Hafiz Shahimi is notably acknowledged as having pioneered the art of pyrography printmaking when he introduced it in 2014.
A multidisciplinary artist in the fields of painting, installation and performance art, Haafiz has been exploring the techniques of creating art with fire through pyrography printing and direct fire burning for more than a decade. Using Asian philosophies and contemporary social issues to frame his practice, he engages with, and responds to, local cultural histories. He makes extensive use of traditional Malaysian elements; his art has always grasped a sense of locality that transcends time and space. His artworks, Self-Fish, Hamba Kayangan, Intensity of Heaven and Earth, etc. synthesise Malay and Southeast Asian cultural elements to encourage East-West dialogue.
Haafiz’s self-developed style of pyrography printmaking, grounded in the print and textile traditions of Malaysia, initially engaged in a straightforward mimic of batik printing. He had embedded imagery onto metal blocks to create personalised ‘matrices’, heated and applied to canvas and jute surfaces. Clear parallels run between this process and batik production, but variations in temperature that could change the final visual effect led him to experiment further. Merging the laws of thermodynamics, stemming from his fascination with the omnipresence of science with the formal aspects of art production— specifically drawing, painting and print, his art reveals a latent interest in duality: science/mythology, East/West, and physics/philosophy. Consequently, he has developed a sub-sect of printing techniques, amongst them pyrography print, inverted burn, direct petrol burn and chemical burning. This personal arsenal of techniques sit along the established sub-genres of printmaking, which include screen printing, engraving, etching, dry point and lithography.
As Haafiz seeks to strengthen the connection between his practice and the wider society, the relationship between media, processes and concepts emerges. This has guided him towards local myths and legends. Intensity of Heaven and Earth and Hamba Kayangan both refer to the legendary phoenix. The image of this mythical bird, often a symbol of renewal and rebirth, is not only rooted in the folklore of Southeast Asia, but even incarnated as far as China and the United States.
Visually, this series of artworks incorporates Haafiz's iconic elements, now interpreted in a brand-new presentation. The use of batik dyes makes the palette more intense and diverse, with blue, red, orange and turquoise hues dominating the sepia tone, making his pyrographs more vivid. Emulating elements of Chinese ink painting, Haafiz has chosen to use batik dye on the surface of jute, just like Chinese ink on rice paper. The blending of batik dye with water produces special penetrating effects of luminosity and transparency. His mark making burns create strokes that imitate Chinese ink painting and express the imageries in a semi abstraction of real and surreal effects, summoning viewers into a dream-like state or reverie. This visual experience aligns with the aesthetic ideal of Chinese painting, which gives attention to the idea of “artistic conception” or the “soul”.
Haafiz graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from MARA University of Technology (UiTM) in 2011. A recipient of the Young Guns Art Award in 2017, his works are collected by private and corporate collectors locally and internationally.