Born Mohd Afiqe Aizudin Bin Md Farid, this talented artist has a unique aesthetic style that may already be familiar to locals. If you frequent the artisan cafes downtown, you’ve probably seen his works across alternative spaces, walls and buildings downtown which are always a visual splendour of striking hues and floral patterns.
“I love painting flowers because
1. There are no two flowers that are identical.
2. I’ve given too many flowers to the wrong girls in the past,
so now I’ve decided to give them to everyone (through art).
And it's nice being surrounded by flowers, kan?"
Fiqqyfresh sat down with us over a cup of coffee and shared with us his artist journey so far and what motivates him to make art.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started painting?
I started painting ever since I could remember, to be honest. Growing up in a typical Asian household where pursuing a career in the arts is pretty much unheard of, I was the goody two shoes in school who did not go out at night after school, studied Mass Communications in university, whilst doing art on the side and dreaming of a painter’s life.
We didn’t come from a wealthy background but it was definitely a comfortable one. My dad worked as a contractor and my mum cooks to support my siblings and I, so the mindset was always to do well in the academic subjects in school and get a stable income.
So, what was the turning point for you?
I was working as a designer during my university days but it didn’t make me much of a happy person. And so one day after graduation, I thought if I’m so unhappy and yet, I don’t take any action, nothing is going to change. I knew painting was something I really wanted to do and even if the road would be rough, I would survive out of love. Thankfully, my parents were supportive of my decision and started to see that the arts as a viable career. Slowly, but surely lah.
How would you describe your style of art?
I find it hard to define it because I like trying new things all the time. But if I were to pick one, that would be Pop Art. Very simple, straight-forward and very “what-you-see-is-what-you-get”. The ironic thing is that the medium I’m most comfortable with is actually watercolour on paper. But hey, maybe I’ll incorporate that onto walls in the near future.
A majority of your murals (like the SMILE wall along Jalan Pahang) are of bright colours and it gives off a very positive message. Can you tell us more about your creative process?
It usually starts with a lightbulb moment, inspired by people and things around me. The SMILE wall took me about a month to finish all together, definitely one of the biggest walls I have ever worked on alone. It all started after a night out with my friends and I realized through our conversations that a lot of them are actually going through depression. Suddenly it hit me that mental health is something not to be taken granted for and I knew I had to do something about it.
I began researching and sketching different combinations of flower patterns, colour schemes and fonts until it looked and felt right. As much as I love working with a trusty ol’ pencil on paper, it’s much easier to research on combinations using the computer before projecting the final outline on to the wall. The SMILE wall was a memorable one as due to budget constraints, I had to measure the wall, and draw the grids square by square, to get the accurate proportions. #broke
What’s your favourite piece to do so far, and why?
I love all my work, as every piece signifies something different but if I had to pick one, I would say the commissioned piece for Chap Barang, titled ‘Dreamgirl’. I believe that the best training an artist can get is when there is a client involved. It forces you out of your comfort zone, to learn new techniques and to stretch your creativity boundaries. Thank goodness, the client loved it as much as I felt satisfied of that piece.
Most bizarre incident on the job?
I didn’t know I could end up having 12 cups of coffee in a day whilst finishing the SMILE wall. I was shaking by the end of day.
What is on your Spotify playlist right now?
Spotify was draining my battery, so I recently went back to the good ol’ mp3 player. I listen to a lot of different things, but I'm currently loving this French trio called We Were Evergreen.
Fresh Essentials: 1. Valley Cruise Pin Cap 2. “Artist” Brush Series 3. Steve Kafka Kwill & Liner Lettering Brush 4. Powerbank 5. Comb 6. Lost Caps 7. The Notebook 8. MTN Color Charts 9. Shades, SBTG 10. Tic Tac, Melon + Watermelon 11. SJCAM 12. Masking tape + Small Paper Cups 13. Pencil Case 14. Measuring Tape 15. Indian Ink, Black 16. Enamel Paint, White 17. Tobacco, Mac Baren 18. The Sketchbook
I know you occasionally do workshops in schools and community institutions as well. Tell us more about it.
It was a good experience, different but good. Teaching is really something and it’s not for everyone. It surprises you how fast young’uns pick up a skill and they don’t wait for you to catch up. There was once, I had just taught them the basics and the next thing you know it, they started painting and colouring on their own and the outcome was overwhelmingly amazing! It’s very humbling, the sort of hopeful feeling when you see the potential and capabilities of the next generation.
What advice do you have for someone who might be too scared to pursue a career in art?
Find what motivates you to do what you do and keep doing it.
What is the coolest thing about a muralist in JB?
Coming back to JB after studying in Shah Alam, it’s shockingly great to see that there is an art scene in Johor Bahru. A booming one, I might add. Since the Johor Bahru Arts Festival 2016, I’ve seen more and more artists coming forward and collaborating with practitioners of different art forms. It’s a very important and great time to be an artist during these times, and I think Johor Bahru is slowly but surely becoming a community where the arts thrives.
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