When we talk about the current development of Malaysian print-making Juhari Said can be said to be one of its more committed and influential proponents. As part of his own personal development in this area of the visual arts, he now presents us with OKIR. OKIR the word, is an ancient South East Asian term for wood-carving and is also the title for the new series. This style of printing is the culmination of a long and arduous ‘journey’ in an area which has been synonymous with this artist. The new series, is a reflection of everything Juhari Said stands for; his belief, courage, and determination to challenge and reject the conventions of traditional print-making, to take it to another level. Since his last solo exhibition, ‘Akal di Mata Pisau’ in 2003, which was in itself a deeply challenging and profound body of works, it has taken Juhari Said four years to conceptualise and produce OKIR.
His rejection of the idea of ‘state proofing’, which often refers to block-making or the production of sculptures, is an affirmation to his statement that OKIR is a new dimension in printmaking and is not just an intellectualized justification or a polemic cliché without reason and thought. In fact, this idea of ‘rejection’ had already existed in America when printmakers of the 60s produced artworks they coined as ‘combo prints’ which is derived from the term ‘combine printing’.
The question of change within its own context is well justified not only by relating the approaches and processes with the ideas but also with the choice of media itself. The relationship of the surface to the carved images, ink and pressure is always of great concern to the printmaker. Through the centuries, the accepted notion of what is meant by an ‘original’ print has always been related to the conventional processes of proofing and editions. This means that print impressions need to be identical throughout production. In contemporary art today however, the conventional definition has become blurred and perhaps the definitive paradox.
To Juhari Said, who is known for his determined attitude and perseverance in projecting his ideas and forms, printmaking is always alive…it is ‘indexical’. To him creating an artwork is not so much for satisfaction or acceptability. It is a serious critical discourse with intellectual reasoning and a logical search for purpose and meaning in a highly technical discipline.
Juhari has proven his commitment to his art through highly sophisticated, unconventional approaches and processes of prints with series of works like the emotional, surrealistic and political ‘Death of a Princess’(1983);the impressions of sweet, beautiful colours in the ‘Garden Series’(1985); the critical, political, cultural, and social commentary of ‘Baju Kurung dan Secawan Kopi’(1993),the universal expressionistic, politically charged ‘Kilimanjaro In Nagasaki’(1995);and the allegorical satire and thought provoking pieces of ‘Katak Nak Jadi Lembu’(2003).
Having progressed from his past success stories, OKIR is testimony to how the fundamental techniques he has mastered over the years, have now become paramount in the creation of the strong visual aesthetics in his works. The selection of the wood used is as important as the idea itself. Intuitive reactions and digested everyday visual experiences connect the artist to the character and spirit of the wood, projecting a vast wonder of visual impressions through cutting, engraving, punching, and mark-making. The act of spontaneity expressed by the experienced hand and mind is harmoniously reflected in Juhari’s OKIR series.
Indeed Juhari has moved forward towards a new dimension in printmaking. Venturing into another realm means new approaches and processes; unfolding the secrets of block surfaces; searching for hidden energy and meaning; and reaffirming that visual impressions not only appear on paper but also in the minds of the artist and the audience. OKIR prints itself as an alternative platform in lifting Malaysian printmaking to a new perspective and attitude; and may the print enthusiast interpret it as so.
Awang Damit Ahmad