The long journey from “Death of the Princess” to “Kilimanjaro in Nagasaki” is a creative task interlaid with belief,discipline,dedication,imagination,media exploration,technique skills,and the urge to explore.Juhari’s ambition and confidence to see Malaysia’s contemporary printmaking matures,seems to be the catalyst and starting point for this long journey.Realising that there are no short cuts to success,Juhari has prepared himself to discover more of the world of printmaking.Although the path he took in studying the creative process was difficult,quality is not compromised.Now that the artist has reached his destination,he has also discovered his encirclement.It is not exaggerating when we say that Juhari Said has discovered his creative paradigm,and has put himself amongst his contemporary visual artists.
Juhari’s creative talents seen in his early academic years has slowly but steadily developed through the years.He has pursued and nurtured his ambition in the creative development of printmaking with endurance and confidence.
Between 1982-1984,”Death of the Princess”,an etching that was based on Malay cosmology encirclement was created.This seemed to be his first step in his creative development.
In Juhari’s works,the efficiency of the techniques used on the integrated media with the content can be seen in totality.We can even trace the strength of his works here.His composition balanced the negative space that is in the background with the positive space space on the form.This composition is firm and closely integrated.Images chosen,like the seeds and the keris using monochromatic colour are presented as the effective spiritual elements.The forms are blended in great detail ,and apparently enhanced volume and organic effect sieved through natural elements.The dramatic atmosphere is frequently connected to the skies and clouds.To an observer,these certain symbols must have been perceived to be from a dynamic worker’s mind.
In tracing the artist’s past experiences,they were not all rosy pictures.Kuala Lumpur,which supposedly promises great hopes and dreams for a young artist,has sometimes shattered dreams for our artists.Did he rush out and run away from this city of challenge?Although the artist returned to his hometown,it was only for a short period.He went away not because of desperation or lack of endurance but to re-equip himself.Nature motivated his creative energy.Observation analysis,media and technique experimentations,and new subject explorations,gave him new hope and possibility.With newly acquired knowledge,our artist has chosen woodblock printing as a continuation of his creative process.
The period 1984 to 1986 was the turning point for Juhari.The kampung environment provided an impetus for our artist to develop his creative talent.For example,his works “Landscape of Silence”,”Sunyi Sebuah Malam”,and “Lanskap Kota dan Desa”,exhibited the artist’s sensitivity.We witnessed the gaiety in unity between form and shape.His lines were minimal due to the reduction technique effect.His forms seemed to be losing its volume.His background spaces were blended with layers of interwoven hues.The penetration effect could be traced wholly in the composition.Hues which at times shaped harmoniously and sometimes contradictory were arranged to balance.The whole works even though minimal in its formal aspects,definitely brought up structure and solidarity.The impressive usage of lines and hues depicted confidence and the individual’s attitude on the media to express diversification of images.These collections brought about the “Estatika 11” exhibition,and simultaneously placed Juhari as an important artist in woodblock printing.
From 1986 to 1989,the theoretical and practical knowledge gained by Juhari has given him confidence in value and significance in everything that he has explored.Fully aware and without doubt,he started pushing objectivity elements into his series of work entitled “Garden Series”.His entire composition is filled with brilliant and harmonious hues.Layer by layer the hues made his printmaking surface,bringing up impressionistic effect.The aerial view produced an open space effect.Floating shapes and lines looked as if it works without gravity as in “Garden of Wood”,”The Garden 7 a.m” and “The Garden My Mother Told Me”,which represented metamorphosis between natural experiences and imagination.In these series,Juhari rejected his past conventional practices.Registration idea was not taken seriously.This helped him to explore various new techniques and produced more dynamic works : clearly all the energy that flowed with intense imagination gave ways to involuntary elements,thus enriched visual element in his pictorial task.This strength can be seen among students whom he had taught.
The effect from his rejection of conventional characteristics did not give space for him to justify,because aesthetic discipline and experiences that he had used before in the printmaking were his special strength.This could be seen in his series “Baju Kurung dan Secawan Kopi” done in the years 1989 until 1994.The obvious change in choosing the subject matter was deeply felt.Here it showed his attitude towards the world he had observed.His context deliberation had in it a national characteristics.He saw the unthoughtfulness among the society in dealing with culture,natural environment,local and national problems and a lot more.His creative pressure had been burning continuously.For this artist a message must be delivered immediately.His certitude in thinking and the right move were his principles.The description on the attitude of the artist could ba seen through multiplied colour method that need careful examination.The solidarity task on formal element became effective visual structure.The integration of hues,lines,pattern,proportion and space elements produced a symmetrical composition.
Sensitivity in using colours was the main focus.There were contradicting elements to illustrate the present forms and shapes.What was interesting enough in the “Baju Kurung dan Secawan Kopi”,was the illustrated fine motifs.This could be observed through his works entitled “Baju Kurung dan Angin Malam”,”Secorak Baju Kurung” and “Baju Kurung dan Dua Cawan Kosong”.
Juhari’s success in woodblock print is synonymous with the development of woodcut print in the context of Malaysia’s contemporary art.This artist has lifted woodblock print to a matured level.His efforts towards printmaking were recognised by the French Goverment and Japan Foundation who awarded him with Research Grants.Presently,his activities mostly focus on participation in international exhibitions as well as travelling.
Juhari’s travelling experiences has opened up his mind to observe more serious issues.France exposed him to the International Art development.In Japan he saw that all strength came from destruction.He studied every secret and technique in woodblock print from the master printmaker,Yoshisuke Funasaka,a minimalist woodblock artist.The combination of experiences had shifted his focus towards the latest global traits and happenings.Forgotten humanitarian issue due to imbalanced material development was an important question.Since 1994,the artist has been producing a new series entitled “Kilimanjaro in Nagasaki”.Its title is symbolic.His method is dramatic.His formal characteristic are compounded in minimal and expressionist elements.His colours are black and white and sometimes red and black.His lines are firm,solid and full of energy.
“Kilimanjaro in Nagasaki” is a symbol and manifestation of a prestige imagination with humanitarian effect that grew from hatred on war.It is a universal phenomenon.It is a global problem that must be solved together.It is not owned by wholly powerful authorities.Feudalism era had long gone…there should not be any more hierarchy and hypocritical attitude.
Juhari’s dedication,confidence and beliefs coupled with his physical and mental energy and perception has earned him a special place in the development of Malaysian contemporary printmaking.Clearly,Juhari has discovered his creative paradigm.
By AWANG DAMIT AHMAD