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Lot 77 | Auction XX

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LOT 77

Yusof Ghani
B. Johor, 1950

Topeng – Imbuan, 1996

Signed and titled Topeng Yusof Ghani” on bottom of paper
Signed, titled and dated “Yusof Ghani Topeng – Imbuan 1996” on reverse

Mixed media on paper

76 x 56 cm

Provenance Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur

RM 7,000 – RM 11,000


The Topeng series came about when Yusof Ghani paid a visit to Sarawak. It was here that he discovered the ethnic Kayan and Kenyah tribes wore ceremonial masks to cure illnesses, especially during ceremonial rituals. This gave him insight into the spiritual life of the people there, and consequently gave him inspiration for the series. It was said that he began to paint what he saw as the cure to his own state of spiritual illness, having doubted whether his works reflected his true self, or merely an adopted persona.

As such, both the paintings and the masks hinted at something: the bolder and the more grotesque the masks, the more powerful they become – and the more they heal. Perhaps, this was a form of the artist dealing with his own personal demons at the time.

Yusof Ghani was born in 1950 in Johor and used to frequent a small movie theater as a young boy, where he developed a predisposition towards painting. He received a scholarship to study art at George Mason University, USA, where he studied Graphic Art and proceeded to pursue his Master’s in Fine Art at Catholic University, Washington. Upon returning to Malaysia, he began lecturing in Universiti MARA Institute of Technology. Most notably known for Abstract Expressionism, his other popular series are Topeng, Wayang, Segerak and Biring.

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