Ombak @ Sasana Kijang + Shared Passion @ The Edge Galerie

Collectors and artist collaborate to exhibit paintings across two galleries, as maintaining one’s market value is an apparent concern given the poor quality of Yusof Ghani’s new works. The “Ombak” series is a swirling mess, its expressive brushstrokes mistaken for an absent angst, as imagined emotions take the form of primary colour blends. White waves in a couple of “Batu Karang” pictures refer to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but fresh ideas for expressionist painting are otherwise swept away, in favour of decorating large interiors with visual drama. Ironically, one of the best work shown in Sasana Kijang, is nestled right outside the “Ombak” exhibition space. ‘Hiba 2’ touches a nerve with its cubist approach, its curved lines drawing a contained action that illustrates motion better than most of his later paintings.

Siri Tari - Hiba 2 (1984)

Although many local artists are labelled as Abstract Expressionist, not many imitate the movement’s forms like Yusof does, a characteristic attributed to the artist’s American training. The history of modern expressionism is traced in the harmonious colours of ‘Tari III’ (Kandinsky), “Topeng” which recalls Picasso’s Spanish bulls, and to the mystical scene in ‘Simpurai Muntigerai’ reminiscent of an early Pollock. Seemingly inspired by trips to Sarawak, references to Dayak mythologies are regrettably masked within the artist’s formal approach towards abstract painting. Like Latiff Mohidin and many others, commercial success led to the production of large works, where gestural brush strokes replace line and composition as the simplified expression of motion. It is easy to discern but hard to argue, the differences between Latiff’s “Rimba” and “Gelombang”, with Yusof’s “Hijau” and “Ombak” series.

Siri Wayang - Simpurai Muntigerai (1997)

“What is the origin of the face?” is an interesting question to ponder while looking at inscrutable countenances in the “Wajah” series. Powerful and visually striking pictures, such as the blinded giant in ‘Messenger’ and the protruding heads in “Agony of Acheh”, strike one as original expressions of despair, although the sculpted masks are no different than those done by Putu Sutawijaya. Pieces on sale at The Edge Galerie from the same series are potent, denoting Yusof’s mastery of white. With its focus on retinal pleasure, this exhibition is refreshing for its self-confessed non-connoisseurship. Most works contributed by the corporate figure have clear representational outlines, implying that abstraction remains unfavourable to the collector, notwithstanding the artist’s recognised style. Despite assertions of market value by the gallerist, buying what one likes, is the right policy for any responsible art collector.

Siri Wajah - Agony of Acheh III (2008)