By Juliet Jacobs
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born 38 years ago in Baling, Kedah. I graduated with a Fine Arts degree from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in 1991, and I’ve been exhibiting since then. I now live and work in Melaka and Kuala Lumpur. I am also involved in Matahati, an artist collective that my classmates and I, seven of us, formed in 1989. Now there are only five members who are still actively working and exhibiting, as a group or individually.
What inspired you to pick up the paintbrush?
I guess the essence of becoming an artist is freedom. Though there’s no such thing as total freedom, I can’t imagine myself working from nine to five, everyday, for years. I hate rush hour, and I don’t like the idea of having to apply for holidays.
According to the press release for your new show, Dislocated, you ‘endured a self-imposed’ exile, being part of two different residency programmes in Vermont and South Korea. What made you decide to do it?
Refreshment: artistically, culturally, physically, mentally, psychologically …
What was it like, being away from everything you were familiar with? And what was it like, coming home after?
Food was always a problem for me, since I’m Muslim and I don’t cook. After being away for awhile, I started to think of teh tarik, roti canai, nasi lemak, satay, and sambal belacan. So a homecoming was always like a load of fresh water to a lost adventurer in the Sahara.
Dislocated is said to be a result of your encounters in both countries, and embodies two distinctive moods. Tell us about the experiences that shaped this exhibition.
Vermont struck me spiritually, with its serene, melancholic, and powerful winter landscape; while Korea gave me the mental and physical sense of an artificial and superficial way of life — but both were very important for my development.
What can you tell us about the works featured in this exhibition?
The pieces range from pocket-sized, mixed media works and drawings, to 11′ x 11′ oil paintings. There is a mixed media installation, a video installation, and two video documentations of my previous performances in Vermont and Seoul.
Do you have any rituals that must be followed when creating an art work?
I always start with ‘Bismillaahirrahmaaanirrahiiimm’.
You were held for 14 hours when you arrived at Newark Airport in New York. What exactly happened to you that fateful day?
With a Post 9/11 Syndrome and Islamophobia still prevalent, I was a ‘usual suspect’ since my name is Ahmad Fuad BIN Osman, I’m Asian and Malaysian. I guess the name ‘Osman’ is similar to Osama (don’t you think so?), so they just ‘wanna know me better’.
Any strange incident that sticks out for you from your S. Korean experience?
Would you consider the power of Soju as an incident?
What’s your take on the local contemporary arts scene? Any quibbles or criticism?
We need good contemporary curators and art critics — only then will our contemporary art scene move forward, in tandem with the Asian and international art scenes. There are a few really good artists around, but they’re kind of stuck under a shadow, a ‘ghost of the past’.
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
Nabi Muhammad, Syeikh Kadir Al Jilani, Jalaludin Rumi, Syeikh Siti Jenar, Sufism, Buddhism, Mahatma Gandhi, Tolstoy, Tarkovsky, Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, German Neo-Expressionism, Neo Rauch, Bill Viola, Maurizio Cattelan, Kiarostami, Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Carlos Reygadas, Yang Shaobin, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Haruki Murakami, Anton Chekhov, etc …
What’s irony to you?
Talking about Sufism while selling paintings at RM75,000 a piece.
What’s next for you?
To keep crawling up this ‘thorny hill’.
Tell us a really corny joke about artists.
Tired of showing and commenting on the burdens and responsibilities of the artist, an Italian artist one day applied for a Medical Certificate from a hospital, framed it and put it up instead as an art piece. He didn’t attend the show because he was on leave.
Be witness to Ahmad Fuad Osman’s lonely sojourns outside Malaysia, which take shape in Dislocated, an exhibition of works made during and after his residencies in Vermont, USA & Goyang, South Korea. Thu 25 Jan – Sun 25 Feb 2007, 12. Free Admission.
First Published: 29.01.2007 on Kakiseni