Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
The Thinker
The Thinker

Invoking Auguste Rodin’s 1904 sculpture of the same name, Ahmad Fuad Osman depicts a lone chimpanzee instead of a man in The Thinker to reflect on the primitive nature of humanity. The chimp is seen sitting on a stump surrounded by fallen branches and felled  trees in what looks like the aftermath of deforestation. Unlike Rodin’s thinker whose pensive nude male figure gazes downwards to represent the creative mind at work, the chimpanzee sits upright in the figurative painting, with hunched shoulders, both elbows on its knees and one hand supporting its chin. Instead of looking down, it stares directly towards its viewers with a solemn expression of despair on its face, alluding perhaps to humanity’s impact on the natural environment.

Oil on canvas
152 x 76 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Ahmad Fuad Osman
About Ahmad Fuad Osman

Born in 1969, Kedah, Ahmad Fuad Osman is an acclaimed multidisciplinary artist who works predominantly in installation and paintings. After graduating with a BA in Fine Arts from MARA Institute of Technology (now UiTM) in 1991, the artist was a founding member of the MATAHATI art collective that played a significant role in the contemporary art scene in Malaysia in the late 1990s. His practice often embraces socio-political themes such as power, identity politics and historical amnesia. Some memorable works include his award-winning Recollections of Long Lost Memories which garnered the Jurors’ Choice Award at the APBF Signature Art Prize, held at the Singapore Art Museum in 2008. He has exhibited in various countries, with recent exhibitions including PRIMITIVE, A+ Works of Art Gallery, Malaysia, 2018; Singapore Biennale: An Atlas of Mirrors, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore 2016-2017; Multiple Languages, Silverlens Gallery, Makati, Manila, Philippines, 2014; Welcome to the Jungle: Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia From the Collection of Singapore Art Museum, Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan, 2013. He lives and works between Bali, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Source: A+ Works of Art

Further Readings

Learning Section

  • What adjectives would you use to describe the chimpanzee in this painting. Who/what is he looking at? What is he thinking? What clues does the artist give us to answer this question? What message is the artist trying to convey with this painting? How important is the background to this message?

  • Compare this work to Zakaria Ali's Sungai Tembeling. Would you agree that the artist explores similar ideas? Which artwork is more impactful? Do you think either artwork will bring about change?