Syrian artist looking for a more human connection in latest Penang exhibition

Aboud Fares posing with the stunning iron sculpture that greets visitors the minute they enter the courtyard — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin
Aboud Fares posing with the stunning iron sculpture that greets visitors the minute they enter the courtyard — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 22 — Standing proud with arms stretched above, just a hint of a smile on her burnished iron half-formed face, the iron sculpture of a woman welcomes guests as they enter the open-air central courtyard of China House.

With the rippling water of the pond underneath her, the nameless sculpture appears as if she is beckoning people to scrutinise her every curve, from her rounded hips and belly to her strong thick thighs, even as other female forms are spread out on pedestals behind her.

The proud iron female sculpture is one of 10 on display by Syrian artist Aboud Fares at China House; this is his third solo exhibition.

Penang-based Fares has been living here for over four years and since his first solo exhibition in 2016, has now established himself as a talented iron sculptor focusing on the human form.

Some of Aboud Fares' sculptures displayed at China House in George Town
Some of Aboud Fares' sculptures displayed at China House in George Town

In Fares' first solo exhibition, "Untitled", iron was twisted and welded in abstract shapes of chairs and stools with some sculptures bearing humanoid features.

Last year, he held his second solo exhibition which featured human facial expressions and features and like his first solo, he refused to name any of his sculptures.

It was not surprising that in his third solo exhibition, Fares has kept to his conviction of not naming his artwork or the exhibition so the exhibition is called "UNtiitled."

"I do not want to direct people how to interpret my work by naming the works, I want them to look at it and come up with their interpretation for it," he said.

He said his first solo featured inanimate objects that did not really connect with the audience.

This particular sculpture is shown in the pond
This particular sculpture is shown in the pond

This was why he decided to venture into sculpting abstracts of the human anatomy in the second and third exhibitions.

The iron sculptures he created for this exhibition are fragmented parts of the female anatomy, often without heads and partially armless and legless.

Each sculpture is of a different pose and features a different part of the torso and each celebrated the curves, the ripples and the shapes of the female figure.

Exhibition curator Ivan Gabriel said Fares' work placed emphasis on the human forms, some of it even representing the true female forms complete with belly rolls, rounded hips and sagging breasts, a far cry from the usual slim, model-like female figures in advertisements and magazines.

"I like that in his work, the emphasis is on the human form and how he did not over-sexualise the female body," he said.

Aboud Fares does not name his works because he does not want to influence the audience
Aboud Fares does not name his works because he does not want to influence the audience

Since the exhibition is exposed to the elements in the courtyard outdoors, the sculptures were specially coated to ensure they are weather-proof.

Fares said the sculptures can withstand the weather and if there is any wear and tear due to rust, it can be easily fixed.

There was even one placed just below the surface of the water in the pond, a fragment of the lower torso of a female lying in repose, as if relaxing in a pool on a hot day.

The sculptures, some resembling futuristic figures taking formation piece by piece in grey burnished iron, are on display at a month-long exhibition and are also for sale.

Exhibition: "UNtiitled" by Aboud Fares
Venue: Courtyard of China House
Date: October 10 to November 11
Time: 10am-10pm

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