June 2019 Cover Story




KL Lifestyle Art Space (KLAS) will be hosting its second modern and contemporary art auction of the 2019 calendar year on July 7. The art auction will feature an array of Malaysian and Asian art masters from around the region. Here, we list the top 10 highlights to look forward to during the upcoming auction.



Latiff Mohidin is undoubtedly a celebrated artist and his works are avidly sought after by art collectors. The man who was once a child prodigy and now a legend in his own right is known for his eye-catching modernist artworks. His versatility has garnered worldwide attention of many art enthusiasts, falling deeply for his demesne of expressions, uniqueness and originality. He made history in February 2018 by being the first Southeast Asian artist to be showcased at the reowned Centre Pampidou, Paris. Born in 1941 in Negeri Sembilan, Latiff was an art genius with immense talent and passion at an early age. He had a gift of producing phenomenal works as one of the earlist Malaysian modernist astists, having studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) in Berlin from 1960 to 1964 on a German scholarship. This evidently  influenced his eralier artworks to possess tinges of German Expressionism. It was the first time in the artist’s’ life being in an art academy where he learned about the basics of art.

At the Academy of Fine Arts, Berlin, Latiff in search of his artistic style and was still unclear on the suitable technique to express himself. However, his themea always came back to South-East Asia, such as the Mengkuang Clump, Bangau-Bangauan of little boats and Rupa-Rupaan of Balinese carvings. Inspiration was never lacking in Berlin. The change of seasons and the surrounding nature proved a constant muse for the artist.

It was also in Berlin that he bore innumerable artworks, such as the Menkuang series in which he only used two colours, yellow ochre and prussian blue, the ‘Pesta Laut (Seafest), ‘Rumah Dalam Pohonan (House Amidst Trees) ‘Pagoda’, Pohon Rumbia’ (Rumbia Trees) and Persembahan (Gift) to name a few. Without conscious volition, the themes from life in South-East Asia emerged as the main choice, though his experience visiting galleries, art houses and museums in cities like Paris, Amsterdam, London and Brussels during the two-month holiday was highly stimulating.

When Latiff moved into a rented room in Bleibtrestrasse, Berlin he found a bunch of withered corn flowers in a ratten basket at a corner next to the cupboard. While the artist earnestly wanted to head to the studio to complete a painting, he was rendered helpless as the severe weather condition didn’t permit him to leave. The only object that he found stimulating to draw in the gloomy room was the yellow, dried-up corn flowers. He began examining the subject, subsequently placing them on a table and rearranged the stalks and petals. To emphasise further the faded yellow colour, he places an indigo blue flowerpot beside the basket. Thus, was his completion of his notion of a stillleben (still life) subject and the birth of “Mais und Korb – Corn and Basket” 1962. This rare gem of a masterpiece is being shown for the first time in Malaysia after being sold in Germany in 1962.



Berenang / Swimming, 1965
Oil on canvas 122 x 76 cm
RM 280,000 – RM 320,000

Private Collection Kuala Lumpur


Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal was a celebrated artist for his immense contribution to the growth of Malaysian art. His artworks bore profound personal, social and moral significance in various forms and mediums for the masses. His later works, however, demonstrated a spiritual and religious theme that centred around balance and harmony on canvas. The late Syed Ahmad was truly a multifaceted artist, having dabbled in various art languages including figurative and caricature drawings; abstract paintings, sculptures, textile art, murals, stage and poster designs and writings. The artist’s works are exclusive and scarce, making every piece extremely sought after and important.

The outstanding painting entitled Berenang – (Swimming) was profoundly executed in 1965, a period that represents the creation of the artist’s most personal biographical works. What’s immediately observed in this painting is the juxtaposition of warm and cool hues, exposing the hallmark of his early works. There is a sense of fluidity observed throughout the painting, further emphasised by using a cool and warm palette of dominant blue, yellow and red. One might say that it suggests a tranquil state of mind amidst resistance – an epiphany to the artist’s inner emotions.

Syed Ahmad adopted an uncanny style and meaning from an artwork created during the same period, named, ‘Figure’. The artist expressed his personal melancholy through vibrant works produced in the same year. ‘Berenang’ also showcases the silhouettes of a person at the epicentre of the work, going through the motions of swimming with blue colour emulating water, signifying solemnity, a metaphor for the bitter end of his first marriage.



East Coast Ladies, 1973
Batik 84 x 71 cm
RM 110,000 – RM 150,000


From tin mines to landscapes to his series of study in rural themes of Malay girls and children, the late Khalil Ibrahim had a knack of producing batik masterpieces which proved notable and successful. Khalil was already an established artist before venturing into the batik art medium. By then, he already had a full grasp of batik painting and was searching for new themes. It seemed to Khalil that any subject matter suitable for oil painting was adaptable to batik painting.

In a 1970’s article written by Frank Sullivan for the New Straits Times, Sullivan elaborated that Khalil’s study series of Malay girls and children in batik had an appealing grace and charm to it. The execution of these works focused on bringing the subjects to the foreground, by using a relatively plain background. Without realising it, Khalil became the first Malaysian artist to produce a batik portrait directly from the model which proved to be an impressive feat.

The same style was applied to the ‘East Coast Ladies’, 1973, yet another masterpiece that will have viewers in awe. This work immediately oozes a simple charm to it and one can’t help but smile looking at it. A muted background is seen here, with the intention to shed the limelight on the Malay ladies. In a typical Khalil manner, the artist granted his subjects with fluid motion, a hallmark of his artistic style, while also signifying the femininity and grace of women.

While the East Coast Ladies may look like a simple work due to its lack of vibrancy, the depth and feeling it possesses allow spectators to see through Khalil’s eyes, transporting them to simpler times in the East Coast where the ladies were clad in kebaya and sarongs, tending to their daily chores.



Biring Series XIV, 2006
Oil on canvas 122 x 90 cm
RM 90,000 – RM 120,000


Yusof Ghani’s ‘Biring’ series strays away from his other series that feature the human form, masks and nature. The ‘Biring’ series is the artist’s rendition of a cock fight, symbolising the heroism and strife between mankind. The use of vibrant hues and expressive brush strokes makes it an inundating artwork.

Through dominant colours of blue, black and white paired with Yusof’s innate prowess, he creates swirls of colours that finally take the form of roosters at the centre of the artwork. The roosters depicted in his painting seem to be in motion, glowing wings flapping about as they fight for their lives. Biring is definitely one of Yusof’s most enlightened body of works, for not only have the works been painted with wild abandon and freedom, but more importantly demonstrate the artist’s ability to leave the comfort of the familiar.

Yusof was born in 1950 in Johor and used to frequent a small movie theatre as a young boy, where he developed a predisposition towards painting. He received a scholarship to study art at George Mason University, USA, where he studied Graphic Art and proceeded to pursue his master’s degree in Fine Art at Catholic University, Washington. Upon returning to Malaysia, he began lecturing at MARA Institute of Technology (now UiTM). Most notably known for Abstract Expressionism, his most coveted works are from the rare ‘Protest’ series while his most recognised and collected artworks are part of the ‘Tari’ series. Yusof’s other priced works include the ‘Topeng’, ‘Wayang’ and the early ‘Segerak’ series painted between 2007 and 2010.



East Coast Series – Ladies in Waiting III, 1982
Acrylic on linen 93 x 108 cm
RM 80,000 – RM 110,000


With human figures being the preferred theme and hallmark for Khalil Ibrahim, we are presented with a mesmerising acrylic piece of colourful, hypnotising women and their stances on linen.

The employment of bright, enlivening colours creates an overall enthusiastic and energetic mood. Silhouettes of various individuals are situated mainly in the centre, where Khalil’s penchant for the human body is exhibited – he paintsedthe curves, contours and forms expertly. Against the bright colours that give life to the subjects is an earthy background. Deep brown tone wass paired with a bright blue border to shape the artwork. In its entirety, the painting reverberates a serene feeling.

The late Khalil graduated from the prestigious St. Martin’s School of Art & Design, United Kingdom in 1964. Thereafter, he became a full-time artist and had been so for 50 years. He held solo and group exhibitions in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Switzerland, with most of his works centered around figures and were heavily influenced by East Coast fishermen and women.



Untitled, 1963
Gouache on magazine page laid to card 25.4 x 23.5 cm
RM 38,000 – RM 50,000


Datuk Ibrahim Hussein, affectionately known as Ib, was born in Sungai Limau, Kedah, in 1936. He studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore in 1956 and then moved to London, where he continued his studies at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. He travelled to France and Italy after being awarded an Award of Merit scholarship. He also founded the Ibrahim Hussein Museum and Cultural Foundation in the Langkawi rainforest, which is a non- profit foundation and museum committed to promoting, developing and advancing art and culture.

Ibrahim never failed to captivate art enthusiasts by proving his mastery in abstract which is often deemed futuristic due to the complexity in the way he expressed the forms and dimensions of his creation. The particular art piece was part of the series of artworks exhibited and sold by Galerie International New York between 1964 and 1967.



Tin Miners, 1966
Oil on board 61 x 81 cm
RM 20,000 – RM 30,000


Choo Keng Kwang was the only son of a Teochew diamond trader. He was heavily criticised for his decision to enrol in art classes but it paid off, as he graduated with two certificates, one from Catholic High School and the other town Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. He then became a teacher and was made the principal of Sin Hua School. Differing from Choo Keng Kwang’s usual forte of birds and landscapes, the artist strayed away from his comfort to produce the ‘Tin Miners’, an oil on board work. This intriguing work presents both female and male tin miners with sieves in hand and a basket on their backs. A few workers are seen wearing straw hats to shade them from the sun. The subjects in this piece portray intricacy and attention to detail. The colour palette saw earthy, neutral tones throughout the work.



The Go-Downs-Singapore River Boat Quay, 1979
Oil on canvas 51 x 66 cm
RM 22,000 – RM 35,000


Wong Yean Yean, a first-time debutante in KL Lifestyle Art Space is a dexterous Singaporean artist. She attended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and graduated in 1979. She was a member of the Modern Art Society Singapore and the Singapore Art Society,The scene of this painting is set in the 1970’s and attention is drawn towards an aged building (go down), facing the riverfront. The painting also depicts tug boats hoving along the river bank, commandeered by skippers. Wong’s attention to minute details and her fluid brushstrokes are on full display in this artwork, breathing life into it and allowing its viewers to experience the milieu through the artist’s eyes. Historically, in Singapore, the go down was a warehouse set in a commercial building, facing the river front. It was used to store goods in-transit to its future destination across the world.



Vegetable Seller, 1974
Batik 57 x 50 cm
RM 25,000 – RM 30,000


Ismail Mat Hussin approaches the batik medium with laborious techniques which encapsulate the elegance of Malaysian life in the East Coast of the peninsula, predominantly painting village scenes familiar to most Malaysians with their people as his subjects: villagers going about their daily activities, scenes of a typical bustling market, children playing and village folks at leisure. There is distinct warmth and expression in his unique batik art, which transcends the ethnic divide.

The artist is known for his combination of warm tones and earthy hues with the use of limited palette. In the Vegetable Seller’ work, dominant use of greens and yellows is seen, employing a rustic look to the batik painting. Also illustrated is a group of ladies gathering around a vegetable seller who is cutting up a pumpkin. The setting presumably takes place in a market where the ladies are doing their daily marketing.



Junk Sailing, 1947
Watercolour on paper 25 x 35 cm
RM 10,000 – RM 15,000


In a true Yong Mun Sen manner, the artist brought forth the ‘Junk Sailing’, a pristine piece of work produced in 1947. Yong didn’t stray far from his forte, watercolour, and through fluid, carefree motion, he breathed life into this work. This work is minimalistic, drawing attention to the junk sail at its foreground and the landscape surrounding it. The piece was most likely painted in Penang, a place that captivated Yong with its beauty and soon after became his muse. One can’t help but be bathed in tranquillity viewing this painting, especially with the fact that a view such as the one in this painting can no longer be seen in the Malaysian landscape and is beautifully documented in this masterpiece by the pioneer artist, Yong Mun Sen.


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