Nik Zainal Abidin
B. Kelantan, 1933-1993
Istana Kayangan Series, 1967
Signed and inscribed “oleh Nik Zainal Abidin 1967” in jawi on lower left
Watercolour on paper
49 x 64 cm
Provenance Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
RM 18,000 – RM 24,000
Nik Zainal Abidin was considered Malaysia’s foremost wayang kulit artist, as it seemed to he his main and recurring motif in all his artworks. As seen in this piece, his works can be considered heritage art for the true Malaysian essence it seems to emit.
A self-taught artist and master craftsman, Nik Zainal was the first in Malaysia to have transferred and adapted the carved leather character stick-boards from the Ramayanainto a painterly Western art format – onto paper (via watercolours and sketches), canvas (via oil) and wood (two very rare pieces carved on cengal wood). He explored figure-ground relationships in his two-dimensional characterisations in ornate and colourful forms from the perspective of thedalang (master puppeteer) reprised from behind the illuminated muslin kelir (screen), often to the accompaniment of gamelan music, the gendang (drums) and the serunai(flute).
Born in Kampung Pak Nik Ya, Kelantan, on May 20, 1933, Nik Zainal was exposed to wayang kulit by his goldsmith father Nik Mohamad Salleh. After a stint at a religious school from 1948-50, he took up informal art classes during weekends at the Sekolah Melayu Padang Garong run by Cikgu Nik Mahmood Idris, who also trained Khalil Ibrahim, Mokhtar Ishak and Yusof Sulaiman.