Artist Khairullah Rahim: Visual Questionnaire #19
Relics of tomorrow
Formerly trained as a painter, Singaporean artist and part-time lecturer Khairullah Rahim now creates primarily through assemblage. His past solo exhibitions at Yavuz Gallery might have delightful titles like 'Next Sunday' and 'The Incredible Frolick', and his art might encompass all manner of materials in delightful hues, textures, and tropical themes, but Rahim's work is, in fact, mostly a discourse on the marginalisation of minorities and the spaces they inhabit. From the plight of migrant workers to casual racism and homophobia, each subject draws on Rahim's personal experiences as well as accounts garnered through books, forum pages, and interviews, weaving fact and fiction through the use of every carefully placed object.
Rahim's works can be seen next in two upcoming group shows: 'One for the Birds', which opens at 1961 this July, and 'At Second Sight' at Coda Culture this August. Conceived during his recent residency at Salzburger Kunstverein in Salzburg, Austria, Rahim continues his interest in spaces of intimacy. This time, he draws the visual cues for his sculptural assemblage from the banks of Salzach river — a spot synonymous with Love Locks Bridge — where for centuries lovebirds have inscribed a lock with their initials, affixed it to the popular footbridge, and thrown away the key to symbolise unbreakable and eternal love.
Besides art-making, what do you do for fun?
"I enjoy visiting neighbourhood aquarium shops. When I was younger, I also spent hours at the public library almost daily reading up on aquarium care."
What do you watch on YouTube?
"DIY techniques. Internet has been really helpful with this."
Your most played song on Apple Music this year?
It'll probably be "Days of Heaven" by Brice Davoli. I've been listening to it every day for years! Having a musical background and playing the bass trombone since secondary school all the way to being a military musician with the Singapore Armed Forces Band while serving my national service, instrumental music has always been a big thing for me."
What was your last Facebook update?
"I am not a hardcore Game of Thrones fan. I've only watched the series from season 7, but Melisandre is pretty cool!"
What's your guilty pleasure?
"Anything sweet! Like ondeh ondeh!"
If someone could do the soundtrack to your life, who would it be?
"I am an avid fan of Bollywood. Hands down, A.R Rahman. He is a musical genius!"
If you weren't an artist, what would you be?
"I like the idea of becoming an aquascapist, or perhaps a landscape architect."
Which literary or tv character is similar to you in character?
"Might Guy from the Naruto series!"
What's your favourite country or city that you've visited?
"It's a tough fight between Taiwan and Austria, but I'll have to pick Austria (Salzburg). I recently did an artist residency program in Salzburg, and needless to say, I gained a lot of really fond memories of that place."
What's your favourite meal and where have you consumed it?
"Heavenly Sacher Torte at Hotel Sacher in Salzburg. I don't even believe in heaven, but yes, heavenly."
What would you tell your 12-year-old you?
"Chest hair is totally fine!"
What's your favourite film?
"Love Letter (1995) directed by Shunji Iwai. It's sublime."
What has been the most memorable artwork or exhibition that you've seen?
"There are plenty, but one that comes to mind almost immediately was the exhibition 'After Utopia' held at Singapore Art Museum in 2015."
What's one artist, performer or designer who you would love to collaborate with?
Where do you wish you could exhibit someday?
"Somebody's flat. No kidding."
What's an unrealised project that you wish to complete sometime?
"A publication project that I thought of when I was in Taipei. I wish I could manage my time and multi-task better."
What's your proudest achievement in your career so far?
"Managing to have done whatever I've done so far despite all the setbacks."