The Divine Comedy: Israfil Ridhwan

Press release

Cuturi Gallery is proud to introduce Singaporean artist Israfil Ridhwan (b. 1999) in his debut solo exhibition, The Divine Comedy. A visual storyteller, Israfil transposes the lived and dreamed experiences of the people around him into a colourful arrangement of warm hued canvases.


The figurative oil paintings of the contemporary artist feature neo-expressionist poster-like compositions, an alluring medley of relayed narratives and inspirations. Vivid colours, bold outlines, and rhythmic figures welcome audiences to walk through a series of cinematic events through the compelling lens of Time Out’s up-and-coming artist.


Mysticism, movement, and drama breeze through Israfil’s latest collection of work as he crafts a harmonious marriage of local encounters with neo-latin cultural influences. Inspiration from baroque masters is apparent in the strong contrasts between light and shadow, or chiaroscuro, of Israfil’s paintings. The artist adds spontaneity and character with oil pastel and acrylic marker drawings, reminiscent of Basquiat.


An intuitive and experimental painter, The Divine Comedy reveals Israfil’s sensitivity as an artist to convey the complexity of emotions and comment on present day social issues. Linearly painted figures framed with distinct borders mimic a magazine’s front page to offer viewers a synopsis of sentient life.


A rhapsody of classical and modern inspirations, Israfil tactfully critiques the parallels between historic events and now. A personification of the media's ‘angry woman’ narrative, Vesuvius as a Woman (2021) records how historical feminist issues are currently being replayed, while Don’t Blame the Devil for Your Lust (2021) confronts the recurrent affairs of flawed human excuses, an epigram for the ongoing injustices in today’s society. Extending an air of old western mystery, Into the Grass Fields (2021) is dusted with elements of the twenty-first century. Peek a Vivienne Westwood necklace and a classical symbol of innocence and inwardness, the mix of old and new references evoke suspense and curiosity.  


Beyond figurative subjects, Israfil’s stylised art weaves text and lyrics to complement the musicality of his multimedia paintings. Influences from Spanish folk music are superposed with electronic and indie genres as popular culture icons including Lana Del Ray and C. Tangana chorus through traditional mediums. Easy Rider (2021) references the indie pop song of the same title and captures intimate scenes of brotherhood, inspiring contemplation over themes of camaraderie and kinship.


Feel the tempo of Israfil’s spirited works as he mediates life and art. Drawing insights from a variety of art forms, The Divine Comedy is a showreel of everyday events from the artist’s perspective.


Israfil graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts 2020 with a Diploma in Fine Arts and has since shown in group exhibitions including Fresh Take (2021) at Cuturi Gallery. The artist is also part of Cuturi Gallery’s c/discoveries programme, an initiative dedicated to supporting young and emerging artists.


The Divine Comedy will be on view at Cuturi Gallery from 24 July to 15 August 2021.


Exhibition Catalogue

Installation Views