I first noticed Malaysian artist Haris Rashid at a coffee-themed event at Le Méridien in 2014, where he demonstrated live painting using coffee. It was mesmerizing to see him paint a beautiful and lifelike image of a tiger’s face without using the traditional acrylic or oil paint. Despite the numerous people milling about and music blasting from the speakers, he seemed to remain in the ‘zone’, and it was actually peaceful to watch him create this stunning work of art.
Live painting is actually his forte, and he first started gaining popularity when he emerged champion of the Malaysia’s first Art Battle event in 2013. His departure from the conventional is what sets him apart from other artists, as he frequently uses mixed media and combined art styles to create his own personal style. He frequently uses combinations of acrylic paint, watercolour, colour pencil, and pigments. Wood is his favourite surface to work on and he enjoys experimenting with all kinds of it, along with textured pressed paper.
Born in Kedah but raised in Damansara, Selangor, Haris was always dabbling in art as a young boy, encouraged by his mother who was an art teacher. However, he never realized being an artist would one day become his career. Although he was initially unsure if he could make it as an artist, Haris knew he had a penchant for creativity through art, which led him to study Textile Technology in college. He later obtained his Diploma in Illustration from The One Academy.
He eventually decided to follow his heart and give art a try as a full-time career, developing his own unique identity as an artist which started gaining recognition in popularity around the country and region. He has now done a number of commercial and private commissioned work, and is attached to the Artemis Gallery which has given him plenty of support since his early days as an artist.
Although the range of his artwork is diverse, one common theme seems to pop up in various forms along his artistic journey: animals. However, it’s not just the beauty of wildlife that inspires Haris, but the connection they have with human beings, and concern over their welfare.
Of his exhibition aptly named ‘Humanimals’, the environmentalist explains, “What actually makes us different from animals? And what makes us the same? Several of my artwork depicts animals exhibiting human characteristics. With all the damage and atrocities caused by man, I am fascinated with the idea that perhaps animals are more human, and vice versa. I also want to show the world the majestic beauty of animals, even if they are ferocious. There needs to be more emphasis on preservation of these animals before they head to extinction.”
Creating his art is not only his way of expressing the way he views the world, but it’s also a therapeutic escape. “I am blessed that my career is doing what I love, and I have the flexibility to do it where and when I please. I realize that my outlet for stress is making art, because when I come home after a long day of painting, I unwind by doodling!” said the 26-year-old.
His unique style has captured the attention of people from all walks of life. One of his most memorable milestones as an artist was during Deepavali in 2014 where he was commissioned by Publika to create a kolam (also known as rangoli). The kolam is a drawing on the floor, traditionally using coloured chalk, often seen at the entrance of homes during the festive occasion. After posting his version of the kolam on Instagram, he was contacted by Instagram’s official account asking permission to feature and highlight it for their Deepavali post.
When speaking with the easygoing and jovial artist, I was impressed by his ability to speak English eloquently and describe his work so well. When I asked him about it, he said that his father, a journalist, always encouraged him to read and learn about the world. He also revealed that he tends to use his voice to help others.
“I try to help other artists who can’t speak English as well or can’t express themselves like I can by helping them gain exposure. Through my artist collective, Studio Mekar, I have met so many talented young artists but they lack the resources to brand themselves or make their work known. It’s tough in Malaysia to get support as an artist but I believe the art industry is going through a boom right now, and it’s a good time for emerging artists to come out and show their talent,” said Haris.
Here are some more examples of his amazing artwork:
1. Wonders, Acrylic on Linen (2016)
2. Kenyang, Acrylic on Canvas (2016)
3. Pray 2, Acrylic on Canvas (2017)
4. Til Death Do Us Part, Acrylic and Gold Paint on Linen
5. Safe and Sound, Acrylic on Canvas (2015)
For more information about the artist and his paintings, please e-mail [email protected]