Solo Exhibition By Rofizano Zaino
Curated By Daniela Beltrani
5 - 23 July 2012
By Daniella Beltrani
An old man is looking directly at us. His worn out face occupies the greater part of a thin wooden panel taken from a shipping crate. The hues and imperfections of the wood blend seamlessly together with the quick and jerky brush strokes delineating the face. The sagging skin makes the small eyes and asymmetrical mouth sink in even further into the distance, as if they were wells into his soul. Upon reflection, he is not really looking at us but through us, perhaps lost in thought and overwhelmed by a sense of fatigue, perhaps he has reached that hazy stage in a man’s life when everything seems to be naturally slowing down; he is no longer fighting the inevitable forces of life.
This man offers himself to us in all his fragility and is not afraid of running the risk of displeasing our eyes, which are so accustomed to the shiny and polished images we are bombarded with every day. The beauty here lies in the rawness and sincerity of the instant in which he is caught. It is one moment in his life, which conveys his life- story.
The beauty certainly does not depend on the resemblance of the image to that of the real person – which incidentally I know to be remarkable. This man may have had a relation with the artist, yet he represents a glimpse into humanity, paradoxically through the presentation of certain unique details in his face, which the artist brings to the attention of the viewer: the sinking eyes and the misshapen mouth. The whole image is then built around those details, which, in the eyes of the artist, captures the real essence of the man and make him unique yet familiar. Furthermore, the blue and green hues of his hair, shirt and background accentuate the red and brown colouration of his features, literally bringing it forward, face to face with ours.
Face2Face is the title of the second solo exhibition by Singaporean artist Rofizano Zaino, also known as Rofi - graphic designer by profession and self-taught painter by vocation. His first solo exhibition Fragments of my Identity, was held at The Substation in April 2011. The painting Atok, 2003, described above, is the earliest work presented at the exhibition.
In terms of style, this body of work represents Rofi’s departure from his previous attempt to search for depth and movement in the physical representation of his subjects that could be expanded to comprehend intangible realities, such as traits of character or personal histories. Whilst the short Chinese brush used in Atok proves to be a more apt tool in the artist’s hands to better describe the nuances of the facial expression, it is only a few years later, with the use of the pallet knife, that Rofi finds the perfect instrument to obtain the sought-after effect.
Regarding content, the subject becomes the only focus of Rofi’s attention and so the space where his characters live is amorphous and unimportant, even to the point of disappearance, as we can see in Mixed 3 and Mixed 4, where the face of the woman tightly occupies the entire canvas in a photographic close-up, leaving out the inconsequential details.
This essentiality is the consequence of his more than decennial experience in brand design, where beauty, clarity of message and narrative within an image or symbol come together seamlessly. Yet the artist's creativity found limits in the commercial purpose of his creation, leaving him with a thirst for more independence and freedom that only fine art could allow.
His interest in humanity is clear in the choice of his subject matter; yet despite the variety of cultures and ethnicities one can see depicted on his canvases, the diversity is undeniably not the focus of his attention, but a mere pretext to highlight the common human aspects amongst the existing artificially constructed divisions, beyond the misleading layers of fabrics, words and newspapers.
In the multi-cultural Singapore of the 21st century, obsolete approaches, the legacy of a colonial past, only contribute to perpetuate such unnatural divisions in the way we look at the human race. In his oeuvre so far and in Face2Face more essentially, Rofi challenges this attitude: he decisively encourages the viewer to confront his characters and to see them beyond their physical diversity in favour of a more humanistic approach. And so, in overcoming the separateness, the subject becomes the one and only locus for discussion of common issues afflicting people everywhere beyond national borders, such as human fragility or thought control.
In short, Rofi does not see “us and them.” He sees a diverse humanity and its attempts at dealing with challenges and reconciling the inevitable dichotomies of life. Rofi is not interested in seeking an answer to the “Don Quixotesque” quest for a national identity. Rather he transcends the imported and artificial concept of nation in order to relate to the viewer as a spiritual being having a human experience, in the same way that brand design often intends to talk to the consumer at large, beyond any distinctions of race, religion or culture.
Rofi, thus, encourages the viewer to take the time to face one's destiny beyond the superficial. And in capturing the characters of human nature and experience, the good as well as the bad, one hopes that a cathartic consciousness could uncover unknown territories where mankind can reconcile the dichotomies of life.
- Rofizano Zaino