Still-life Solidified

Batu by Fauzulyusri offers a fresh perspective into Fauzulyusri’s artistic oeuvre, which has spanned over two decades. This exhibition marks his 14th solo and 10th one-person show at TAKSU – a momentous occasion to celebrate an artist of this calibre.

Fauzulyusri has embedded his unique painting style into the intrigued eyes, hearts, and minds of many viewers, including myself. I encountered his sophisticated work, From Minor to Major, in a group show in Kuala Lumpur in 2007, where I started as a young gallery assistant.

Still etched in my mind is how playful, tactile, witty, fun, and abstract his artworks are. These characteristics of Fauzulyusri’s visual expressions emphasise technique, composition, material, form, colour, texture, and subject matter as we understand them. Art enthusiasts and purist followers will be curious about how Fauzulyusri arrived here.


Rock formation

In Batu, Fauzulyusri departs from naivety, textual, graphical and, above all, abstraction to explore the centuries-old still-life genre. Enshrined within the frame’s borders lies an inanimate object, complex solid mineral matter in the form of majestic rocks and all its splendour.

Multicoloured rocks illuminating from within, especially its gestural cracks and crevices, is, in fact, a recurring theme. These designs and textural effects make frequent appearances in Fauzulyusri’s progression – appearing now and then in series as early as Neolithic (2006); Coreng (2013); to most recently, Konkrit (2021); all shown at TAKSU.

Here, the rock is thoughtfully placed at the lower section of the composition to illustrate weight. Demarcated by clean lines with a minimalist and neutral background colour palette, as seen in Tona (2020), which portrays gravity and intricate details to the subject matter – Batu is an ode to Fauzulyusri’s journey thus far.


The commission

The shift from naïve abstract to still-life painting has evolved since a commissioned project for a hospitality establishment across the Causeway in 2017. Fauzulyusri said: “In 2015, I received an invitation to submit a proposal of artwork for a new hotel in Singapore called Andaz. The process took two years, and I produced two paintings and a sculpture for Andaz.”

One of the artworks is a 1m by 5m abstract painting currently adorning the walls of Smoke and Pepper, an eatery joint located at Alley on 25, a dedicated culinary hub in one of the DUO Towers in Kampong Glam. The restaurant is part of Andaz – a luxury boutique hotel by Hyatt in Singapore.

“The inspiration for the artworks I created for Andaz is derived from the island of Singapore. The painting depicts an aerial view of the island with several small isles dotted outside to represent Singapore attracting global visitors,” explained Fauzulyusri.

Later, he observes the composition with an amplified lens, zooming into the spherical outline and the roughness of texture only to realise that the outcome has always been there. Thus, the conception of Batu ensues.


After Andaz

In this series, two of the most extensive works: Kontra 1 and Kontra 2, feature giant rocks against a tree bark textured background. The dramatic black backdrop emanates a sense of mystery and, at the same time, illuminates the rock structure and gritty texture. The concept of being close to nature is apparent here.

 “My focus for Batu is form. The rock is not flat; hence my main concern is applying various techniques to achieve the right shadow, lighting, and textural effect,” explained Fauzulyusri.

The change in style contributes to the way he works too. Various processes demonstrate the intricacy of his artistry, from the selection of canvas material to the mixed media ingredients specially concocted and the technique applied to achieve the desired results. 

“In the past, the key to creating naïve style paintings is to activate my subconscious mind. My approach now is reversed where pre-planning is necessary, and working consciously in a technically controlled and methodological manner,” said Fauzulyusri.


The formula

For Fauzulyusri, Batu is an attempt to re-imagine still-life paintings and to give prominence to a single object. Unlike the traditional sense of western Old Master still-life that illustrates a bowl of fruit, a flower vase, or a banquet table, Fauzulyusri’s version boasts technical flair: a strong “DNA” or the “Fauzulyusri’s formula” that is distinctively unique.

“I am very much interested in texture from the beginning of my artistic career. ‘Batu’ is my first still-life series. It is clean, minimal, orderly, and arranged aesthetically,” described Fauzulyusri.    

The sophistication of coarse lines, thin cracks, and a luminous colour palette demands attention. In “Gelita”, the shimmering moss-green rock is enlarged to the proportions of the canvas to establish visual impact.

“To obtain the right textural effect and colour in each form, I have experimented with many materials such as textured paste, fine sand, and gouache paint. It is a lengthy process to combine the right elements onto canvas, which is why great care and planning took place,” said Fauzulyusri.

His formalistic approach to artmaking stems from the tutorship of retired university lecturers and celebrated artists, Associate Professor Yusof Ghani and Associate Professor Awang Damit Ahmad.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Cycle of life

A single rock is a significant material that influences humanity in all aspects of life: tradition, culture, way of life and faith.

The Stone Age, which lasted roughly 2.5 million years, marks a period of prehistory in which humans used primitive stone tools. It began about 2.6 million years ago when researchers found the earliest evidence of humans using stone tools[i].

Prehistoric monuments are testament to the magnificence of the ancient world. These landmarks are Moai Statues Easter Island, Chile; Chichen Itza, Mexico; Tikal, Guatemala; Acropolis of Athens, Greece; Giza Pyramids, Egypt; Ancient Petra, Jordan; Umayyad Mosque, Syria; Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and Stonehenge, England. 

Closer to home, the Borobudur in central Java is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the largest religious structure listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the same time, the Terengganu Inscription Stone (Batu Bersurat Terengganu) in Malaysia constituted the earliest evidence of Jawi writing in the Malay world of Southeast Asia, dated possibly 1303 CE.

In Malay folklore, a film titled “Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup” (The Devouring Rock)  dated 1959 tells the fantastical tale of Mak Minah surrendering herself to a human-devouring rock after being bitterly irritated by her children’s ingratitude towards her.

The narrative of Fauzulyusri’s Batu is told through the poetic journey of his visual expressions. His still-life rendition of the rock could be the beginning of something exciting.

Batu gives me the satisfaction of creating something new. I find joy in the entire process, adapting to a new way of working and feeling enthusiastic about the outcome,” said Fauzulyusri blissfully.


Link to exhibition catalogue PDF here.


[i] Stone Age – History.


TAKSU Gallery shot of Fauzulyusri’s “Perang II”, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 61cm x 122cm
Fauzul Yusri – Ruby II, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 61cm x 91cm
Fauzul Yusri – Batu 27, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 61cm x 61cm
Fauzul Yusri – Setara, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 122cm x 183cm
Fauzul Yusri – Kontra, 2023, Mixed media on jute, 174cm x 220cm
Fauzul Yusri – Bongkah I, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 183cm x 122cm
Fauzul Yusri – Gelita, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 180cm x 180cm
Fauzul Yusri – Bongkah II, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 183cm x 122cm
Fauzul Yusri – Kontra II, 2023, Mixed media on jute, 120cm x 170cm
Fauzul Yusri – Ruby I, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 61cm x 91cm