AT JUST 24 years old, Khairul Basyar Aziz is determined to motivate and uplift others through his art. He aims to use his life experiences, as bitter as they were, to encourage those who admire his work to get back on their feet and smile, even though they may be going through a tough time in their life.
“It all began with a teacher when I was in high school,” said Khairul. “Because of family issues, I became short-tempered, rebellious, and always depressed.
“But my art teacher never gave up on me. The teacher taught me about expressing myself through art, an unbounded discipline where I can pour out my feelings into an art piece. I could see that my emotions were reflected in the quality of my work.
“That is when my interest in becoming an artist began. The teacher changed my outlook on life, made me look at life more positively, and set me upon the career path that I am still on today.”
Since then, he has learnt to accept the cards that life had dealt him and make the best out of it.
Last year, he visualised his journey in a collection called Accepting The Fate which was made for a programme called Young Artist Talent #11 in Thailand.
“If you look at the collection closely, all of them are of situations that would make us angry, sad, or uneasy. However, the imagery in all the works [features] smiling babies, which is meant to signify the sense of peace that I encourage we all have in difficult times,” said Khairul.
In addition to studying at Aswara, Khairul has worked as a waiter at a restaurant and a hotel, managed a night market stall, and done whatever he could to make a living.
“I used this experience to create Seek Discomfort in 2019. For this collection, I wanted to give hope and motivation to whomever looks at my work. I want to tell them that sometimes we have to learn from our past mistakes to face the future.”
His first exhibition was in 2017 at Titik Merah Gallery Publika.
“It was from that experience that I had the confidence to go further in my art career. My artwork was vetted and chosen for that particular exhibition.
“I even joined several contests. I usually get second place or a consolation prize.
“However, I did win the Best Creation award from the Johor Art Gallery for the 2019 Cat Art Exhibition, and was named Choice Creation by the Penang State Art Gallery for the 2020 Penang Art Open Exhibition.
“Still, my biggest achievement so far is the Young Artist Talent #11 that I mentioned earlier. It was a programme to develop selected young artists in Southeast Asia.
“I had to first submit sketches of the artwork that I want to make in Thailand before I was chosen for the programme. It was a week-long programme.
“Well known artists from Thailand shared their knowledge, theories, and skills with us. We even got a chance to visit notable art galleries there. It was a fun experience and I ended up making friends with young artists from Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Myanmar,” said Khairul.
Most of Khairul’s work has a haunting look and feel. The dark lines and details of his printmaking art, combined with the imagery of infants with no eyes, veers more towards horror rather than hopeful.
But he explains: “The emotion that I want to convey is unease that is reflective of the feelings that we have from experiences in our life.
“For me, horror is being scared of the horrific. Here I want to evoke the emotions that people feel when they are in distress or feeling sad.”