ESA, Sulaiman, Garden of mystery I
Though trained in England, France and the United States, Sulaiman Esa came to question Western modes of perceiving the world in life and art. Returning to Malaysia in 1968, he produced a series of conceptually oriented exhibitions with fellow artist Redza Piyadasa that rejected the primacy of the physical in understanding reality. Esa sought alternatives in the philosophical and religious perspectives of Islam, Taoism and Zen, which he explored through experiments with non-figurative painting. Drawing on craft traditions and cosmological forms derived from Islam, Garden of mystery I features richly textured arrangements of colour and geometry on handmade paper. Through such works, the artist seeks to heighten the perception and experience of spiritual realities by creating surfaces that invite the viewer to look not so much at them as through – where dualities of matter and antimatter, volume and void, and figure and ground can be read simultaneously.