Quick 5-minute read: an interview with Malaysian artist Haffendi Anuar

By Lawrence Pettener

Haffendi Anuar was born in Malaysia in 1985. He is a multi-skilled artist who uses various mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpture and photography. His training includes the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. In 2017, he did a four-month residency at Rimbun Dahan.

Writer Lawrence Pettener recently caught up with him for a quick interview.

Were you encouraged to do art at school?

I was, yeah, I mean my father gave me encouragement as well; they used to send me to classes at the weekend, and I took watercolour classes, oil painting classes, and in school I had a really good art teacher; I went to an American high school (International School of Kuala Lumpur), and I took all the art programmes they had; some I took twice because I was then a bit more ready.  I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was in secondary school. There was this bit where I thought I wanted to be an architect, but deep down inside, I did know I’d be an artist. I never thought about becoming a sculptor till a bit later.  

Does it bother you that art isn’t mainstream?

Yeah well, in Malaysia there’s still a growing reception for art, it’s very new, I’ve only been very public in the last maybe five years.  

Interest has been huge, because people are interested in art as a form of investment, so it’s more sort of money-driven. They don’t tend to be into meanings, it’s not about the art or the message in the work.

Image result for haffendi anuar
Photo: Rimbun Dahan

How do you work?

I like it when you’re working on a piece and it sort of reveals itself to you – more towards the end, I guess, and you see the sorts or relationships that you had not seen, with that work and other works. And when you install them in an exhibition space, then you see how they interact with each other, and you make something new out of it, so it’s always a process that’s being revealed.

Usually when I come to an exhibition I have an idea in my head that I want to explore artistically, then I slowly do research and start making works that sort of move towards that. It’s usually just this like nonsensical idea or thought. I write quite a bit in my journal; it’s often really vague as well.

For say, the upcoming show in Singapore, I still can’t picture how it’ll look in the exhibition space, because I haven’t been to the gallery space before, this is the first time I’m making this type of work, this process is very new; so there’s nervousness and uncertainty.

You were exhibiting in Singapore (early 2019); do you like it there?

I have a strange relationship with Singapore, I’ve been really lucky to have projects there, I’ve been working and showing there. I’m friends with all the people from the arts scene, they’re really great people. And the built environment is very structured.

I still like Malaysia. I like a little bit of greyness; KL has a nice sort of balance, I like how the neighbourhoods here (KL) are building and growing to accommodate the arts scene.

What plans do you have for the immediate future?

I’m in a book called 100 Sculptors of Tomorrow, published by Thames & Hudson. It’ll be launched in New York and London in the spring. I was invited to talk at the Public Sculpture Symposium at the Royal College in London sometime this year.

There’s a residency in Japan I’ve been offered in August, in Sapporo. I’ll need to apply for a grant from the Japan Foundation to go there. And there’s the grad school application (London); hopefully I’ll start grad school somewhere in September.                   

About Lawrence Pettener

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Originally from Liverpool, Lawrence Pettener works full-time in the Klang Valley as copy-editor, proofreader and writer, specializing in helping solo authors. His most recent (and forthcoming) book reviews and interviews are in The Star (Malaysia) and Juliet.com. As Kwailo Lumpur he writes comic material about Malaysian life, food especially. Following the success of May All Beings Rock, three original poetry books are due out in 2019.
Find him at: http://www.lawrencepettener.com