Sofia Haron is a Penang born Malaysian visual artist. Her work revolves around the femininity of a woman’s body. Her interest in figurative drawings in her earlier works made her realize the beauty of a women’s body. An interview by Dhan Illiani, Photographed by Amani Azlin
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Sofia Haron is a Penang born Malaysian visual artist. Her work revolves around the femininity of a woman’s body. Her interest in figurative drawings in her earlier works made her realize the beauty of a women’s body. Raised in KL, Sofia Haron is a Fine Art graduate from UiTM. For Sofia, she finds women interesting in the way they are. She finds art as a platform for her to express herself and capture feelings and emotions in her work.

Dhan: What inspires you to become an artist, and why? 

Art has always been my calling, the need to ‘create’ is an extension of wanting to understand myself, and the circumstances around my environment. It’s my way of researching into a deeper meaning in my life, seeking to understand the constant progression of truth in the world around me. I also feel like there’s something precious about being able to reach out to others with art, whether it inspires, correlates, or evokes something in them, it feels as though I’m contributing to a new reason for them to continuously push forward. I really just want people to feel like they aren’t alone — they too can create something beautiful out of their situation or emotion.

Dhan: Besides evoking emotions through your paintings, did this style of yours come about due to your subjects being predominantly women? What inspired you to be delving into artwork that revolves around the femininity of women and what draws you to paint women in the first place? 

My previous work centered a lot on drawing masculine figures but over time I started to be intrigued by the nature of women and the focus shifted to trying to understand myself and the interaction or relationship women had amongst each other. Being an avid fan of the renaissance period contributed to developing this style of mine.  How the art of that period came to a point where they were so lifelike, a sort of soul was embedded in them, it felt spiritual. I’ve noticed the paintings were often of women or men drawn with a noticeable feminine quality. Growing up I had trouble bonding with other women even amongst my siblings, I often get caught up in crossfires from unhealthy rivalry, envy, baseless accusations, and such. So I try to capture and convey the spectrum that exists in female relationships on how we females can manifest to be the biggest ally towards each other but also the worst. It serves a way for me to give back and create a utopia, my way of purging the animosity I faced from some of the women growing up.

Dhan: Was there a shift, in terms of your artistic growth in exploring the female subject?

 Definitely, other than being able to channel the female energy in a new positive and powerful light, my style of painting felt more constructive and therapeutic to my development.

Dhan: What do you try to portray or highlight, if not ‘take away’ from your viewers who view your art, besides emotion?

I aim for my viewers to be able to feel and think about what it carries, the desire, lust, mind of it. I’d like to see how my work manifests or reflects on them. It always fascinates me how the perspective towards women has changed over the years. To bear children is not the sole purpose of our (women) existence. Women of all shapes and sizes are cherished in the media. Women in business are no longer an unusual sight. But what does being a woman really mean? 

Dhan: Art has always been a form of propaganda, movement, message if not narrative to be sent out to the public, since the early days, with your statement above, do you try to make your art relevant to the current issue with women these days?

As a woman of this time, I think it’s inevitable that my work might be relatable to other women although it isn’t my intention since the thought that goes into my paintings are mostly personal in nature and fueled by my own need to understand myself and what the female energy is. 

Dhan: Do you think your art could engender a certain narrative or message?

My art speaks things as it is. A challenge to capture the raw interaction and boldness of the modern women of this time, whether it be envy or camaraderie, promiscuous or modest, I want my viewers to see the women I immortalize in paintings as they are, unapologetic and not necessarily glossed over to harmonize together.

Dhan: If so, what would be the message you would want your viewers to get?

 I have always been into figurative art and as I evolve as a woman and artist, I am inspired by the uniqueness of women in the current era which translates into my art. Recently I am more drawn into a soft color palette. I believe emotion is the most important element to be captured in my artwork, and the color palette I chose that grounds my paintings display a sense of stability and calmness. 

Dhan: What is it like being a creative in Malaysia?

For starters, it’s full of uncertainties especially when it comes to getting collectors or clientele in being a multi-disciplinary artist, so it’s often a gamble when you create work that’s not commissioned. The people here do prefer conventional work and as a nation, we don’t hold very high regard towards the importance of art.  We need more galleries, more curators, and a more united art scene or community. I do enjoy the growing diverse range of creatives and the youth of today are really pushing down boundaries. There is a strong shift but it still needs a lot of support from the community in terms of funding and platforms.

Dhan: Could you explain to us what was the idea behind your installation for Urbanscapes this year?

 The disco ballroom was commissioned by Urbanscapes in collaboration with Filament who decided to work with me. I added my own idea by having it go with reflective clothing and masks that I handmade myself to go with the lights. The masks which were inspired by Malaysian animals were to grant the participants the joy of being anonymous and create a scene where everyone is equal. The Retro Malay songs were a throwback to the good old times and part of our culture that we don’t seem to celebrate as much. I treated it as a social experiment to observe whether the people who dropped by would let loose, dance, or behave differently with the anonymity, which they did! I wanted to encourage people to express and shine without feeling bashful of their moves (i myself am a bad dancer!) So in reality the people who joined in became the disco ball themselves, they reflected and shone on one another. 

Dhan:  In your case, do you feel art is a separate entity with you? Or does it coexist with you as an individual?

It lives with me, I don’t separate my work with myself, I paint with my gut, my emotions experiences, and thoughts so they’re all directly a reflection of myself.

Dhan: In 10 years time, what could you expect from the art industry, what do you hope to change, improve, and more?

More of everything, more galleries and artists represented by them, more collectors and curators. The art community to be more united and supportive of one another. 

Dhan: As an artist who’s constantly trying to better herself and exploring new ideas, what would be your goal, as an artist or an individual for now?

It’s very possible that I’ll get into education, to encourage everyone especially underprivileged youths to take up and try expressing themselves through art. Art is such a fundamental aspect of life and it can have a massive positive impact on people and society as a whole, but not everyone has the chance to indulge in it, I want to give back what art has given me.