It is a pleasure writing something on Juhari Said, who is turning fifty next month,and his journey to becoming Malaysia’s leading printmaker. When I asked him why he wanted me to write for his exhibition catalogue he said that I was his friend, that I liked and collected his prints and that I liked what he was doing with respects to print making in the country. This is he knew from the fact that whenever I was asked who is the leading printmaker in the country I would state his name without any qualms. The title of the exhibition “Yes or No” is according to Juhari based on his philosophy of life. In life he says one has to make choices and in his case his choice is “Yes or No” on matters concerning himself, his family (wife and 4 children 2 boys and 2 girls) and his art work. It is always “Yes or No” for him and nothing in between. Three examples of this method of decision making led him to choose being an artist as a career (in spite of parents saying no), choose making prints as an art form and committed to doing so (many artists while trained in printmaking have continued with other practices) and choose where he wanted to live. Choosing where to live was the most difficult choice as it involved others (family members). It was hard to live in their home in the orchard “Akal di Ulu” in the beginning. Sacrifices had to be made, more so for his wife, living where the nearest neighbour is at least a kilometre away. However with the decision taken and adjustments made with the help of wonderful neighbours, the choice has not been regretted. He does not give himself many choices in life and does not like to take the middle ground some take. He feels that immigrants are successful because they do not give themselves choices when moving away from their homeland.

Print making according to Juhari Said is a “Misunderstood Religion in art”, hence sometimes side lined by painters and sculptors, and treated as a minor art form. Collectors in similar fashion also tend to treat it as so. Juhari, an artist printmaker, does not agree. Juhari says it is possible to explore the possibilities in print making. While he has been making different technique of prints (etchings, collographs, silk screen etc.), his favourite is making woodcut print. In the “Go-block” exhibition he used moulds from plastic and reproduced them as though making prints of using earth as a medium. While other may not consider them as prints he considers them as an extension of his printmaking. Noting that he has a penchant for working with wood he used it to be carved as seen in “Okir” and “Samudera” series.

The works in this exhibition “Yes or No” are black and white works produced form the 1990s until 2008. The exhibition includes seminal works which have found acclaim among artists, art collectors and art institutions.

There are a total of 25 art works on display in “Yes or No” reflecting the theme. While this exhibition is happening when he his turning 50, he says turning 50 is not important. It is more important to become wiser as we age. When asked whether having this exhibition was a celebration of sorts he said it was not. In fact he has never celebrated his birthday all his life.

I have seen all his exhibitions held in Kuala Lumpur since the 1990s. This also led me to collect some of his wood cut prints including Blue Mountain, Kilimanjaro in Nagasaki, Katak Nak Jadi Lembu, Lembu Nak Jadi Katak and Carabou (the last three loaned to the university where I work). I have enjoyed viewing his exhibitions and am looking forward to this one too. Yes I am.

by Prof Dr. Krishna Gopal Rampal

11 December 2011

(Taken from the catalogue of Juhari Said solo exhibition Yes or No at MoMA Art Gallery,Desa Sri Hartamas,Kuala Lumpur.)