B. Kelantan, 1934
Abstract “Opus”, 1969
Inscribed and signed “Opus Khalil Ibrahim 1969” on the reverse
Acrylic on canvas
107.5 x 94.5 cm
Provenance Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
RM 38,000 – RM 70,000
Throughout Khalil Ibrahim’s career as an artist, the influence of abstract has been present every now and then in some of his works. They are definitely rare, but they are nonetheless glorious. Most of his abstract works were done upon Khalil’s return from his studies in Britain. A myriad of thoughts and concepts go into the workings of this piece, and it gives the illusion of depth and texture so vivid that viewers are tempted to make out all the shapes, patterns and techniques this canvas showcases.
Apart from batik, Khalil was strongly linked to Abstract Expressionism. New art graduates from the 1940s New York introduced the concept in Malaysia in the mid 1950s, and it challenged the typical, dominant, historical narrative of realism as it encouraged artists to explore and express the rich complexity of Malaysia’s cultural history in new ways.
Individualism is one of the reasons why Abstract Expressionism flourished, and viewers were free to reflect on said expression. Khalil first encountered Abstract Expressionism at St Martin’s through works by Picasso, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. He picked up bits and pieces and channeled them through his works, but he would then merge it with his own Malaysian quintessence. What Khalil loved the most about Abstract Expressionism is the freedom that came with it – freedom in form and colour.
Khalil Ibrahim graduated from the prestigious St. Martin’s School of Art & Design, United Kingdom in 1964. Thereafter, he became a full-time artist and has been so for fifty years now. He has held solo and group exhibitions in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Switzerland, with most of his works center around figures and are heavily influenced by East Coast fishermen and women.