The coffee industry has exploded and completely changed in the past fifteen to twenty years. Some blame Starbucks for the increased interest in coffee as a certain type of fancy treat, moving it away from the utilitarian beverage held in large metal vats to the single-brewed delicacies found in the fancier shops. Others point to gentrification of neighbourhoods. After all, fancy, boutique coffee shops are the first sign of a neighbourhood changing. But no matter the reason, or reasons, behind the increased popularity of coffee as more than a caffeine injection, it has become a different part of the cultural landscape, and its attracted artists.
Baristas around the world have long sought ways to bring the “artist” out of “artisanal coffee,” and it has usually manifested in latte art. Made in quick yet subtle movements as steamed, foamy milk is poured over espresso, people have taken this art to new heights and levels over the years. Its a wonder to watch and, for anyone who’s tried to replicated even a simple leaf or flower, it’s not exactly an easy task. One artist, a former barista, has taken those soft, subtle movements that are required for delicate latte art, and his love of coffee in general, to new heights. His name is Ghidaq al-Nizar, and he’s started using coffee to make beautiful and delicate works of art.
Ghidaq al-Nizar, who was born in the coffee capital nation of Indonesia, has taken to another aspect of coffee that many of us actually loathe: staining. Using the leftovers of his morning brew, the artist has taken to carefully and delicately staining small leaves, paper, and other objects. The results are incredible.
Coffee painting, as this particular type of painting is called, is growing in popularity, probably in direct proportion to coffee itself getting popular. But Ghidaq al-Nizar takes it to an entirely different level. By incorporating the actual grinds into his work, he can creates greater contrasts within the work, widening out the colour palette from more than shades of brown to include extremely dark, near-blacks.
Subjects of Ghidaq al-Nizar’s work vary, as do the shapes and designs that he gives to the various objects, but they often play with intricate designs set against simpler backdrops. Natural settings are a favourite, often adorning leaves with other trees, branches, and more to create something that’s natural and beautiful. Other times, he’ll stain paper directly with simple abstract compositions: a child in a fingerprint, a family playing around music note symbols, or a city growing from his own handprint.
The coffee watercolours of Ghidaq al-Nizar’s work swirl and intoxicate, not unlike the substance from which they’re made, and it gives his work a certain delicacy you rarely find in such small works. It also shows us that art can come from almost anywhere, so long as the artist takes the time to create something within the confines they set for themselves. In the case of Ghidaq al-Nizar, that means playing with a limited amount of space and colour in new and interesting ways.