Salleh Japar’s works often feature a combination of multiple media as well as contemporary media, exploring perhaps the confluence of ideas, identity and tradition in a postmodern context of art making. His current research is in the field of locating and interpreting Southeast Asian (Nusantara/Malay World) aesthetics; its symbolic and structural readings of space and craft technology, and its influence on contemporary art practice. Since 1998, he has represented Singapore in various international biennales. A recipient of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Visual Art Award and Singapore Youth Award, Salleh is also a senior lecturer at LASALLE College of the Arts.
The artwork of nine stone-like tablets responds to the location as the imagined site for the early arrival of Islam to the Malay Archipelago, as seen in the film Isi Neraka. But it also takes references from actual artefacts that marked the arrival of Islam in the region, such as the Batu Bersurat (inscription stone) in Terengganu, Batu Aceh, and the gravestones of early Muslim preachers and sultans. The use of stone is metaphorical, in considering the hardest material carved gradually by the soft-approach teachings of Islam as told in the film narrative. The term Sulh-i-kull features prominently on the tablets, and is an Arabic term literally meaning ‘peace with all’, ‘universal peace’ or ‘absolute peace’, and is drawn from a Sufi precept, one that prepares its adherents to negotiate differences in new cultural environments and which in practice leads to peaceful and harmonious relationships among followers of different religions. Other Malay words taken from the film are also inscribed on the tablets: Ikhlas (sincere), Syarat (conditions), Taubat (repent), Dosa (sin), Sabar (patience), Belot (betray), Karut (nonsense), and Ampun (forgiveness).