Art Detail | Ilham Gallery

Yusof Ghani’s Ombak (Wave) evokes the power and majesty of nature. In this work depicting a swell of water, his expressive brushstrokes create movement and energy, suggesting the potentially destructive force of nature.  This is not a gentle, inviting sea with waves breaking gently on the beach, but an unpredictable one that can cause devastation and wreak havoc. The work elicits memories of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 that claimed more than 230,000 lives in fourteen different countries, one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded.

Oil on jute
182 x 152 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Yusof Ghani
About Yusof Ghani

Yusof Ghani (b. 1950, Pontian, Johor, Malaysia) is an artist, writer, academic and curator.  In 1979, he received a scholarship to study Graphic Art at George Mason University, USA. He then obtained a Master’s degree at the Catholic University, Washington DC. His thesis focused  on ‘cultural dance’, which was to become a recurring theme in his body of work. Formerly an associate professor at UiTM, Yusof Ghani is considered one of Malaysia’s leading abstract artists. A devout Muslim, his abstract works which have remained rooted in the figurative with his Tari works and portraiture in his Topeng series, raised the interesting debate about figuration and Islam that influenced the themes and aesthetics of Malaysian art in the 80s.

Further Readings

  • Ombak : breath of life. 2014. Bank Negara Malaysia Muzium dan Galeri Seni.

  • A Study of Yusof Ghani’s Artworks: The ‘Wajah’ Series Paintings from 2006 to 2010. 2010. Mozhgan Ramezani.

Learning Section

  • Ombak means wave. Look carefully at the painting and imagine it is a wave rising up before you. What emotions do you feel? Is your breathing fast or slow?  What noises do you hear? What would you do next?  

  • The description of the artwork tells us that it responds to the 2004 Tsunami. Does this information change the way you look at the painting? What aspects of the tsunami is the artist conveying? What is not shown in the image?

  • Many artists have wrestled with the challenges of depicting water in their paintings. The play of light and shadow and the transparency of the surface are the source of its beauty but also serve as problems for the painter to solve. Why not give it a try? Take a photo of light playing on the surface of water in a lake, swimming pool or even  a glass of water. Now try to paint what you see.