Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Gubahan Interior '97(1) / Interior '97 Composition (1)
Gubahan Interior '97(1) / Interior '97 Composition (1)

This collaged painting by Mastura Abdul Rahman depicts a deconstructed interior showcasing the objects, aesthetics and symbols of the Malay world. Mastura has often been grouped under a network of Post-Independence women painters operating during the latter half of the twentieth century, whose works played an important role in developing a new artistic idiom for contemporary visual arts in Malaysia.. These revivalist painters’ works were characterised by their references to the world of the contemporary Malay woman, filled with artistic elements from songket and batik motifs, wood carvings, to the fables and literature of the Malay tradition. Mastura’s ‘Interior Series’, developed from studio projects she undertook during the eighties as a Fine Art student at ITM (Institut Teknologi MARA), has been considered influential towards this particular moment in Malaysian art history. 

In this painting, the artist strips the roof off of her domestic structures, leaving the structural supports and interior decorations to protrude and float through imagined space. This is characteristic of her oeuvre: her tendency to incorporate multiple spatial arrangements in a single composition, as inspired by the use of flattened and isometric perspective in Persian and Mughal miniature paintings as well as Japanese Ukiyo-E prints. Among the many perspectives incorporated into the painting, two stand out. The first is the aerial view into the interior of a traditional Malay home, decorated with a clash of floral patterns across the floor, rugs, art, to the television screen on the bottom right corner of the structure. The second view is a stolen glance into the corner of an interior, seen at the bottom right corner of the composition, where a sheer neon orange sheet illuminates a labu sayong and a pile of newspapers. This is an everyday scene, enlivened by the visual feast of Mastura’s disorientating perspectives and her celebration of the decorative forms and motifs of the Malay tradition. 

Acrylic and collage on canvas
32 x 62 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Mastura Abdul Rahman
About Mastura Abdul Rahman

Mastura Abdul Rahman (b. 1963, Singapore) is a contemporary woman artist best known for her contributions towards a new idiom of Malay art during the 1980’s ‘identity consciousness’ period in Malaysia. Abdul Rahman studied Fine Art at ITM’s School of Art & Design during the early eighties. There, she was introduced to Persian and Mughal miniature paintings, Ukiyo-E prints, and the Malay traditional architecture and decorative arts, which were formative influences within her practice.  She represented Malaysia at the 3rd ASEAN Youth Painting Workshop, held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia during her third year at ITM. Upon graduating in 1986, she was the winner of the Malaysia’s Young Contemporaries Art Competition. Since then her paintings have been exhibited extensively in Southeast Asia, following touring ASEAN art exhibitions and programs. Her works have been exhibited in Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain. Her paintings are in the collections of Malaysia's National Visual Art Gallery, Bank Negara Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines, Beijing Art Gallery (in conjunction with Olympic Fine Art, London, 2012) and several other corporate art collections. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Multimedia at Multimedia University (MMU), Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

Further Readings
  • Noh, L. M. M., Ridzuan, A. R., Idris, N., Sharif, T. I. S. T., & Ghani, K. M. A. (2018). The Malay Identity in Malaysian Women’s Paintings. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 8(10), 63–72.

  • Zakaria, Muhammad, Merman, Hairulnisak. (2021). Exploring the Malayness of Mastura Abdul Rahman's Painting. International Journal of Art & Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA Cawangan Melaka, Volume 4, Number 6, April/2021,  47-55.

  • Tsabri, T, “The Use of Traditional Malay Art Images in the Paintings of Mastura A. Rahman”, Off Walls Off Pedestals, March 2 2010, (accessed 13 Dec 2021). Blog post.

Learning Section
  • What is your first reaction to this painting? Write a list of words which come into your head when looking at this painting. Aim to write 3 adjectives, 3 nouns and 2 verbs. What questions do you have about this artwork? If you could speak to the artist, what three questions would you ask them about the artwork?

  • What do you see in this painting? What objects do you see? What patterns do you notice?Does this artwork remind you of your home or does it make you think of other homes you have been to? What elements of this artwork make it distinctively Malaysian?

  • Can you describe the viewpoint the artist has taken when creating this artwork? Why has she chosen to arrange the space in this way?