Written by Zena Khan

Contemporary artist Daud Rahim has gained recognition for both his wonderful technical skills as well as his deeply philosophical conceptual abilities. Of late, he has ruminated on the eternal dilemma of materialism versus spiritualism in the modern world. His latest works Transport, which represent the beginning of a new series Pregnant, demonstrate his continued explorations into this theme accompanied by a beautifully resolved, colourful aesthetic.

Malaysia, with its sustained economic growth, has seen not only an increase in disposable income among its population, but also large migrations from rural to urban areas. As lifestyles have changed, so have values. Where once the country was largely rural, and therefore held tightly to traditional value systems, now the consumer culture has strongly taken root. Given the stronghold religion has traditionally had within Malaysia, this rise of materialism, with its conflicting principles to spirituality, is at the forefront of several moral dilemmas that contemporary society faces. Finding the ideal balance that needs to be struck between the two disparate value systems is at the core of Daud’s explorations in Transport.

Daud began ruminating on spirituality in a material world with his successful solo Jiwa. Presenting natural forms, mainly animals with details of vegetation, filled with mechanical or electrical skeletal components, he discussed the anxiety the human soul suffers when immersed in a covetous society. Transport push this idea forward with popular brand symbolism. Intertwining the Ferrari car logo and name with suggestions of embryos in his detailed imagery, Daud speaks to the entrenchment of the consumer culture today. Furthering his analogy of the struggle between the search for spiritual fulfilment and the quest for material things that currently exists in society, he hypotheses the lack of spiritual fulfilment as eventually leading to the cessation of humanity. Daud’s ability to astutely observe the world around him results in realistic depictions of both the natural and mechanical forms in Ferrari and Transport, infusing the work with a surreal atmosphere.

Daud works his canvases for Transport in colour pencil, which is unusual for such conceptual work. Given the rave reviews the artist receives for his drawing skills, it is unsurprising that he manages to harness his chosen medium with such decidedly striking detail. Working in a reverse technique is part of the technical challenge Daud sets himself, in an effort to fully comprehend the tenants of colour theory. Initially, he primes his surface black with acrylic, and then works with colour pencil to add colour and light. Achieving three-dimensionality in this manner is notoriously tricky, as it is the polar opposite of the regular task of bringing shadow onto light surfaces. Layering together several different colours composes each shade. Using confident, controlled lines to create marks and shade reveal not only Daud’s confidence but also the delight he takes in the labour of art production. As such, the artist’s innate understanding of colour theory, exemplary draftsman skills and commitment to his craft are demonstrated, cementing his reputation as a master of the formal aspects of art.

Analogies on the struggle between the search for spiritual fulfilment and the quest for material things are highly relevant in the increasingly globalized capital systems that dominate most of today’s world. The ability to harmoniously combine opposite imageries as seen in Daud’s work is a highly prized trait in contemporary artists today. Indeed, both the artist’s natural talents for art creation and innate understanding on the issues besetting his audience has led him into the creation of Transport as a pair of works which effortlessly engage his viewers with the wonderfully appealing aesthetic that is Daud’s calling card.


Title: Transport

Artist: Daud Rahim

Size: 250 cm x 171 cm

Medium: Colour Pencil on Canvas

Year: 2014


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