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The Soft Explosion of Colour

Author: Marjorie Husain      Publications: Art – Review (p-18)      Dated: 11 Aug 1992

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Vivid surfaces and tumultuous patterns make explosive appearances in the latest paintings of Wahab Jaffer. There are two distinct and separate moods and styles used by the artist. First his violent abstracts, colours that move across the surfaces of the canvas; not merging gently but rather violating each others space. Forked and furious lines suggest lightening, a storm of scarlet rain, intense and vehement emotions. ln a calmer, more constrained vein, surfaces are peopled with androgynous  portraits. Sculpted, unsmiling, implacable. Often they balance fragmented organic forms and whirling flecks o colour. It is as though a comet has shattered and speeds unchartered through space.

Using bright, volcanic colour planes, Wahab creates an esoteric world. Taking tangible elements he adapts and translates them into an impetuous expression, creating the curious, often surreal images effects were achieved through the use of suffused colour. During 80s, the artist began to work with other mediums, watercolour and oil. Eventually he discovered acrylic paints best suited his form of expression. Since then he has used acrylics constantly. One of the few artists to use the medium on canvas, his intensive exploration of the medium has resulted in the artists total understanding and control of the fast drying vehicle of expression.

He surprised art enthusiasts in 89 by exhibiting a striking collection of black and white drawings. Here he introduced the observer to a metaphysical world peopled by creatures of fantastic aspect. Exotic birds merged into strange humanoids, and the beings into organic matter. A powerful element of design was apparent, thick, flowing lines created decorative patterns that outlined the subjects. Cloaking the naive seeming imagery was a brooding atmosphere of gothic undertones, the calm before the storm.  ln the 80s, Wahabs portraits began to emerge. Reflecting the depression of the times, faces grouped together like silent Harpies, two dimensional heads that retained a contact with reality. Brittleness in their pose and inflexibility suggested they could be broken but not bent.

Wahabs portrait exhibition in 1989 was followed by a period of introspection. With three solo exhibitions to his credit, he began to search for something more. Largely self-taught, he has studied alone and intensely, reading, visiting the art museums of other countries and studying firsthand the works of old and contemporary masters. Through the years, he worked himself progressively to a new, aesthetic standpoint, achieving a personal style in which abstract and semi-figurative form is combined with vigorous colouring.

Talking of then and now, Wahab speaks of the camaraderie that existed between artists in the `70s. ln his opinion the local art scene is not living up to its earlier promise. He feels the lack of contact with the outside art world has led to an insular development that lacks stimulation and interaction. Two decades ago, he remembers, artists were supportive of each other. They enjoyed each others company and would often meet together to discuss common problems and current events. Now, Wahab feels, there is very little communication between artists. Competition is keen but not very healthy. These developments, as they are surely a sign of the times affecting many realms beyond those of aesthetics and art.

Outwardly a gentle, soft spoken man, Wahab allows his feelings to spill onto his canvasses which have now become large in scale ranging from 4 to 5 feet. He creates larger visuals and murals by matching surfaces in Diptych forms. Brooding shadows threaten his bright areas. The form is restless and the colours accentuate this constant motion. Most interesting is the interplay of colours and form; when colour becomes form and form becomes colour until one cannot tell the difference. This, often intuitive talent is one of the artists greatest gifts.