Art Detail | Ilham Gallery

In Pertarungan, two silat fighters spar at the edge of an arena. One raises his leg, getting ready to strike while the other prepares to absorb the blow. The similarities in facial features and body shapes suggests that both figures are not separate identities but the same person, exemplifying one of Amron Omar’s central preoccupations: the inner struggle between good and evil, as expressed in a silat match. Since 1980, Amron’s drawings and paintings have focused on silat, a genre of martial arts stemming from Malay cultural traditions, of which Amron is a master. Pertarungan (translated to ‘duel”)  is also the title of several of his earlier silat-focused works. In these earlier works, the faces of the fighter and his doppelganger, were often obscured so that the dynamism and energy of the movement so inherent to silat were the main focus.  However, this vibrant painting is a much more realistic representation of silat, where we can clearly see the faces of the fighters, and the stylised gestures of the art form.

Oil on canvas
122 x 192 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Amron Omar
About Amron Omar

Born in Kedah, Amron Omar (b. 1957) graduated from Mara Institute of Technology (now UiTM) in 1980. In 1982, he won the Minor Award in the Young Contemporary Artists exhibition. He won the Silver Award in the 1985 Sime Darby Art Asia competition. He has also been exhibited internationally, most notably in The Contemporary Asian Art Show in Fukuoka, Japan (1980), ASEAN Mobile Show in Jakarta (1981), and Contemporary Paintings of Malaysia in Los Angeles, California (1988). In 2012, the National Art Gallery of Malaysia held a major solo exhibition for him, where over 150 works were displayed. Amron’s rise to prominence is significant because it took place during a period of Islamic revival. Primarily a figurative artist, Amron was able to circumvent the Islamic dictate against the representation of living beings by selecting a topic that necessitated the illumination of the human form.

Further Readings
  • Michelle Antoinette, Endurance and Overcoming in the Art of Amron Omar and Melati Suryodarmo: Invoking Uncommon Alignments for Contemporary Southeast Asian Art History, Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, Volume 1, Number 1, March 2017, pp. 81-129 (Article) Published by NUS Press Pte Ltd.

  • Abdullah, A. H., Ibrahim, Y., and Halid, R. I. R. (2020). An Iconographical Analysis Based on the Erwin Panofsky Theory on the Malayness in The Paintings of Amron Omar and Haron Mokhtar. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences. 10(9), 589-601.

Learning Section

  • Describe what you see in this painting. Describe how the artist has used colour. Describe what you see in the background and describe the movement of these figures. The head and right foot of the man in red are cut off by the frame of the painting. What effect does this have? Do you think this painting was made from a photograph or from life? Why do you think that?

  • Compare the two figures in the painting. How are they similar? How are they different? Who do you feel will win this fight? Why do you think so? The text suggests that the artist is exploring the internal struggle between good and evil. If so, which figure represents good and which represents evil? Can you empathise with the figure fighting with himself? Have you ever experienced a similar struggle? How did it feel?