IBRAHIM HUSSEIN, DATUK
B. Kedah, 1936-2009
Reaching Out, 1964
Signed and dated “ibrahim hussein oct ‘64” on lower left
Inscribed with title “reaching out” on lower right
Gouache on magazine page laid to card
25.4 x 22.9 cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
Exhibited at Ibrahim Hussein’s solo exhibition at Gallerie Internationale, New York in 1964
Illustrated in the exhibition catalogue
Describing his art, Ib said: “To me, painting is like praying. When I paint, I am dealing with my heart, my work and God.”
“In the summer of ‘64, I took with me a portfolio of 50 gouaches to New York, I put up with a friend, the portrait painter of the former Shah of Iran. I went to the Life and Times Magazine office to see a friend I knew in New York and he introduced me to the Time art critic who gave me the names of art galleries in New York and the address of the Gallerie Internationale in Madison Avenue. Like a school boy with my over-sized portfolio I went to Gallerie and demanded to see the art director who wasn’t in at the time. I left my paintings there. Three days later, they offered me a one-man exhibition and a contract to work for the Gallerie. A week later, they sent me a cheque for the sale of 10 gouaches. I asked for the return of the rest of the paintings and left for Washington.” – stated by Ib in his Retrospective published by the National Art Gallery in 1986, with this piece included in the aforementioned Gallerie exhibition. This exhibition was eventually held in New York in April 1964. It was during that time that also appeared on a television talk show for the first time in his life and made the front page of the Charlotte Observer, a still-renowned newspaper based in North Carolina.
Ib had always drawn inspiration from the reality and immediate surroundings. In his autobiography titled ‘A Life’, he mentioned that, “My life is made of points, textures, colours, shapes, darkness and light, mass, weight, planes, volumes, sounds, smells, and warmth’. All these are expressed in his artworks. Some art analysts consider his artwork as ‘futuristic’. Ibrahim also used a process of creating artwork, which he called ‘Printage’. It involved using a combination of two mediums such as printing and collage.
When asked about his work and art philosophy, he said, “It is all very well when one paints something, another soon recognises, but it just stops there, leaving others to paint stories. The actual story itself the artist cannot tell in words. It is all very well other people can write books about your creation, but to the artist himself, there is always something there that cannot be explained. Perhaps it is his soul, his unison. The artist cannot explain this, but he knows it is there and it is very real for him.”
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.