Best known for his elegantly dark and compellingly atmospheric paintings of empty sofas and brooding male smokers whose faces are shrouded in smoke or cropped out of the picture frame, Ahmad Zakii Anwar's explorations of the psychological and spiritual dimensions of humans with the intent to uncover metaphysical and divine elements is distinct. Working deftly with the richly gradated monochromatic palette permissible with the medium of charcoal on paper, his sketching practice, be it in capturing a moment in the dance of a Balinese legong dancer, the pose of a male nude or the side profile of a boar or a, is rooted in investigations of the metaphysical, a practice that seeks beyond the physical to uncover the spiritual beneath.
Tales from a primordial garden shows the image of a man laid down in deep repose with a sententious stag watchfully near. The work alludes to the desire within us as humans and the mutability of desire between humans and animals. Furthering this thread, humankind's distinction from bestiality is not so clearly defined when one distils the seeds of desire that lies deep within each and that only emerges in the most neutral and non-threatening of environments. Indeed, Man's resemblance to animals goes beyond the environment shared between both.
With a keen sensitivity towards the creation of illusionary spaces and atmosphere, Ahmad Zakii Anwar infuses the everyday with the divine and explores the spiritual depth of worldly subjects. In doing so, he maintains an uncommon rigour for visual and conceptual exploration rooted firmly in his personal religious and philosophical worldviews. His abiding interest in the human figure reveals itself through the depth of engagement and stimulation his works resound with the primordial issues of life. For the artist, the living form in and of itself is a representation of the divine, its various parts and configurations taken to be precise, appropriate and well-symmetrised, shaped by the knowledge of a higher order. This perfect resonance of the divine in the worldly lends itself to an idealisation of living forms, articulated in the rendition of the human and animal in Tales from a primordial garden.