Written by : Zena Khan
Celebrated mixed media artist, Zulkifi Yusoff highlights his dual fascinations with history and Malaysian politics in his latest work Pahang Warrior. A large scale five-panel piece, Zulkifli uses multiple techniques he has been developing in the last few years including resin and collaged typographical canvas strips with printing and painting.
The entire background of Pahang Warrior is fashioned from strips of canvas that have been printed with Jawi script. Zulkifli’s new work marks his second foray into the inclusion of Jawi script strips, the first being his critical installation Pendita which has recently been displayed at the Singapore Art Museum. Both the second and fourth panels are dominated by a main row of organic resin shapes. Through a specific and technical process, the artist utilizes resin elements to both infuse his canvas with colors as well as establish a nostalgic atmosphere.
Zulkifli recently exhibited at Art Stage Singapore with works from his Rukun Negara series, which were the first of his strip collage work to incorporate color. Pahang Warrior is a crucial development in this series as it furthers his existing palette with newer, brighter hues. It is a physical characterization of Zulkifli’s recurring personal challenge to shed old attitudes for new perspectives and methods of expression.
Spaced out at the four corners are the names and references to Mat Kilau, Tok Gajah and Bahaman, four warriors during the British occupation of Malaya who were central to the fight for independence from colonization. Key icons dotted across the work such as the Pahang flag and Patin fish allude to the Pahang heritage of the warriors while their strong Islamic roots are reinforced with the use of Jawi instead of Romanized typography. As an artist who creates works that are exhaustively researched, Zulkifli has used figures that have extensive historical documentation to educate his audience on Malaysian history. He creates a parallel of sorts between the events of history and his views on the current local political situation, underlining the importance of adhering to the Rukun Negara as laid out in Malaysia’s constitution particularly the citizen’s loyalty to country and King. Zulkifli takes it upon himself to underpin how the actions of these fighters gave rise to the freedoms and privileges enjoyed by Malaysians in contemporary society.
Zulkifli endeavors to use his platform as an artist who enjoys critical success internationally, exemplified by his participation in key art events such as the Venice Biennale, to inform his audience on values he hold dearly, such as the knowledge of history and patriotism. With Pahang Warrior, he has succeeded yet again in manifesting his personal principles in a hyper detailed collage work that builds on his previous artistic achievements, both technically and conceptually.
Artwork Caption :
Artist : Zulkifli Yusoff
Title : Pahang Warrior
Size : 213cm x 348cm
Medium : Resin and Collaged Typographical Canvas Strips with Printing and Painting
Year : 2013