Lot 079

b. Johor, 1950


Inscribed 'Yusof Ghani ↑ 16 Siri Tari XII/88' on reverse
Mixed media on canvas
138cm x 102cm

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur;
acquired directly from the artist.

ESTIMATE  RM 60,000 - 80,000
The Abstract Expressionist Willem De Kooning, to whom Yusof Ghani reveres as a spiritual mentor had said: “An artist must begin with art as he finds it: in creating he is free but he creates within a given context”. In Yusof’s most celebrated Siri Tari in a span between 1984 to 1992, Yusof was working in a frenzy in thought as well as in act, the brushstrokes vigorous and graceful in tandem with his dance-like movements. He virtually dances and paints at the same time. The figures are not realistically enunciated and often suggested in a few sinuous lines, probably because of the influence of Islamic fundamentalism from Iran during the mid 1980s with its strictures reminding against any representation of human forms or idolatry. In a statement in March 1989, Yusof confided: “I apply my paint using a variety of techniques – working into wet ground, painting directly on unprimed canvas: scraping, smearing, scratching into wet pigment, which contributes to a shallow illusion of space combining areas of translucency, opacity, matter, glaze, texture and sleekness, areas of shimmer, glow, float, recede, fade or lay flat; varying the exact portion of the surface”.

Yusof’s preoccupation with the concept of dance had started in his student days when he submitted a painting titled Dance: A Cultural Statement (1982) for the thesis component of his master’s degree at Catholic University in the USA . At the time, he participated in a group protest show against American intervention in Nicaragua with his audacious body of work called the Protest series. Upon returning to Malaysia after his studies, Yusof decided to fuse formal elements of the gestural dance with the socio-politically charged Protest approach, marking the beginning of Tari. Chaotic and directionless, dancing is, for the artist, a metaphor for the inequality of life that led to chaos; a social commentary on humanitarian issues. The series is not merely an act of dance as Gail Enns, owner of Anton Gallery in Washington DC, commented during Yusof’s first solo exhibition in 1984, “You can feel his underlying concern for humankind. It’s dancers, but it’s also something else. There are tremendous levels of subliminal content. The dancers are reaching out… for something more”.

Heavily influenced by the American Abstract Expressionism, Tari is an intense and powerful manifestation of Yusof’s spontaneous and ferocious brushstrokes onto the canvas, where colliding figures serve as generator of a sequential unfolding of linked dancing movements. It also reflects the continued influence of Abstract Expressionism in Malaysian art after its introduction in the 1960s by pioneering artists like Abdul Latiff Mohidin and Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal; however the distinctive difference between Yusof Ghani and the pioneers is his emphasis on humanitarian and figures as opposed to landscapes. Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal drew parallels with the links of Pollock and de Kooning, “The dancing lines remind one of Pollock and swatches and cleavages of form and space are obvious inherited from de Kooning.”

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.

Siri Tari by Yusof Ghani, Hijjas Kasturi, Exhibition: Paintings Drawings and Installation Works, GaleriCitra, Kuala Lumpur, 1989.
South East Asian Art Today,
Roeder Publications, 1992.
From Tari To Topeng, Rusli Hashim Fine Art, 1996.