“I’d like to invite you to my studio. But let me warn you upfront, it's incredibly messy.”
Neat was never his forte. Haslin Ismail’s studio, Over The Moon is a beautiful mess. Arrayed inside the space are prized possessions such as stacks of superheroes comic, medical non-fictions, collages, collected knicks and knacks, Frankenstein-vibed posters and rich hued paintings. He redecorates the space from time to time to set the mood and tone. For the award-winning Muar raised artist, inspiring ambiance which intrigues is a prerequisite when it comes to creating a masterpiece.
Albert Einstein deliberately claimed that ‘a cluttered desk is a sign of genius’. That said, Haslin must be a genius, an art genius.
‘What’s in his cluttered mind?’, I wonder. Everything you can and cannot think of, I guess.
Imagination is a vital part of his professional currency. It’s evident that he excels at it, to an extent where he can’t seem to set fantasy and reality apart at times.
“Sometimes I feel like the real world cannot follow my imagination. The project takes a long time to finish but my mind has already floated somewhere,” said the self proclaimed daydreamer. His non sequitur-ness (‘It does not follow’ in Latin) makes him the perfect surrealist artist, just like his favourite Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí and Tim Burton.
Haslin’s artworks speak the language of science fiction and fantasy, where strange creatures possess the artworks and the surreal elements in their futuristic worlds look starkly different to our own. “I love the industrial scenes, that’s why you see a lot of pipes, factories, robotic elements and also, human anatomy.” It’s about the element of surprise and unexpected juxtapositions, all in one.
They are not always pleasant. But boy, they are intriguing.
“I don’t have a specific story or message to tell,” said Haslin. He does not think in terms of messages, he thinks in terms of storytelling. “If I exhibit this work in Japan, they will also be able to interpret it in their own way. I love the idea that it’s not so specific, ” said Haslin whilst pointing at his painting, of which its title is still to confirm, on the wall.
“I want to focus on colours, I love the colours,” he then went on. If you pay enough attention, you will find that turquoise, orange, blue, green and red are among his favourite colour to use.
There’s always a common belief that artists need to travel to ignite inspiration. But Haslin, whose career started in his own bedroom, is a home person. “Home is closer to the heart,” he claimed. The surrealist artist told me about one of those ‘Haslin home alone’ moments, in urban term, going offline. It’s 12AM, and the tv is on, he’s taking his sweet time to draw some comics and work on his art, this goes on till morning.
At that moment, I feel like I'm the only one. I'm the king of the world!
“I'd like to be a doctor in my art,” he told me. He went on expressing his interests in using new materials, building his own laboratory and playing with geometrical elements. He always try to experience new methods. For Haslin, the adage that 'quality over quantity' holds true.
If you’re a stranger, you’d be in awe with his Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. He can be quiet one moment, active the next. “I wanted to be a badminton player when I was in primary school.” Hence, if he’s not holding a paint brush, chances are he’s smashing at the corner of the badminton court, and would dream away to be the next Sidek champ. ◆
Gallery credit: G13 Gallery. All rights reserved.