(B. Johor, 1950)
Siri Topeng Jerantut, 1995
Signed, titled and dated on verso
Oil on canvas
93 x 85.5 cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
Illustrated on page 116 of the “YUSOF GHANI, SIRI TARI TOPENG” coffee table book
Published in 1996 by Rusli Hashim Fine Art
SOLD – RM 44,840
“We’re like hiding behind masks, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not.”
When Yusof Ghani took trips to Sarawak in 1988 and 1991, he was immediately taken with the masks of the Kenyah and Kayan. He claimed, “I found masks interesting as they could be used as motifs in paintings to make a cultural statement – about ceremony and rituals. They can also be used to preserve our slowly eroding local cultures and offer opportunities for a social commentary on human prentensions and falsehoods.”
Topeng is basically an expression of faces, there are simply no nice images in it. It combines ink and water colour in controlled structures, intensified by outlines, showing Ghani’s effort to explore new forms and visual approaches that are to the point, solid, structured and meaningful, such as in the case of this piece of artwork.
Born in 1950 in Johor, Malaysia, Ghani frequented a small movie theater that was run by a family member as a young boy, where he developed a predisposition towards painting to depict movement and a sense of time through cowboy films. He cites Pollock and de Kooning as his early inspirations, but he eventually began to develop his unique style in painting, with masks being his theme for many years as a motif to explore human emotions and circumstances. The masks often appeares displaced, implying at the rough state us human beings are always in.
The present sketch can be interpreted as a representation of the various attitudes of human beings towards the world and other human beings. Its depiction on paper has been known to portray Ghani’s personal demons at the time, but all is left to the interpretation of the viewer, only able to take a calculated guess. The NHB of Singapore has about four pieces by Yusof Ghani, namely ‘Gawai’, ‘Tangkal’ and two pieces from his Tari series.