Headless Chicken

Written by Zena Khan

Throughout history, artists have been making depictions of the human form, mirroring the values and ideas of the individuals and cultures creating them. Often these representations have taken place in the form of sculpture. Tracing the development of sculpture historically, it has been seen to develop from the perfect realism propagated by the Ancient Greeks of the classical and Hellenistic eras into more modern, expressionistic forms. Innovative expressionist techniques have freed sculptural depictions of the human figure from extreme realism into areas dominated by concept and narration, as exemplified by young sculptor Jamil Zakaria’s new work, Headless Chicken.

Standing at four feet high, Headless Chicken figures a self-portrait of sorts of Jamil. He attempts to present a dialogue he has with himself, on the struggles of being an artist. Jamil regularly looks not only to himself as a base for inspiration but also proverbs and maxims. He studies simple truths as expressed and repeated through proverbs as a means of self-assessment, and through understanding himself, he hopes to connect to a wider audience. In Headless Chicken, the sculptor describes the uncertain career path of an artist, and the self-led nature of all his professional objectives. Drawing on the content of the “headless chicken” proverb, Jamil uses his situation as an example, and concludes self-control, calmness and a rational mind are essential for individuals to progress and attain success. Two wiry figures, intertwined in a dynamic embrace, are encased in a larger mesh cocoon. Jamil sculpts the human forms, which are devoid of heads, in an abstract manner. Rather than creating perfect replications, he infuses a spirit into his work, bestowing energy, conflict and dynamism on his subjects. The two figures, each representing the sculptor himself, are deeply entwined. With the creation of two separate entities, Jamil utilises traditional ideas of balance and yin and yang philosophies to visually resolve his concept.

A wonderful feature of Headless Chicken is Jamil’s ability to create a strong sense of movement despite the inert nature of his medium. Previously Jamil has worked his sculptures in steel wire; now he shifts to a newer medium with the inclusion of stainless steel wire. Differences in the characteristics of steel and stainless steel affect the artist’s treatments of them, which influences the aesthetic. The two abstract figures are made of steel wire, which needs a protective layer against rust. To this end, they have been painted black. The outer cocoon is in stainless steel, which is naturally inert and can be left in its original form. The lattice like appearance of the energetically worked wires coupled with the tonality caused by the colour differences of the black and grey result in a real depth of perspective, and satisfies Jamil with his three dimensional resolution of Headless Chicken.

The cultivation and appreciation of three-dimensionality in his work is a main priority for Jamil. To this end, the ideal presentation for Headless Chicken is to be suspended from the ceiling, thus meeting the viewer directly at eye level, inviting them to walk around and openly examine it from all angles. In this way, Headless Chicken achieves the goal of sculpture to holistically exist in the space it occupies, connecting with the audience through the dynamism and life Jamil instills in this ‘drawn sculpture’.


Title: Headless Chicken

Artist: Jamil Zakaria

Size: 122 cm in height

Medium: Stainless Steel & Wiremesh

Year: 2014


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