Lot 19

b. Johor, 1950


Inscribed 'Topeng' (lower left); signed and dated 'yusof ghani 96' (lower right)
Acrylic on paper
76cm x 56cm

Private Collection, Selangor.

ESTIMATE  RM 8,000 - 12,000


Rainforest is a painting on paper which derives from Topeng series – its motif has been simplified into gestural lines contained in a powerful composition – the surface is densely wrought in red, blue, yellow and white. Each forceful stroke binds the interlocking shades together, preventing the vibrant colours from exploding.

Topeng (Mask) series by Yusof Ghani was conceived after an inspirational trip to Sarawak in 1988 and 1991 where he was captivated by the mask rituals of ethnic Kenyah and Kayan whose villages are located two hours outside the city of Kuching. The idea to explore deeper into the mystical and mysterious world of masks first transpired upon his frequent visits to the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur.

In an interview with Rusli Hashim, Yusof Ghani has responded to a question pertaining the use of Topeng as a representation of the search for a Malaysian identity:

“I used masks for my comments on we human tend to wear masks to portray to people a desirable us and hide our true selves behind them. Hypocrisy of sort but not necessarily for evil reasons. Maybe a question of identity. Maybe we wear different masks for different reasons. Like being the live-wire among friends, no-nonsense type to our spouses, and perhaps for some, the great-romantics to their secret lovers, and so on.

Touching on the issue of Malaysian identity, that’s the least of the reason on my developing the series Topeng paintings even though I thought the motif was also interesting in making a cultural statement. Whilst formalistically I’m an abstract expressionist painter influenced greatly by the works of de Kooning, my professor Tom Nakashima at Catholic University in Washington DC kept reminding me that I cannot run away from the fact that I’m still Asian. It’s painted all over – the choice of colours, the brush works and whatever.”

Yusof Ghani was awarded a scholarship to study at George Mason University, USA. He graduated with a BFA (Graphic Art) in 1981 and pursued his MFA (Fine Art) at Catholic University in Washington in 1983. Before his American studies, he had worked as an artist-illustrator (Agriculture Ministry, 1967), an instructor (Fisheries Institute, Penang, 1971) and a graphic artist (RTM, 1977). On his return, he lectured at the Universiti MARA Institute of Technology. In 2014, he unveiled a new body of work named Ombak which was showcased alongside previous series at Sasana Kijang, Kuala Lumpur. Most recently, his artworks was displayed at an exhibition titled Shared Passion (2015) showcasing his old and new works from his personal collection alongside Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan’s collection.



Yusof Ghani Drawings , Rusli Hashim Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur, 1997.