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Lot 15


b. Penang 1940


Inscribed ‘a/p Sudut dapur kedai kopi, difotokan circa 1985, monokrom warna sendiri’ bottom, signed `‘ISMAIL HASHIM’
lower right
Toned hand-tinted gelatin silver print, artist’s proof
39cm x 38.5cm

Private Collection, Penang.

Ismail Hashim Retrospective, Penang State Art Gallery, 2010, illustrated on catalogue page 149.

ESTIMATE  RM 8,000 - 12,000

This is another of Ismail Hashim’s rare masterpieces. The scene is of a neighbourhood makeshift coffee shop in Ulu Sungai Ara village in Penang. Ismail passed by this coffee-shop many times when he was young and was inspired to capture this scene with his brother’s Hasselbad. It is nostalgic of a time when the ordinary people would sembang (lounge and chat) in such roadside rendezvous without batting an eyelid at the cockroaches or even rats scampering by. Nothing fanciful like today’s Starbucks or Old Town White Coffee in air-conditioned comfort and with wi-fi to boot. Of the paraphernalia, there are the opened condensed-milk cans, coffee-powder in jars, grille mesh, tin for straws, and a piece of rag. A kitten finds a snug home unobtrusively next to an oil tin. The picture also succeeds from the play of light and tonal balance, with the only colours coming from the hand-painted heat from the stove, further accentuating its warmth amidst the black and white surrounding. While a hint of quiet reproach is evident in the work, all seem forgotten, and forgiven, in the gush of nostalgia.
Ismail got his deserved recognition when the Penang State Art Gallery honoured him with a retrospective at its premises in 2010 - the first art photographer to be given such honour. Most of his important socio-cultural and environmental commentaries were shown. Ismail was also known for his teaching credentials, first to the deaf and mostly at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), where he lectured on Graphic Design from 1979 to 1995. He returned to teach part-time from 2006 to 2007. It was at the 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.