Lot 123

b. Johor, 1950


Signed and inscribed on reverse
Mixed media on canvas
51cm x 93cm; diptych, 51cm x 46.5cm each

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur.

ESTIMATE  RM 8,000 - 15,000


Presented as a set, the diptych Topeng Muka Merah I & II illustrates a stylised tribal mask in abstract on each panel. Yusof Ghani employs powerful and gestural strokes to create swift outlines of the sacred masks in red against a vibrant green, yellow and white background. Accentuated by charcoal outlines, the masks are represented in a dynamic and expressive gesture – a technique mastered by the revered abstract expressionist artist.

Topeng or 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. Yusof Ghani first embarked on the journey of Topeng series in 1991, when sketches on small-sized canvases were created and by 1995, the second phase of Topeng series were produced in larger dimensions.

The Kenyah masks are regarded as “objects of reverence” and a symbol of spiritualism. The grotesqueness of its features is a way to measure its potency and ability to cure and to protect. These indigenous masks are also found as reflections of human flaws, as a powerful veil to encourage the presence of good spirits and repel against bad omens, as a cure to harmful diseases and for ceremonial or celebratory purposes to the Kenyah and Kayan tribes. The same belief in masks is adopted by numerous tribes world over.

Yusof Ghani was awarded a scholarship to study at George Mason University, United States of America . 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.