When I first reached out to Mr. Iskandar to be part of Cloud, I had concerns about contacting him. I didn’t have access to an email address, if at all he used one, nor was there a mobile number offering a direct line to him.
I did however know where Mr. Iskandar lived. His house prominently displays a Penny Farthing Bicycle mounted on a red brick wall and an elegant metallic plate by his front gate bears the name Iskandar Bin A. Jalil. That apart, every visual artist friend I knew would point out the home of the famous Mr. Iskandar if we happen to go past it and tell stories of how he would toss out the ceramic work of his students if they weren’t up to par.
Mr. Iskandar is amongst our nation’s most illustrious artists and I was able to have a first conversation with him when his daughter Elena put us through to each other. He spoke candidly, uncompromising in his views on the social and political strains that govern life and about the trajectory of his artistic discipline.
Artistic masters like Mr. Iskandar are consummate teachers. They impart, not just their craft, but their life’s philosophy honed by the rigor of their practice and decades of dedication to their discipline.
In the afternoon, at his work studio, I see for myself the stark reminders to his students imprinted on the walls “Poor & shoddy work will be thrown into the clay bin prior to firing”. When he continues work on his latest piece, he emphasises, “Don’t think, just do”.
Mr. Iskandar expounds simplicity, but there is no simple route to arriving at the kind of simplicity he suggests. “Don’t think, just do” can only come when years and years of relentless dedication and labour, surface the intuition and instinct needed to bring to fruition Mr. Iskandar’s latent genius.
Mr. Iskandar’s philosophy embodies the pursuit of simplicity; exercise, live a simple life and you will enjoy it, says he. This pandemic too shall pass, says he.