SYED AHMAD JAMAL, DATUK
b. Kuala Lumpur, 1929 - 2011
Signed and dated 'AJ '58' (lower left)
Oil on board
107cm x 60cm
Private collection, travelled from Kirkby (England) to Selangor
ESTIMATE RM 75,000 - 135,000
|National Laureate Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal (SAJ) returned to England for his second art stint from 1958 to 1959. SAJ painted this Malay woman with the coiffeured sanggul hair, and the baju kurung showing off an hour-glass figure, at the Malay Teacher’s Training College in Kirkby, Lancashire, near Liverpool. He painted this mysterious Malay woman looking out from the verandah, her right hand tightly holding the curtain, probably in anger, while holding a gossamer scarf over her body. It ranks with the best by SAJ during this halcyon period: Pemudi Dalam Hujan; Ronggeng; Pohon Nipah; Mandi Laut; Sungai Batu Pahat; Joget (all 1957); and the standouts in 1958 – Hujan Panas, Chairil Anwar, Sawah Padi. Like Untitled, all the three other 1958 works were oil on board. It was a time when SAJ was doing more human figures, from 1955-1958, but sans the Dutch East Indies formalism propagated by Dato’ Hoessein Enas, who headed the Angkatan Pelukis Semananjung (later SeMalaysia). His first stint in England was longer, some seven years: Birmingham School of Architecture (1950-1951), Chelsea School of Art (1951-1955) and the Institute of Education at the London University (1955-1956). His next art studies were in the USA, starting with the School of the Art Institute Chicago (1963-1964), University of Hawaii, Honolulu (1973-1974), and a summer course at the Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States (1974). His works sold into the six-digits for many times at Henry Butcher art auctions, e.g. RM187,000 (June 2011), RM170,500 (May 2012), RM179,200 (November 2014).
SAJ taught at the Specialist Teachers Training Institute in Kuala Lumpur from 1961 to 1972, becoming its principal in 1964. He was a director of the Asian Cultural Centre in Universiti Malaya, KL (1979-1982), and the National Art Gallery (NAG, 1983-1991). The NAG honoured him with a Retrospective in 1975, and another major Retrospective titled Syed Ahmad Jamal: Pelukis (2009). His other notable survey exhibition titled Syed Ahmad Jamal: Historical Overview 1954-1994, was held at the Nanyang Gallery of Art, KL, from 1994-1995. He was the only visual artist so far to be awarded the National Artist Award, in 1995, and in 1996, he was conferred the Panglima Jasa Negara, which carries the title ‘Datuk.’ He was also honoured with country awards from India (1962), the USA (1963-1964), France (1970), and Australia (1984). His talents were so multi-faceted that he was known also for his writing (books and catalogues), and had been a logo/costume designer, cartoonist, administrator, educator and curator. He was also in the Arts Council from 1960 to 1972 serving as deputy chairman from 1968; chairman of the Wednesday Art Group and the Angkatan Pelukis SeMalaysia in 1969, and president of the Malaysian Artists Association.
He was guest artist of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (1991-1992), Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism (1995-1996) and the NAG (2008-2009). He wrote two major books namely Rupa Dan Jiwa (1992) and the autobiographical Kunang-Kunang (1999). He did two monumental public sculptures, one in Laman Asean in the Lake Gardens, KL, and the other, Lunar Peaks, which was torn down last year. He did the décor and costumes design for the stage plays Desaria (1981), z:oo-m (1984), Tok Perak (1992), Puteri Gunung Ledang (1995) and Keris (2007). His notable solos included: Chromastic Passage (Singapore, 1994), Kunang-Kunang (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, KL, 2000), Antara Langit Dan Bumi (Galeri Petronas, KL, 2000), On And Off King’s Road (Galeri Petronas, 2006). His first solo was at the British Council, Kuala Lumpur, in 1960. He won 1st Prize for a mural for Bank Negara (1970), 2nd Prize the Mother & Child competition, 1st Prize in the Federation Art Competition (1962) and 1st Prize ink drawing in the Johor Open in 1950.
Syed Ahmad Jamal: Pelukis (National Art Gallery, 2009)