A review of local artist Shaffan's first solo exhibition at the Maldives' National Art Gallery
Art and Malé have vociferously fought to exist together. Malé, lying on its delicate reef supporting everyday lives of thousands of people, has had little time to cater to art, artists and the art of art. Incorporating colors, patterns, textures and music to our city has sadly become a craft for svengalis.
However, within these confines of concrete and mediocrity, perseveres a determined pack of visionaries. Women and men with an eye for transforming chaos into euphonious masterpieces. I am referring here to the incredible artists of Malé.
Artists in Malé are benevolent, steadfast and extremely creative. Not only are these individuals making their creative ideas tangible, but are also working to sustain a market for buying and selling art in a city in which art is often undermined.
With this determination, National Art Gallery and Le Cute are two worthy-to-mention venues that happily cater to Artists in Malé. The frequently held exhibitions at these venues include paintings, photography and drawings of local artists that are also made available for sale.
One such awe-inspiring exhibition I stepped into was 'Alhi Raalhu' by Maldivian artist extraordinaire Shaffan, popularly known as Shaffoceans. This solo art exhibition held at the National Art Gallery, showcased a keenly curated collection of greyscale canvas paintings by Shaffan.
Shaffan is, as he describes himself, 'a Maldivian abstract artist with inspiration driven from mother nature and its magnificent beauty'. Undoubtedly so. His militant inspiration has spawned the word 'ocean' as a suffix to his artist name. Best known for 'spectrum-atic' portraits, Shaffan uses his signature twists-and-turns to fill out any and every bit of his canvas paintings. More recently, his painting at the local café Blood Orange, has caught hold of a lot of people's attention.
'Alhi Raalhu', directly translated as 'grey wave', focused on embodying the different types of waves we witness atop our oceans and onto our beaches. Often times we are blinded by the hypnotizing colors of our seas. So much so that we fail to appreciate the different shapes and forms of our shimmery waves. Shaffan has surely recognized these and has passed on the privilege to our eyes to appreciate this wonder through these paintings.
In this collection, Shaffan had explored different textures and brightness of the waves as well as different views of the ocean. Each piece had a different type of personification attached to the subject of waves. The titles of each of the thirty pieces were accordingly given in cohesion to the type of wave he painted on the canvas.
From the faint lighting and the choice of soft music in the gallery, it was evident that Shaffan has worked to present a cohesive experience fitting to the monotonous theme of his collection. Between circulating curators and an essential concession stand, Shaffan undeniably succeeded in presenting art to the community of Malé in a way that can be experienced by everyone.
The consumerist nature involved in sales of art is an art in itself. The demand for art in Malé is slowly but surely, increasing. On his opening night alone, Shaffan's paintings had begun to sell. Proving that our city is indeed, in need of art.
Art has risen, fallen, and risen again to stipple Malé with complementary colors. At a rate of a-new-artist-a-day, our city is gearing up to a colorful, arty future. Personally, this writer cannot wait to see and experience the next art exhibition in Malé.