Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Gunung Ledang Series (Cherryvale)
Gunung Ledang Series (Cherryvale)

Inspired by the cherry trees Syed Ahmad Jamal saw during a visit to Adelaide, Australia, this painting evokes the symbolic ‘gunungan’ triangle of the artist’s Gunung Ledang series. Gunung Ledang, also translated as ‘mount from afar’, has been a recurring motif due to its cultural and historical significance  as a prominent source of folk legends and stories in Malay culture. Cool colours dominate the quiet composition as a large triangle rises up to the sky to depict a mystical abstraction of the mountain landscape. Around it, smaller triangles dance across the wide expanse of the azure blue sky while rhythmic gestures of red and orange hues liven up the work through horizontal lines to inject a sense of fantasy throughout. Rendered in the artist’s abstract expressionist style, Cherryvale reveals an emotive reimagination of the natural environment steeped in a negotiation between the physical and mythical, tradition and modernity.

Oil on canvas
91 x 91 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Syed Ahmad Jamal
About Syed Ahmad Jamal

Born in Johor, Syed Ahmad Jamal (1929 - 2011) is considered a pioneer of the abstract expressionist movement in Malaysia. An all-encompassing artist, art educator, arts administrator, writer and cultural observer, his immense contributions to the nation’s development of modern art spanned over four decades.. He was awarded the Sultan Ibrahim scholarship to study architecture at the Birmingham School of Architecture (1950-1951) and later studied painting at the Chelsea School of Art in London (1951-1955). He then spent a year at the Institute of Education, University of London studying art education from 1955 to 1956. In 1963, he was awarded a Fulbright grant to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, specialising in sculpture. He left again for the United States in 1973 to obtain a Masters in Art History from University of Hawaii, Honolulu and studied Philosophy of Islamic Art in Harvard University, USA. Upon his multiple returns, he taught at the Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute for more than ten years, where he was subsequently appointed Principal of the Institution. He later served as Director, Culture Centre, University of Malaya and then as Director, National Art Gallery from 1983–1991. He is the only visual artist to date to be awarded the accolade of Seniman Negara (National Artist Laureate).

Further Readings
  • Hasnol J. Saidon, ‘Syed Ahmad Jamal: Pelukis, 55 Years of Collecting Syed Ahmad Jamal’s Works’, Kuala Lumpur: National Art Gallery, 2009

  • T.K. Sabapathy, ‘Merdeka Makes Art, Or Does It?’ Vision and Idea: ReLooking Modern Malaysian Art, ed. T.K. Sabapathy, Kuala Lumpur: National Art Gallery, 1994. 

  • Modern Artists of Malaysia, T.K. Sabapathy, Redza Piyadasa, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1983 

  • Syed Ahmad Jamal : A Historical Overview, 1954 - 1994, T.K. Sabapathy, Nanyang Gallery of Art, 1994

Learning Section
  • Can you describe the composition of this painting? Is this painting symmetrical ? How are the left and right sides of the painting different? What are the similarities? What is in the foreground of the painting? What is in the background? Are there any colours which are dominant? Where are they used? What other colours have been used? Can you describe the brushstrokes the painter has used? What is the mood of the painting?

  • Would you describe this painting as a landscape? What elements of a landscape do you recognise? What elements are abstracted? Does the title help you understand the painting?