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Naufal Abshar: Chronicling spirit of changing times

Carla Bianpoen

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, January 6, 2021  /  03:02 pm
Naufal Abshar: Chronicling spirit of changing times

Strength and resilience: Naufal Abshar, renowned for his successful “HA HA” series, has created a new series of artwork that takes a more contemplative approach, as in the metaphorical painting 'Nothing Impossible'. (Courtesy of Naufal Abshar/-)

After the initial shock and apathy following the pandemic’s emergence, the art world is adapting to the new situation while artists have reached unstoppable levels of creative energy.

In this sense, the launch of a new body of work by rapidly rising artist Naufal Abshar is welcome optimism for art lovers and collectors alike.

Usually buzzing with festivities and leisure activities, city life has become very quiet under lockdown. Indeed, many people were initially in shock and were overwhelmed by a profound sense of apathy.

Naufal remembers lying on the sofa, sedentary, owing to the health policies of staying at home and social distancing.

“I used to be so busy, seeing friends, visiting exhibitions and preparing for invitations to shows,” the 27-year-old artist said. “All of a sudden, it was as if I was living in a void.”

In hindsight, however, it was also a time for contemplation, leading to a new body of work that resonates with our present reality.

Launched on Dec. 7, 2020 at his studio in Cilandak, South Jakarta, the “Time Progression” exhibition features six large paintings and over 20 smaller mixed media pieces that encompass the entire spectrum of urban life today.

His previous “HA HA” series was marked by youthful critique on the folly of social media and the poshness of the elite lifestyle, imbued with satirical humor that marked its success. In contrast, the new “Time Progression” series takes a much more contemplative and inquisitive tone in capturing the spirit of the times.

'Am I' by Naufal Abshar'Am I' by Naufal Abshar (Courtesy of Naufal Abshar/-)

Naufal, like many others who were gripped by fear and anxiety when faced with uncertainties in the wake of the coronavirus invasion, ventured into his inner self to ponder his very existence as well as the existence of the human race.

“Who am I, what am I, and what do I need?” were the first three questions he asked himself.

These are laid out in his smaller paintings, which also cover the variety of issues that were making their rounds among people uncertain of what was actually happening in a society where news was dubious and marred by hoaxes.

'Blind Faith' by Naufal Abshar'Blind Faith' by Naufal Abshar (Courtesy of Naufal Abshar/-)

In using newsprint as the canvas for his mixed media works The Reality of the Word, Blind Faith and All you see around you is just illusion, Naufal in fact underlines the fallacy of news in our time.

Blind Faith is also accompanied in the same frame by text that reads, “what if everything u believe was a lie”.

All current issues seem to converge in immeasurable power as symbolized by the mounted horse in Intelligence. In contrast to the fleeting brush strokes in some paintings, the horse and rider in Intelligence are painted with strong brush strokes while the text overlay elaborates on the piece’s message.

Intelligence stands out from the other paintings in the series in the great resilience it highlights through the comments written in all caps that frame its subject: “Knowledge is power”, “Education is the premise of progress, arm yourselves with it!” and “With knowledge we can beat our fears”.

The artist also employs symbolism this time, with the horse a metaphor for strength and power.

In medieval times, said Naufal, the horse was an essential means of transportation. Parallel to this, he views good education, broad knowledge and intelligence – as in the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills – as essential to humanity’s survival.

'Intelligence' by Naufal Abshar'Intelligence' by Naufal Abshar (Courtesy of Naufal Abshar/-)

The artist’s personal motto is perseverance, as is represented in Nothing Impossible, which features a suited figure with what appears to be a battered face, sitting with one leg crossed akimbo on the hood of a red classic Ferrari.

The painting clearly indicates that Naufal has endured rejection and ridicule, perhaps even bullying, but it seems the artist attributes overcoming these to becoming the centerpiece “Self-made billionaire”.

“They mocked me, they underestimated me, they kicked me, Thank you!” says the text to the left of the figure, while the framing text to the right says, “Just be nice and stay humble, cause u never know what’s gonna happen!” Just above the roof of the car is the additional advice, “Believe in ur self!”. And to the upper right corner in bolder lettering is “‘From nothing’ to something”, with the final word underlined.

Naufal’s works resemble the individual frames of a comic strip, as each one contains text.

One enthusiast who had just started collecting art revealed he liked Naufal’s work because they told a story that were easy to understand.

Naufal is also generous in sharing his knowledge by communicating his strategy for success, for example as a guest speaker on art, even at institutions that do not specialize in art education.

The “Time Progression” exhibition was successful with 80 percent of the exhibited pieces sold, and mostly to new young collectors. Naufal credits the show’s success to these up-and-coming collectors who recommended the show by word of mouth, as well as to social media.

As Naufal proceeds on his path of artistic excellence, his illustrated chronicles of the ever-changing zeitgeist will be worth noting in the annals of contemporary art history. (ste)

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