Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Perempuan Cina (Orang Perempuan Series)
Perempuan Cina (Orang Perempuan Series)

Artist Ahmad Zakii Anwar attempts to challenge stereotypical ideas about identity in his life-size charcoal portraits, Orang-Orang (Perempuan). The monumentality of the portraits heroise the ordinary person. Instead of seeing them as figures representing race, these everyday people are stripped of all colour, that are often culturally specific. Instead, the artist’s technical finesse with charcoal captures contemporary Malaysian people – the makcik and her umbrella, the teenager in a T-shirt,  a uniformed member of an organisation, and many more. 

Charcoal on paper
205 x 76 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Ahmad Zakii Anwar
About Ahmad Zakii Anwar

Ahmad Zakii Anwar (b. 1955, Johor) is a graduate of the School of Art and Design, MARA Institute of Technology Malaysia. His art is lauded for capturing not just city motifs and urban features but also the distinctive psychological dimensions and cinematic qualities in these scenarios. Zakii’s preoccupation with the spiritual or metaphysical aspects of urban life is seen through his use of icons, symbols and allegories. Recent solo exhibitions include Pleasure + Pain (2014) at Galerie Huit, Hong Kong, Bones and Sinews (2011) at Andrew Shire Gallery, Los Angeles, Being (2009) at NUS Museum, Singapore.

Learning Section

  • Each of these drawings is 205 cm tall. This makes them bigger than life size. Why has the artist chosen this scale? Have you seen portraits of this size before? World leaders and monarchs are a more usual subject for portraits of this size. 

  • With this series of portraits, the artist is giving as a snap shot of the Malaysian population. What kind of people has he chosen? What do these people tell us about Malaysia and its population? What groups are not included? Compare this work to Run Malaysia Run by Vincent Leong. How are the works similar? How are they different?  Which is a truer representation of Malaysia?