Towards Gunung Daik: Pages from the Past (Part 2)
Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Selangor. End 1989. Living in a 3-story terrace house made me to work in a limited studio space. I have lost the luxury of a studio-workshop like in Jerteh. I made racks to store Teleng and my tools, and have to place the working table, which I specially brought from Jerteh, in the middle of the supposed ‘living room’. I used the outside front as the storage for some materials (wood) that I brought from Jerteh_ two columns, and other odds and pieces.
After the Maya exhibition at GaleriWan, then at City Square, Kuala Lumpur, I started to work on the columns, treating them as my carving exercises, whilst thinking of creating a new series of works. It was difficult for me_ I was caught up between the ideals of the ‘sculptural vitalism’ of the early 20th century modern sculptures such those in the works of Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Barbara Hepworth, and the esthetics of the traditional Malay visual arts (woodcarving) as in the Teleng Series. ‘Sculptural vitalism’ here referred to the ideas of vitality / organic growth / truth to materials, often in individual sense and contexts, that encompasses modern sculptures in general. What was I doing with the traditional Malay patterns on the modern forms? How else should I transform the traditional Malay forms, like the Hulu Anak Ayam Teleng, into? Vitalism – was it similar like the approaches or experiences that I have encountered during the making of Teleng? – These questions continued to haunt me.
Teleng was made through the technique of reduction. I first prepared the wooden blocks, made some guides on them, and started the sawing, axing and chiseling, until finally the forms slowly emerged from the blocks. Whilst the carving process was executed, I also considered my materials well, making uses of the grains, colors and the woods’ directional flow; thus echoing the ideas of ‘truth to materials’ as essentially found in the ‘sculptural vitalism’ of modern sculptures.
Eventually, I was out of materials. I have used most of the wood that I brought earlier from Jerteh. And where was I to search for wood? There was no forest around Taman Sri Muda but scattered bushes on the banks of Sungai Klang. I found some sturdy sticks or branches of unknown wood during my walks and thought they could be constructed to become sculptural forms. Thus began my shift from the techniques of reduction to construction. I carved, drilled, fitted and glued the branches together_ I then found a new approach in creating sculpture_ I started to look more into Alberto Giacometti’s as well as the Russian Constructivism… and started to collect sticks, branches and pieces of wood.
But – what was I to sculpt? What sort of forms? Teleng was a past already… though images of Teleng did occasionally appeared in the sketches and drawings of the time. I came across a well-known traditional Malay pantun whilst browsing a book on traditional Malay literature one day:
Pulau Pandan jauh ke tengah (Pulau Pandan far in midst)
Gunung Daik bercabang tiga (With the three peaked Gunung Daik)
Hancur badan di kandung tanah (All lost and will return to the earth, they be)
Budi yang baik dikenang jua (But the good deeds will always be remembered).
The pantun sparked an idea of places called Pulau Pandan and Gunung Daik. The island (Pulau Pandan) and mountain (Gunung Daik) are situated in today’s islands cluster of Riau-Lingga, in Indonesia. I somehow got interested with Gunung Daik and thought of it as an ‘unknown place’ that I could created stories about. I made some initial notes to begin the story. (Image of Gunung Daik is from http://saidalfaraby.wordpress.com/)
… A seafarer was returning home after months abroad. Approaching home (Gunung Daik), he witnessed disaster slowly ruining the place – dark clouds were hovering above the isle, thunders were deafening the ears, followed by piercing lightning and continuous tremors. He saw his childhood friends and memories floating and drowning in the wavy waters, writhing on the beaches… He saw everything went collapsing to wrecks_ ashes and dusts… the once mighty kingdom, Gunung Daik, the prosperous and wealthy nation, was perishing to become history, perhaps like Atlantis…
Beginning with the story (the complete version is now lost), I created characters, events and other objects to fit in. I began drawing, using mostly pen and ink, and managed to come with about 20 – 30 drawings (now most of the drawings are in the collection of Valentine Willie from VWFA, Kuala Lumpur). The constructed sticks and branches became more objective that they started to represent the characters and events that I drew.
*Pawang Gunung Daik is in the Permanent Collection of Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur.