Artist Interview: Zaki Zulfakar (Singapore)

Could you expand on how being an art teacher impacts your own practice?

Being an art teacher, I always see myself as the forerunner of my subject. It is important for me to keep myself abreast with the latest in art-making processes, especially printmaking, because I believe that I need to conduct the first round of trials before teaching my students. It’s important to walk the talk. I must also say that I am blessed to have come across some students who have inspired me and made me think more deeply about my own processes, as well as my teaching and learning. My students are an additional pair of “lens”, enabling me to “see” what the current trends are in their perspectives and what is relevant. For instance, I learnt how to improve my photo editing skills from one of my former students. At the same time, I hope I can inspire my students to be art practitioners or teachers but most importantly, to be more aware of their cultures and have a deeper respect towards the arts. It also helps that I am a hands-on person, and I enjoy the process of making and creating which is fundamental to printmaking as well as other art forms.

Could you tell us more about how you first experimented and worked with printmaking?

I first experimented with printmaking when I was 16 years old. My then art teacher taught me linocut printing using oil-based ink, and I have been teaching my students the same set of skills too! I still use the same technique without using the press, with just a spoon to create a more even surface. Then, we learnt to explore mostly on our own. Over time, I have learnt to perfect the registration, choosing and making my own paper, understanding the viscosity of inks and contemporising the designs to suit my students’ profiles, backgrounds and interests.

What was the idea behind choosing to merge digital and relief printing techniques?

Just like photography, I use technology as a “tool” to aid in the process of “creating”. It is important to tap on technology, as it accelerates some of the processes and helps me to visualise how my final product will look like. In my past works, I have used text prints created using my laptop, and embedded into my prints because, as you know, the computer is actually a by-product and an evolution of print. Our computer is an excellent example of having its prototype in an earlier technology, namely the typewriter, which in turn was developed from earlier methods of printmaking.

What do you feel is the role of art in contemporary times?

Art has a big impact because it is a test of our own understanding about our selves in this ever-changing VUCA world. It is not just about living in the moment, but about correlating to our past and making it relevant to the present so that the future can better understood and appreciated. A good example is printmaking, as it has been described to be one of the most “democratic” art forms due to its accessibility, not only among the artists but among audiences. The non-conformist nature of the craft enables it to stay relevant and evolve across time.