Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Bentuk dan Kelakuan
Bentuk dan Kelakuan

Bentuk dan Kelakuan is a flat wooden sculpture made up of rows of carved nyatoh wood running vertically along the top of the construction. It comprises two long blocks of wood, carved and sanded with an identical, shallow chequered pattern, connected by the long side of each block. Sitting along the sculpture are carbon steel balls arranged haphazardly along the sculpture so that they perch variously above and between the sculpture’s square blocks. 

The steel balls were not fixed to the positions we see in this photograph; in fact, when first displayed in 2021 in his solo exhibition, Interdependence, visitors were invited to interact with the sculpture and to explore alternative arrangements of the balls along its surface. This invitation forms part of Lee’s wider investigation into the relationship between human and non-human elements in the gallery space, here principally through touch. This was to draw his visitors closer to the material presence of his works, through weight, resistance, texture, to witness the sculpture’s ever-changing appearance and the effects of their intervention. 

Bentuk dan Kelakuan epitomises two key aspects of Lee’s practice. Firstly, his interest in the agency of materials: how a material’s forms and properties command our relationship to and actions upon them. In other works, this usually involves an embrace of natural processes of rustication and corrosion on both man-made and natural materials. Here, it involves a more direct and tactile relationship between viewer and material. The sculpture’s heavily-sanded straight lines and carved geometries are further indicative of the artist’s interest in Islamic designed forms, an interest that is expressed in his works through the use of repetition, abstraction, intricate patterns, and modular structures. These two aspects converge in Bentuk dan Kelakuan as a work that exists as the result of both order and disorder, or predetermined form and chance.

Nyatoh wood and carbon steel balls
20 x 25.5 x 235 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Zulkifli Lee
About Zulkifli Lee

Zulkifli Lee (b. 1978, Malaysia) is a multidisciplinary artist working in the mediums of painting, sculpture, print, and installation. Lee graduated with an MA in Fine Art and Technology from Universiti Teknologi MARA, receiving the Master’s Excellence Award in 2013. Prior to that he received his BA in Art and Design (Fine Art) from the same university, in 2000. Lee’s practice explores the dynamics between personalised and impersonalised forms, primarily through the differences and paradoxes that occur between natural and man-made materials. Bridging Islamic aesthetic philosophies with contemporary principles and techniques, Lee references traditional Islamic and Malay folk art to create minimal and intricate compositions. His motifs usually involve systematic and rhythmic geometric patterns, but rather than striving for total control, he embraces the element of chance in the medium itself. 

Since 1999, Lee has exhibited extensively in galleries and institutions in Malaysia. As Rimbun Dahan’s Yearlong Resident Artist for 2017, he presented works inspired from the natural and built environments surrounding the private arts facility in his first solo exhibition Material, Order & Chance (2017). In 2019, he completed his art residency with ACME Studio in London, UK. His recent selected group exhibitions include S.E.A New Generation (2019) Tang Contemporary, Bangkok, Thailand; Frictional (2018), Pearl Lam Galleries, Singapore; Lingering Manifestations (2018), Pearl Lam Galleries, Singapore; Bintang 5 (2018), Segaris Art Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Locals Only! (2018), TAKSU, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; The Unreal Deal (2017), Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Young Contemporary ’16 (2017), National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Lee’s artworks are also in the public collections of Khazanah Nasional, Malaysia; Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Singapore; Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia; Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Banyan Tree Signatures Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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