Lot 046

b. Kedah, 1936 – d. Kuala Lumpur, 2009


Signed and dated ‘ibrahim hussein ‘97’ (lower left)
Acrylic on canvas
32cm x 45cm

Private Collection, Penang.

ESTIMATE  RM 35,000 - 50,000
Though miniature in dimension, this vividly hued canvas stands out from afar – Datuk Ibrahim Hussein’s hallmark multicoloured lines and camouflage-like blobs are contained within its royal blue borders. Rare yet not uncommon, this bold work on canvas of this size appears at auction for the very first time. The remarkably dense yet intricate ribbons of flowing multicoloured lines illustrate the rhyme and rhythm of dance movements. This sensational piece radiates an infectious celebratory mood with its jubilant lines of varying weight that form a burst of vibrant colours. The contours constantly deconstruct and reconstruct morphing forms and depths, engaging the viewer in a continuous journey of visual rhythm.

One key theme that sets the artist and his works apart is his distinctive ever-changing lines that have earned him such high level of recognition. His wife, Datin Sim, had opened the door of endless possibilities when she gave him a set of graphic pens in 1975 resulting in his canvases to be filled with sensuous lines of varying weight, direction and character. The primary element of line has taken a whole different role on the pictoral surface, liberating the preconceived notions and fulfilling the roles of other elements – form, shape and dimension – customarily used in pictorial composition.

As art critic Chu Li aptly described: “Each point of rest is also a point of beginning and has no ending. It hums of flux and reflux, innovation and evolution, pregnant with generative tension, regenerative impulses of wave upon wave of the distinctive Ibrahim Hussein lines and colours exuding fluid forms, dancing forms and struggling humanity… His lines have attained all primary and secondary coordinates for placing ourselves in a directionless harmony of chaos, at once suggesting, hinting, symbolising for us a total experience of life.” This exclusive use of lines had occupied Ib’s canvases until his very last work, and if it were not for his untimely passing, the possibilities of his lined and striated surface would be inexhaustible.

Although blinded on one eye at eight, Ib went on to become one of the country’s international art icons, at one time with a museum to his name in Pulau Langkawi. His art career started when he briefly attended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore, in 1957. But his precocity bloomed when he studied in London, first at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting (1959 - 1963) and he had the honour of being invited to join the elite Royal Academy in London (1963 - 1966) by the academy’s Keeper Sir Henry Rushbury. In 1967 to 1968, he was awarded the Rockefeller Fund scholarship to tour the United States, where he held two solo exhibitions in New York – at Galerie Internationale and Newsweek Gallery. In 1977, Ib was invited to show with Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, two of the world’s greatest artists of the 20th Century, in Kuwait. In 1970, he was selected for the Smithsonian Institute workshop as a fringe exhibition in the Venice Biennale. Ib was the most decorated Malaysian artist, among his awards were the Japan Foundation Cultural Award (1988), the Order of Andres Bello of Venezuela (1993), the Order of Bernardo O’ Higgins of Chile (1996) and the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (1997). In 2007, the Malaysian Government awarded him with the Anugerah Tokoh Melayu Terbilang. He had the distinction of being bestowed the ‘Datuk’ titles by three different royalties. He was given a retrospective by the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur in 1986.

Ibrahim Hussein: A Retrospective
, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 1986.