10 things about: Aboud Fares, iron sculptor

– Picture by Opalyn Mok
– Picture by Opalyn Mok

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 16 — Aboud Fares is a Syrian artist who came to Penang to work for sculpture companies in 2012. Now, he owns a metalworking and welding workshop here.

Travelling between Syria and Malaysia, the 28-year-old held his first solo exhibition in Penang at the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre last month.

He specialises in iron sculptures, both artistic as well as functional pieces that could double as chairs and stools.

Fares joined several group exhibitions in the Middle East and had studied fine arts, majoring in sculpting, at Damascus University. He also started his own workshop in Syria, and lectured at the Fine Arts faculty at Damascus University.

Here, he talks about his art, his workshop and why he chose Penang as his base.

In his own words:

I’ve been working in my workshop around seven months in Penang. Before that, I worked for sculpture companies for a few months and from then, I have friends and connections. So staying here is an opportunity for me to join the art scene in Penang and Malaysia. I did mostly commercial work for the companies, not only iron sculptures. Last year, I did clay sculptures too.

I have 11 sculptures and eight functional pieces, like furniture, but I don’t like to categorise it as furniture. People will ask why this is not comfortable so these are sculptures but can be functional. It can be 30 per cent functional.

So it depends, sometimes, I focus on the functional part, sometimes I make just a sculpture. I see this as an opportunity for me to start something here. The art scene in Penang has been growing. When I first came here in 2012, it wasn’t like this. Now, people are different. They are more interested in art. So, if I start now, I can grow with the art scene here. That’s how I see it. I might be wrong, I might be right. I hope I’m right.

If I want to have another solo exhibition, it’s going to be next year.

The first step for me is already done, I mean, to have an exhibition here. So maybe I work on another exhibition, maybe rest, maybe go back and come back here. As long as I’m active here, it’s good.

In the Middle East, there are no events in Syria, at least. The art scene is not very active right now because of the war. Before the war, it was very active. Now, because of the war, it has slowed down.

The figures of my work are creatures that I like to create, it can be aliens, it can be humans. I don’t like to categorise my work ... if I say it’s human, people will say it’s not human, it’s a cool alien. For me, it’s just, you see it, you maybe like it, you may feel something, or not. For me, this is completely normal. As for the functional sculptures which I’m really enjoying to do now, because I found a way to reach lots of people. I can reach normal people who are not even into art because their visual memory can easily identify the chair, table and they can know or feel if it’s beautiful or not because they’ve seen this all their life. So doing abstract as functional art, people will easily see it as beautiful or not. I’m not asking them to see it as beautiful, but at least, it can attract them, as long as they see it as furniture. This is the balance I found in abstract art. I want to reach more people. Not only people who are interested in art.

I don’t want to name my sculptures. I don’t give names to my work. I want people to be free so they can decide from what they see.

It takes me five or six days to work on a sculpture. The functional sculpture, it’s different, so it takes time to work on. The smaller ones may take longer. I use new iron rods to make my sculptures but the smaller ones, I use recycled ones. Some I melted to form the sculptures. For the functional sculptures, I use new iron rods, it is easier to form. The costs for the iron rods, new or recycled, are the same.

I used to draw when I was younger. I experienced sculpture when I studied fine arts and I feel it is more interesting than drawing or painting. It’s like 3D, actual thing that you can see, can feel, can try. Iron is the best material for me, it’s more flexible for me to form things. It’s flexible to form than clay or casting any material. If you work with clay or any flexible materials, you need sketches, you need a plan, you need structure, you cannot improvise. With iron, you can do whatever you want. You start small and you grow. I use a welding machine to create my sculptures. I’ve been doing sculptures for 10 years.

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