IBRAHIM HUSSEIN, DATUK
B. Kedah, 1936-2009
Jelly Fish, 1967
Signed, dated and inscribed “ibrahim hussein n.y. ‘67” on lower left
Inscribed “JELLY FISH” on the reverse
Oil on canvas
141.6 x 146.4 cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
Exhibited at the Galerie Internationale, New York in 1967
Acquired by the current owner from USA
Describing his art, Ibrahim Hussein said: “To me, painting is like praying. When I paint, I am dealing with my heart, my work and God.”
“In the summer of 1964, 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.
The exhibition in New York was eventually held in April of 1964. During that period Ibrahim Hussein also appeared on a television talk show. Most notable exposure for IB for the first time in his life was when he appeared on the front page of the Charlotte Observer, a still-renowned newspaper based in North Carolina.
This Ibrahim Hussein artwork “Jelly Fish” painted in 1967 is one of his most important artworks sold at the exhibition hosted at Gallerie Internationale New York upon his return to New York after obtaining the Fullbright Travel Scholarship and John D Rockefeller III Fund Scholarship. Ibrahim Hussein is still to this day, the first Malaysian maestro to ever hold two successful exhibitions in New York both at the Gallerie Internationale in 1964 and 1968, way ahead of any other Malaysian artist.
Ibrahim Hussein 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 in his artworks upon his return from New York.
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.”
Ibrahim Hussein 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.