Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Mother and Child
Mother and Child

Mother and Child by Malaysian painter Khalil Ibrahim is a family portrait done in batik, using red, earthy tones. It is a rare work of portraiture from the artist, who normally painted figures from a distance, and in movement. While the mother and child of this portrait closely resemble each other with their round faces and large doe eyes, we see the advent of modern life and generational change in the child’s Western style of dress (a buttoned shirt) in contrast with her mother’s flame-coloured kebaya. The artist himself was among the few in his hometown who had the opportunity of furthering his studies in the West, which made him as familiar with the trends of Western modernity as he was with the traditional customs of the East Coast. By using the craft medium of batik to paint a Western-style portrait, he was leaning into this cultural confluence.

46 × 36 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Khalil Ibrahim
About Khalil Ibrahim

Khalil Ibrahim (b. 1934, Kelantan — d. 2018, Selangor) was an influential batik painter who integrated a Western sensibility in his use of the traditional craft medium. His art education began under the tutelage of Nik Mahmud Idris, who taught him the fundamentals of painting in watercolours and oils. In 1960, he received a full scholarship to study art at St Martin’s School of Art (now Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design) in London, where he was exposed to abstractionism. In his time, he exhibited widely locally and internationally, his works having travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, the United States, and Germany. His deep affection for the East Coast prevailed throughout his career, and the subject of his works mainly revolved around its people and its village landscapes.

Further Readings

Learning Section

  • Mother and child is a common theme for artists and we see lots of examples in the Ilham collection. Why do you think that is? 

  • Compare this artwork to the painting by Fadilah Karim. Does Fadilah Karim's painting show a different view of motherhood? What are the main differences? What reasons might there be for the different perspectives?