Lot 097

b. Penang, 1940 – d. 2013

, 2004

Inscribed ‘of interesting looking (!) seats and other parts
of bicycles belonging to Penang Port labourers. Photographed
in “1991 & 92” - hand-coloured B&W photographs’ (centre left)
Signed ‘ISMAIL HASHIM 2004’ (centre right)
Toned hand tinted gelatin-silver print
96cm x 71cm

Private Collection, Penang.

Ismail Hashim Retrospective, Penang State Art Gallery, 2010; illustrated on catalogue.

Siti Nurbaya... Warisan Seni Etnik dan Tradisi, National Art
Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 2003; illustrated on page 59.

ESTIMATE  RM 12,000 - 18,000

“The best part of photography is the act of taking pictures. The rest is just the externalising of images. Before that happens, the work will have to go through a tug-of-war process with the medium.”

– Ismail Hashim

Ismail Hashim’s creativity is ashamedly undermined and underrated in the current state of Malaysian art. A master in the alternative medium, his art goes beyond the camera lens and the darkroom. Celebrated for his hand-tinted technique, art historian T.K. Sabapathy commented that Ismail Hashim “expanded the medium of photography to encompass themes constructed from observed everyday reality”. He employed the grid format in his work as a mode of presenting a variety of photographs within one assemblage. Such technique serves as “an aesthetic device and a means of storytelling” in the artist’s view.

Historian David Campany provides a historical overview on photography in the context of art from the 1960s in a survey titled Art and Photography, in which a special section called Memories and Archives explore the favoured presentation of photographs of the 1960s, in grids, that creates “an anti-hierarchical form that flattens time and de-narrativises images”, akin to archiving. Here, Ismail Hashim wittily yet with concerned mind creates a documentary entitled Of Interesting Looking Seats and Other Parts of Bicycles Belonging to Penang Port Labourers. Although the objects captured are as plain as bicycle seats and parts, subtle social commentary is imbedded within the subject matter. Forty-five different images are collated into one and it is up to the viewer to construct his or her own storyline.

Ismail Hashim was the first Malaysian photographer-artist to be given a retrospective exhibition. The honour came from the Penang State Art Gallery which hosted it from November 2 to 30 in 2010. Most of his important and often scathing socio-cultural-environmental commentaries were on display. Ismail was also a passionate academician having taught at a school for the deaf before he joined Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), lecturing on Graphic Design from 1979 to 1995. He returned to teach part-time from 2006 to 2007. It was at USM that he received his BA in Fine Arts in 1972 and he studied for his Masters of Fine Arts (majoring in Graphic Design) at the Washington State University in the United States in 1979. He passed away in a tragic road accident in 2013.

Against the Grain, Photographic Practices in Malaysia since the 1950s by Zhuang Wubin
, Narratives in Malaysian Art Volume 2: Reactions – New Critical Strategies, RogueArt, 2013.