The Sunday Leader

Firi Rahman: Prediction Extinction

by Sadhana Senanayake

Human beings and animals have long been interlinked. We see this through ancient cave paintings, where man has drawn and depicted this relationship showing how we are dependent and connected to each other. Over time, we have become careless and greedy, forgetting that we need to respect the animals we share this planet with, and because of this countless of species have become extinct.

With his new exhibition ‘Prediction Extinction’, Firi Rahman touches our conscience, confronting us through his art with various conservation issues faced by different species because of man.

French artist Edgar Degas famously said, “Art is not what you see but what you make others see.” With this exhibition, Firi confronts his audience with images that beautifully capture the brutality of man. “My current works at Saskia Fernando Gallery highlights different stories from conservation issues, such as poaching, use of animals for human entertainment, captive animals and species on the verge of extinction due to human carelessness,” he says.

Each animal in every piece depicts their story within the markings and illustration itself. For instance, there is a whale shark with markings saying ‘Laabai’ in Sinhala to showcase the illegal shark fin trade in Sri Lanka. Fishmongers sell the whale shark fins at markets all over the country, and unlike other species of shark, the whale shark is a gentle creature, and because of this illegal trade the species in danger of going extinct.

Talking to Firi about his career as an artist, he says “Drawing has been my childhood hobby. I have always fascinated with creativity and drawing has been my great desire. I used to draw when I was kid, in school and even I sketch with my iPad when I was on my way to work.”

His work is incredibly detailed, and he explains that he usually starts the drawing process by getting as many reference images as possible and then transforming the image to paper by traditional grid coordinates.

“I choose subjects which inspire and challenge me with intense details like skin textures, fur and highlight with gloss effect.” He explains, “My techniques are mere squiggles and lines, scribbling tirelessly layer by layer to create the texture, tones and illusion of colour. My mediums are very simple; I either work with pencils or pen to create a black and white realistic artwork. But now I prefer working with pens. There is something elegant about ink, it doesn’t smudge like pencil or charcoal and that is main reason it works so well with me. I love the longevity and intensity of black pigment.”

He says the pieces in the exhibition generally take 12 to 15 hours of drawing per day, each varying depending on size and complexity.

On whether he has a favourite piece in the collection, he says it’s hard to choose, “Each piece has its own interesting facts. Some pieces has a very strong story, some are very challenging to work with complex skin textures and so on. I usually get rid of pieces if it doesn’t turned out to be my favourite. I already dumped 3 pieces from this series!”

After viewing an exhibition like this, one does not walk out thinking the same way as they walked in, and Firi hopes that this will start a conversation about these issues. “I want my viewers to get to know these stories that they may have not heard before or they have failed to take action on. Not everyone knows about the stories that I depict on each artwork, which makes them more curious to know about the markings and concept behind it. This leads to curiosity and questions about the markings and what they mean, and what happens is they end up leaning something they never knew before. For example, how killing sharks will impact on marine ecosystem, the price of inbreeding and crossbreeding, sad reality of exotic animal trade and so on.”

As for his future plans, Firi says, “I always change my mind, but I’m pretty sure that I will continue working as a full-time artist. I would love to do more conceptual hyper realistic artworks that will get the masses talking and doing something about conservation issues.”

Predicition Extinction is being held at the Saskia Fernando Gallery on Horton Place.

To see more of Firi’s work check him out on Instagram: @firirahman

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