Written by:  Scarlette Lee


Shafarin Ghani has a rather romantic side; he truly believes a work of art inevitably moves another human being. 

The artist felt that I was possibly the best person that understands him and his work enough to be the curator cum writer.  Personally I took this challenge to bring out the best in this show which he considers his hardest attempt to create a body of works that personifies his mind and spirituality.

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4 years ago, we were at a little cafe sitting by Gurney Drive, Penang.  I was intently describing to him my new setup – Core Design Gallery and invited him to do a solo exhibition with me.  As we reminisce now about the older times, recognizably he was possibly in the gloomiest phase of his life back then.  Most talented and potential artists are waiting for the opportunity for the world to recognise their work of art.   This was possibly the first major step for him as an artist, a key turning point and me as a gallerist.

The Shafarin I know is a pure artist at heart, a person who makes art for art’s sake.  Shafarin took his own learning path at the adolescent age of 14 under the apprenticeship of Abdul Rashid, the well known portrait painter in Penang.  To be an artist is not merely to possess ability to paint but rather an ability to indulge in various artistic forms such as music and literature.  During his first solo exhibition at Zhong Hwa Art House in Penang, he met his music confidante who schooled him on the art of music through violin playing.  Not a firm believer of structured education, Shafarin with his prodigal talent, possesses a unique ability which truly sets him apart from others at large.  Together with his headstrongness and willful mind, the artist is largely self taught and savours every bits of knowledge he acquires and strives to achieve whenever a goal comes to mind.

Within a short span of 2 years, he completed his music studies, achieving the level of a performing violinist and orchestra composer.  However he denies the possibility of being in the limelight as a musical performer.  He often confesses to me; “I play in a dark room all by myself, the music is only for me to listen to and also those who are close to me.”  There are different modes of artistic expressions: the interpretation creative and the innovation creative.  We would conventionally expect some “creative” people such as actors or orchestral members to perform (interpret).  Shafarin seems to lean on the other end of the pole whereby composing music and painting allows him the freedom of expression as compared to performing.  We will also note later how this musical talent marks its significance in his abstract expressionism waves of art.

Dramatic Movement

Shafarin started initially painting portraits and figures, entering himself into Penang State Art Gallery for young contemporary artist exhibition at the tender age of 16.  Dramatic Movement exhibition held at Galeri Seni Mutiara was the first ever exhibition which marks the beginnings of his seascapes series.  “Some echoes my work to Turner, however I am more inclined towards Ivan Aivazosky”, Shafarin remarks.  His technique and imagination in depicting the shimmering play of light on the waves and seafoam, provides his seascapes with a romantic yet realistic quality.  The waves painted then, carried realist colour palette with carefully constructed forms; suggestive of an impressionistic flavour.

Oeuvre of Movement No. 1

Shafarin is always and wholeheartedly concerned about the emotional content of his paintings.

He was able to take any spectrum of colours and bend it to his will.  Every colour, be it blue on red or red on blue, is blended to stir the psyche of a sensitive viewer who is free of conventional patterns or thoughts.  Commonly enough, I have often received feedback from viewers citing waves of melancholic emotions just by staring at the captivating hues and tones.  Tears too are not uncommon, a somewhat resounding effect.

During my first studio visit, he had this magnetic incomplete Oeuvre XVIII with its interesting composition and waves formation.  It was just placed desolately on a wooden bench underneath his zinc roof studio.  When he finally presented the work at the art exhibition, many people just went into hypnotic stare.  The light behind the foamy space forms a stereoscopic fantasy with one’s imagination.  The horizon is blurred, bearing no distinction between the sky and the sea with thick oil paint blended to create the various tones and layers.  The painting was initially collected by a collector but subsequently went to Henry Butcher Young Contemporary Art Auction fetching a high estimate for its value.

Oeuvre XVIII Oil on Canvas 86cm x 96cm 2010 website

Oeuvre XVIII | 86.5cm x 96.5cm | Oil on Canvas | 2010

In this series, the colour play was less varied and more cautious.  Though the strokes and colours were very expressive, it fortuitously reveals the ups and downs of the artist, possibly betraying his emotions be it melancholic or happy.  Many have mentioned to me, his colour usage was so brilliant that they can seemingly hear the orchestra playing in the background.  It was interesting how the visual effect was able to imply those rhythmic tunes to the mind.  This probably explains his talent in composing music as well as he see his paintings as one big symphony, pulling all the intricacies and complexities into one harmonious tune.

Oeuvre of Movement No. 2

A year later in 2011, Shafarin took his seascape series to another different level spending his time to work on 8 major works.  Oeuvre of Movement No. 1 was the start of the explorative phase for the seascape abstract expressionism subject.  However Oeuvre of Movement No. 2 – Yang Tersembunyi defines this subject.

His use of complementary colours becomes starkingly contrasting, as the details of the layers and glazing became more confident.  The paintings were of a bigger scale compared to his earlier series.  Notably so, the size projects hints of overwhelming embrace, seducing its viewers deeper into its realm.

The artist does not use any reference image but rather what he places on the canvas is his figment of imagination, memory and feelings from his experiences.

The Ninth, 183cm x 244cm,Oil on Canvas, 2011

The Ninth | 183cm x 243cm | Oil on canvas | 2011

The Ninth is possibly one of the most significant painting in this exhibition.  Similarly, Ivan Aivazosky’s most well known painting, also known as The Ninth Wave takes reference to a common seaman’s expression of a single wave larger than the others.  However Shafarin’s use of orange symbolic of the rays of the sun falling on the tip of the wave is suggestively akin to the peak of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a significant piece close to the heart of the artist.

Red box in Black box

In Art Expo Malaysia 2012, Shafarin participated in Core’s booth with his painting known as Malam Sepi Memanjang.  Curiously at first glance, it was a mere simple red box within a black box.  A painting that was totally different from his intricate seascapes.  It was then realised that he is probably seeking a different direction in his life especially in his art.

Shafarin- Long Stretching Night website

Malam Sepi Memanjang | 122cm x 122cm | Oil on canvas | 2012


Man & His God

This proves to be the 5th solo exhibition for the artist.  Personally, Man & His God is a tough transition for the artist to break away from his previously known seascapes, which in his opinion, he could not expand the horizons of the works any further.   As a gallerist, it always thrills me to see boldness of the artist to find a deeper meaning to their art and not be stagnated by a certain form or style.  I believe this body of works allows Shafarin to frame his mind and possibly explore the wider possibilities of contemporary abstraction.

To me, Shafarin has created a truly universal imagery of works that does not represent any belief or religion but rather, an imagery to prompt our minds to seek and reflect within ourselves.  It is perhaps his personal way of carrying the responsibility of his art to the society and to himself.  To truly understand these works, one cannot neglect the title “Man & His God” which wholesomely converges the series together, conveying a reflection of his existential concerns.

Oeuvre of Movement No. 1 confirms Shafarin as a painter, Oeuvre of Movement No. 2 as an artist.  However, Man & His God I personally feel confirms him as a man.


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Man and his God

Oeuvre of Movement No.2


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Click here to read more about Shafarin in the media