Hilmi Johandi’s a wunderkind of the local visual arts scene: staging a major solo exhibition just a year after graduating from Lasalle College of the Arts-Goldsmith, nearly selling out his paintings on show, and becoming a popular bet for art collectors to plonk paper down for. There’s something about his cinematic montages that moves both gallerists and buyers.
According to the 29-year-old, it’s probably the poignant nostalgia embedded within his work that draws people in. His fascination with the early years of Singapore is reflected through pieces that deal with “the social effects of rapid development, and the conflicts between traditional and modern ways of living”.
At his well-received 2014 debut show entitled Dusk To Dawn | Fajar Ke Senja, held at the OCBC Art Space, he drew inspiration from ’50s and ’60s films (notably those of Malay filmmaker P. Ramlee), reinterpreting film images through video and painting. Characters from different scenarios are collaged in unexpected contexts that “make viewers feel like they’ve stepped into a frame that’s both familiar and illusive”. It’s a twist on what old-world sepia-tone images traditionally convey.
This month, he will take part in “State of Motion 2017: Through Stranger Eyes”, organised by the Asian Film Archives at the National Library. Next month, he’s part of a group exhibition “Afterimage…” to be held at the iPreciation gallery. For all his obsession with the past, there’s no time for Johandi to look back.
Photography Zaphs Zhang, assisted by Sherman See-Tho Art Direction Kim Wong Hair & Grooming Ziv Tee/FAC3INC
This story first appeared in Female’s January 2017 issue.