Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Bobby II
Bobby II

This painted resin and fibreglass sculpture was first displayed in 2008 in Zulkifli Yusoff’s solo exhibition, ICONS. The multimedia exhibition explored historical and current events seen by the artist as fundamental to the shaping of Malaysian society. At the same time, by drawing from archival texts and icons, the exhibition continued the artist’s inquiry across his practice into the potential for newer and more dynamic readings of the familiar in our encounters between contemporary, colonial and native documents in art. 

In this sculpture, Yusoff references two historical moments in Malaysian history. Firstly, its inverted teardrop shape evokes the jantung pisang (banana flower), here symbolic of the shape of the weapon—a spearhead—used in the assassination of the first British Resident of Perak, J.W.W. Birch, on 2 November 1875, an event that initiated the Perak War and a consolidation of British power in British Malaya. Secondly, wrapping the surface of this colonial symbol is a collage of text and pop-art iconography referencing the 1973 blockbuster film, Bobby, a Hindi blockbuster film that was among the most popular foreign films in Malaysia at the time. Yusoff employs the film’s signature cartoonish title font, in combination with motifs of stars, hearts, and comic scream bubbles, in shallow relief. 

This anachronistic collision between old and new references is further heightened by the relic-like quality of this teardrop structure: the main body is painted in a desert yellow with a dusted finish coating its resin gems and studs. The resulting sculpture is in this way conjured as an undateable artefact recently unearthed for our viewing that evades knowing or contextualising. To frustrate the viewer’s capacity for an easy reading of time, image, and history is central to Yusoff’s practice, and in Bobby II we are likewise encouraged to make space for a more creative understanding of Malaysia’s historical archive.

Painted resin and fibreglass
120 x 50 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Zulkifli Yusoff
About Zulkifli Yusoff

Zulkifli Yusoff (b. 1962, Kedah, Malaysia) obtained a Diploma in Art and Design from MARA Institute of Technology (now UiTM), and a Master of Arts from the Faculty of Art & Design Manchester Polytechnic, UK. His decades-long oeuvre consists of various mediums, ranging from expressive paintings and prints, to sculptures and powerful installations. Over the years, he has exhibited globally, and his work can also be found in various prominent collections in the region, such as the National Art Gallery, Galeri PETRONAS and Kedah State Gallery in Malaysia, the Singapore Art Museum, Fukuoka Museum of Art and Hiroshima Art Museum in Japan. Zulkifli Yusoff represented Malaysia at the Venice Biennale of 1997 and 2019.

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