“Art is what you can get away with” – Andy Warhol.
So quotes Khanvas when asked about what art is to him. The saying resonates with him so potently that one of his paintings (see JUICE September’s Last Look) is a reflection of the artist’s philosophy, which is the artistic ethos he has adopted since. Looking at his appearance, that of a tattooed punk rocker, and demeanour, that of a chilled out Rastafarian, you’d never think he was artist. Just as the quote says, an artist can get away with anything.
Having background in the advertising field, one would think Khanvas grew to feel animosity for how art has been corporatised by the big boys. But that’s not exactly accurate, Khanvas simply thought the ‘fun’ stopped and he quit the industry. There weren’t ill-feelings that led to that decision. In fact, Khanvas is appreciative of it, as he says “it trained me to be a better artist, advertising is about selling an idea, with that knowledge in hand I could convey my messages better in my art.”
This can be seen clearly in his artworks. Khanvas operates under the belief that every piece of art needs to communicate with people as easily as possible. “Even the painting I did of my housemate’s dog has meaning to it,” he says with unmatched seriousness.
Even if an artwork is somehow lost in translation, he would still get satisfaction from the questions that would arise from looking at his paintings. Admittedly, it does infuriate him when people don’t get his art. “I want them to believe in me as an artist, for that to happen they have to understand what I’m conveying.”
If there were an ultimate message that Khanvas wants to spread through his works, it’s anti-war. Explaining further, he says that “war isn’t just about artillery shots and gun fires, two people can be at war with each other, I want to get rid of war from human vocabulary altogether.” It’s not surprising then that his works can be political.
His piece Suara Rakyat is perhaps most definitive of who Khanvas is an artist. Combining his background in fine art with his love for pop art, the painting is acrylic by way of his idol Andy Warhol. The bright yellow and the words ‘Suara Rakyat’ written on it make for a meaningfully straightforward piece.
Khanvas wants to bring colours to his paintings, even when they are making a political statement. He wasn’t always like this though. One of his favourite paintings is his Sid & Nancy for it was the first work he did that was a natural transition from his black and white fine art days to the current pop artist Khanvas.
Aside from Warhol, he cites Tony Montana, Lat, and Sid Vicious as influences. A list as preposterous as what he does besides painting. Khanvas is also a musician, photographer, and graphic artist – “if you really like art, you’d do more than art.”
“Everything I do is art.” And there he goes again, being meaningfully straightforward.
Khanvas has won accolades for his advertising works, namely for Zwilling J.A. Henckels and Levi’s Square Cut Jeans, and his artworks have been sold to up to RM2800. You don’t need to look at a physical canvas to appreciate him, check out Khanvas online at facebook.com/khanvas.