaya, the only thing that is a first for the Penangite in his exhibition here in the Klang Valley.

Volatile waves in a raging sea set against a moody sky form the crux of his seascape paintings, a series he specifically set out to work on in May for this exhibition. “My paintings are influenced by human emotions, and I think the waves and the sky best capture that,” says the artist who had spent many monsoon seasons in the East Coast to study how the waves rolled in the stormy seas. He had also ventured out into the waters with the local fishermen to see how storms, in the middle of the sea, changed the colours in the sky and the movement of the waves.

In this collection, he uses the chiaroscuro technique, perfected by Rembrandt, which ficuses on the light and dark effects to touch one’s emotional and psychological psyche. Like many artists, Shafarin is also influenced by the great masters such as Rembrandt, Raphael and Michelangelo and finds their works an inspiration when he paints. His love for the arts goes beyond painting. He has also written poems, some of which accompany his paintings. “My poems are very personal. They’re about what I stand for in life,”he says. Asked if he’s searching for something simple in life, his simple reply is: “Yes, wisdom.”

The artist is also very much influenced by Marx and Lenin’S Idealogies. His exposure to them came through his father, albeit a general worker at Penang Port when Shafarin was still in his teens, had a collection of books that opened his mind to radical thinking. “The most radical book I have read has to be Atheist by Indonesian author Achdiat Karta Mihardja, published in 1949.” Shafarin also loves classical music, especially by Ludwig van Beethoven. He says he never tires of listening to the legend’s compositions, especially the violin concertos, which he discovered in his teens. “At first, I could not even understand the sound as I had never heard anything like it before. But as time went by, I felt being drawn into the composer’s mind. When I am painting, I usually have beethoven playing in the background. He is an inspiration to me.”

His favourite compositions include Symphony, Concerto, Quartet and the piano sonatas. As one observes Shafarin’s latest works, one gets to delve into the quasi-musical waves in painted oil. A Beethoven fan can relate to the Moonlight sonata ochestrating in his mind as he observes the artist’s free flowing hand strokes which give paintings a three dimensional effect. “When you look out to the sea, you think you see a horizon but there’s no clear cut horzon that seperates the sky and the sea. It is just an illusion. I learnt that when lines are together next to each other, there are elements of tension. That is also what I capture in my paintings. I have also learnt that I can describe what I see in any way I want to. So when I see images, I see them a little distorted. If you see it too static, then it becomes almost like a photograph,”he says, describing that even in digital photography, images are distorted to capture what the photographer wants. But unlike digital photography with limited distorting capability, the mind’s capability he says, is limitless.

Shafarin can be considered a veteran in the field. He started painting at the age of 12. While growing up in a small kampung in George Town, he learnt about art techniques from a teacher who had a professional art studio.
After just 4 years under the teacher’s tutelage, Shafarin’s works were first shown at the Penang State Gallery in a group exhibition showcasing young talents. That same year, he exhibited his paintings yet again with the group but this time at a private gallery. A year later, at just 17, he held a solo exhibition at the Zhong Hwa Art House in Penang. It was there that one of his paintings was first sold. More exhibition followed suit and almost every year, the young artist’s works would go on display in the state.

On two occasions, his paintings went beyond Penang-one to Bangkok in 1999, when a dutch artist took his works there, and one to Pahang in 2001, when his art teacher displayed all of his students’ works there. Out of all the exhibitions he has taken part in, it was in 2008 at an art exhibition in Gallery Seni Mutiara in Penang that he had sold the most paintings- 10. Asked how he would measure his success of his paintings, he is quick to point out that it is the satisfaction he gets when he sees his works on the walls of a gallery. “I do not believe that success means having all my paintings sold. It is finer jusdgement when you see your paintings on the walls of a gallery. That is why solo exhibitions are important for an artist,” says Shafarin, whose favourite colours are red and orange. And he’s so absorbed in painting that he has not done anything else in his entire young adult life.

Core Design Gallery art connoisseur and exhibition planner, Scarlette Lee, who has seen Shafarin’s works in Penang, says such is his passion that the artist would head out to a construction site to work just to earn anough to buy canvas and paint. “He can survive without food but never without canvas and paint,” she says of the artist.

Not only does Shafarin paint, he also composes music. He had about 10 compositions although more have been performed or published. He has had some formal education in music. A music school principal gave him free violin lessons and access to his music school for over 4 years just because he saw the young man’s interest to learn mmusic. Shafarin stresses the need for more Malaysians to develop their talents and not just focus on academic excellence. In his travels to Indonesia and parts of Indochina, he has come across many people with immense artistic talents and creativity that he says is lacking in our country.

Working in a 50sq ft space he calls his little studio inside his kampung house, Shafarin proves that all one needs is passion to pursue one’s dreams in life. Scarlette says the artist painted furiously even up to 20 hours a day, to meet up the deadline for this exhibition when he was approached four months ago.