Kemelut Zaman-Raja Shahriman’s solo exhibition
The sculptures of Raja Shahriman have taken a new breath from his last works in Rhythm of the 21st Century. The dark serious pieces in rhythm have given way to modern contemporary and almost pop art sculptures. An interview with Raja Shahriman explains the works.
Can you tell us about the sculptures is this series?
The sculptures in this series are a continuation of works from the Rhythm of the 21st Century. In fact some sculptures are based on the sketches that were in rhythm. Although I developed the idea further into new forms, I incorporated bullets into the works to show the continuity.
You said the works are a continuation, yet the sculptures in this series are very different from those in Rhythm of the 21st century. Why is this so?
Well each series of work that I create is different according to the message that I want to convey. To me sculptures are very effective as a means of conveying visual message because you can see and feel them. However they are only effective if their form and mood is right. In rhythm, I had my sculptures made from cut up pieces of metal plates to imitate shrapnel which are pieces of metal left behind as war debris. I had them finished in matt black to give the effect of charred metal left after a bomb blast. Rhythm of the 21st Century is about man, weapons and wars. In my new series, I translate war within a wider scope and I explored new forms of visual language to convey this message.
Can you explain to us the concept of your new works?
The sculptures in Kemelut Zaman are made to symbolize the effect of war in the era we live in. War here is taken in a wider context and include both physical and psychological wars (for example the infiltration and influence of modernity), both of which destroy cultures and traditions and change how people live. They impact our music, the games we play, our lifestyle, our thoughts and behavior. I use bullets to symbolize this battle or peperangan and incorporated other forms such as musical instruments and other traditional objects to symbolize its impact on culture and tradition.
Why is it that you left out bullets in one of the sculptures entitled ‘Khalifah’?
Khalifah is symbolic of the ‘leader’ who despite his own destruction still battles on to free mankind from war and destruction. He symbolizes the savior, the one who brings freedom and peace.
Technically do you find these works challenging to make?
Yes. In this series, each piece is unique. The construction of each piece requires careful thought and planning. I spend a lot of time in details. I want the works to have a fine finish. Technically, these works are more challenging to make than my earlier pieces.
Is that why are there only six pieces?
No. I explored many elements in every piece. Each piece tells a different story. For example in the piece entitled ‘Irama Abad ke 21’, which is translated to mean ‘Music of the 21st Century, I relate the shape of the guitar to the human form and added an image of a parrot at the base to symbolize there are people who speak but do not know what they are saying. There is lot of talk and propaganda but the words uttered are not the wise words of a leader. Instead these words lead to chaos, conflicts, wars and disorder. In Gembala Abad ke 21 (Shepherd of the 21st Century), I place the head of an animal on top of a human face to symbolize how man uses his beastly nature to rule other man. When this happens it is as if man has allowed beasts to rule over man. In the piece entitled ‘Pekaka Abad ke 21 (Pekaka of the 21st Century), the hilt of the keris (a Malay weapon) entwined with bullets is symbolic how the artistry of the keris is destroyed with the coming into existence of modern weapons. In Khalifah (leader), the metal pieces used in the figurative sculpture symbolize a war-torn body while the bird symbolizes freedom and peace. Each piece of sculpture has a meaning and six is enough to convey the message.
The sculptures Raja Shahriman has created in Kemelut Zaman are not only refreshing to look at but are very appropriate in the context of our modern society. In exploring new forms, Raja Shahriman has cleverly transformed musical instruments, cultural and traditional objects into modern, interesting and aesthetic pieces of art that will remain relevant over time. The fine metal finish he has given the works makes the sculptures modern and elegant. Thus despite the few numbers, the sculptures in Kemelut Zaman not only affirm the skill and craftsmanship of Raja Shahriman, but also demonstrate his wittiness as a contemporary artist.
Tengku Elina Aziddin