Malaysia is one of the fastest growing and developing art scenes not only in the Asian region but also in the world especially with Malaysian artists garnering much exposure in galleries worldwide. The Malaysian art movement has brought about some of the most remarkable artworks in various forms and dimensions for the enjoyment of collectors and enthusiasts around the world and thus, below are some of the top Malaysian artists of all time.
Dato’ Mohd Hoessein Enas (1924 – 1995)
The late Dato’ Mohd Hoessein Enas comes from Bogor, Indonesia and is very much a self-taught artist. He is also commonly referred to as the Father of Portrait Painting which exuded some European realist portraiture styles. For his exemplary techniques and skills, Hoessein has become quite the de facto artist who paints several Sultans and members of royal families so much so that he was conferred the Royal Portrait Painter by the Selangor Sultan in 1990. He also founded the Peninsular Artists Force in 1956 as well as the recipient of the UNESCO Fellowship and Asia Foundation grant to travel around the world in 1960 to study art.
Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal (1929 – 2011)
The late Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal has been a permanent reference by Malaysian artists for his works of art as well as in the literature field. He also contributed to the art scene as an art curator and director at the then National Art Gallery. Syed won the 1995 National Art Laureate award while his works were known to have been one of the earliest representations of abstract expressionism in Malaysia seen through his works like the 1959 ‘The Bait’.
Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng (1912 – 2008)
Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng epitomizes the nature of Malaysian art because of his techniques in batik art. The China born artist is commonly referred to as the Father of Malaysian Batik art where he is one of the earliest artists to venture into this art form. He was the first Malaysian artist to be sponsored by the Malaysian government abroad to hold an exhibition at the Royal Commonwealth Institute in London for a solo show. Among his most exemplary works is ‘Tow of A Kind’ and ‘Tell you a Secret’ paintings while he was also the only Malaysian who was invited in 1977 to the Commonwealth Artists of Fame Exhibition in England.
Datuk Ibrahim Hussein (1936 – 2009)
Datuk Ibrahim Hussein is perhaps one of the only Malaysian artists who have devoted his entire life to art and continues to do so after his passing. During his lifetime, Ibrahim’s artwork has been a reference point among the art community and after his death, his works continue to dazzle art collectors and enthusiasts alike. To continue his efforts in the development of art, he founded the non-profit Ibrahim Hussein Museum and Cultural Foundation in Langkawi which remains as one of the major art spaces in the region. Ibrahim’s work in printing and collage remains one of the best among his peers and among his most renowned works is ‘The Dream’ which was among the most expensive paintings sold in an auction.
Redza Piyadasa (1939 – 2007)
The late Redza Piyadasa, the former recipient of the highly prestigious Prince Claus Award and a Diploma in Art and Design from England’s Hornsey College of Art is one of the most unique artists of Malaysia. He also holds a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Hawaii where his works are known for their unique rendition of artwork that integrates art and history. To date, Redza’s work have been irreplaceable especially in his ways of storytelling and the emotions from the people that he paints.
Eng Tay (1947 – )
Eng Tay is known of his consistency of working along his very own unique art form. The Kedah born artist moved to New York City in 1968 where he studied with the highly influential The Art Students’ League. He would then travel around South America and Asia and have been working in several art forms since then. Eng Tay’s work is perhaps one of the earliest references to naive art in some ways although it is the actions of his subject matter, usually involving people playing music, market scenes and such which give them his signature. Today, Eng Tay is still very much involved in his pursuit of art where he still travels around working on media like paintings, sculpture and etchings.
Yusof Ghani (1950 – )
Made mostly in acrylic and water colour, Yusof Ghani’s body of work and signature style places him among the top Malaysian artists of all time. His abstract expressionists approach to his paintings that have produces works like ‘Topeng’, ‘Wayang’, ‘Segarak’ and ‘Tari’ makes them some of the most remarkable and most sought after artworks among the Malaysian art community. As an artist, Yusof’s work has been seen in major art spaces around the world while he has also won several awards and represented Malaysia in many exhibitions around the world.
Khalil Ibrahim (1934 – )
Khalil Ibrahim is often referred to as one of the most ‘authentic’ Malaysian artists of all time. This is because the artist, who is known to paint in acrylic, oil and other mediums have been depicting the Malaysian traditional and kampong lifestyles and practices for decades. His works have, over the years consistently exuded the Malaysian flair and taste and his expressions in realism and abstract have placed him among the most respective Malaysian artists of all time. Khalil attended the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London where he earned his National Design Diploma while he has also been involved in countless exhibitions around the world as well as winning awards for his artwork.