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Ibrahim Hussein
(Malaysian, 1936-2009)
Dara (Virgin)
signed and dated 'ibrahim hussein 75' (lower left)
oil on canvas
152 x 152 cm. (59 7/8 x 59 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1975

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Lot Essay

Dara (Virgin) (Lot 178) by Malaysian modern artist Ibrahim Hussein is a rare to market mid-career work of the artist pre-dating the works of the artist where line, as a pictorial element, takes dominant form.

Situating the context of Ibrahim Hussein's life in relation to his painting of figures allows us to understand the humanist eye the painter possesses. The artist grew up in poverty in a rural Malaysian village to become one of his country's best-known artists. He lost sight in his right eye at the tender age of eight, but perhaps because of that, pursued art with even greater vigour and industry.

He studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore in 1956. In 1959, he went to London. Ever since then, the human figure has always featured centrally in Ibrahim Hussein's works, especially in the 1960s and 70s, where his training at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Royal Academy in London gave him access to view and be inspired by the works of the great European masters and modern luminaries such as Francis Bacon. In 1970, he became the first Malaysian artist to participate in the Venice Biennale.

A scene of simultaneous love and struggle is painted in the present lot, showing a view from above of two figures huddling together, dynamically entangled. Ibrahim Hussein had first come into painting figures that were simplified in details, stylized and semi-abstract, but gradually he moved his figures within a defined pictorial space as seen in the present lot with the clearly defined beige and dark green areas of the painting. The figures exist over the two colour fields, suggesting fluidity and movement. Ibrahim Hussein's paintings of figures were inspired by events of human struggle and conflict, among others the demonstrations at Trafalgar Square, London in 1960, the 1969 racial riot in Malaysia, and the 1982 Sabra massacre. However, he was not concerned with the depiction of specific events directly or literally, but rather with conveying universal statements on humanity itself.

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