Art Detail | Ilham Gallery

Translated from Malay as the act of cradling a child, Timang radiates warmth and expression through the use of gestural strokes and striking primary colours to convey the powerful experience of maternal intimacy. Fields of colour move and blur together to form a towering, abstract form that is fluid but strong in shape. This particular work was part of Gerak Rupa Ubur Penyataan (Grup) in 1967, a seminal exhibition held at Kuala Lumpur’s AIA Building on Jalan Ampang. Showing alongside Anthony Lau, Cheong Laitong, Ibrahim Husseim, Jolly Koh, Latiff Mohidin and Yeoh Jin Leng, Syed Ahmad Jamal was part of the seven artists who are now regarded as the first generation of modernists in the local art scene.

Oil on canvas
122 x 91 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Syed Ahmad Jamal
About Syed Ahmad Jamal

Born in Johor, Syed Ahmad Jamal (1929 - 2011) is considered a pioneer of the abstract expressionist movement in Malaysia. An all-encompassing artist, art educator, arts administrator, writer and cultural observer, his immense contributions to the nation’s development of modern art spanned over four decades.. He was awarded the Sultan Ibrahim scholarship to study architecture at the Birmingham School of Architecture (1950-1951) and later studied painting at the Chelsea School of Art in London (1951-1955). He then spent a year at the Institute of Education, University of London studying art education from 1955 to 1956. In 1963, he was awarded a Fulbright grant to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, specialising in sculpture. He left again for the United States in 1973 to obtain a Masters in Art History from University of Hawaii, Honolulu and studied Philosophy of Islamic Art in Harvard University, USA. Upon his multiple returns, he taught at the Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute for more than ten years, where he was subsequently appointed Principal of the Institution. He later served as Director, Culture Centre, University of Malaya and then as Director, National Art Gallery from 1983–1991. He is the only visual artist to date to be awarded the accolade of Seniman Negara (National Artist Laureate).

Further Readings

  • Hasnol J. Saidon, ‘Syed Ahmad Jamal: Pelukis, 55 Years of Collecting Syed Ahmad Jamal’s Works’, Kuala Lumpur: National Art Gallery, 2009

  • Simon Soon, ‘Notes on GRUP’, Gerak, Rupa, Ubah, Penyataan 1957-1973, ILHAM, 2017. 

  • T.K. Sabapathy, ‘Merdeka Makes Art, Or Does It?’ Vision and Idea: ReLooking Modern Malaysian Art, ed. T.K. Sabapathy, Kuala Lumpur: National Art Gallery, 1994. 

  • Redza Piyadasa, ‘The Treatment Of The Local Landscape In Modern Malaysian Art, 1930-1981’, Narratives in Malaysian Art: Imagining Identities, ed. Nur Hanim Khairuddin, Beverly Yong, T.K. Sabapathy, Kuala Lumpur: Rogue Art. 

  • Syed Ahmad Jamal : A Historical Overview, 1954 - 1994, T.K. Sabapathy, Nanyang Gallery of Art, 1994

Learning Section

  • Describe what you see in this painting. How has the artist used colour? What do these colours make you think about?  How has the artist applied the paint? What marks has he made? What shapes do you see in the painting?   What do they remind you of?  What is the mood of the painting?

  • The title of the painting is Timang. This is translated as the cradling of a child. Can you see a child in this painting?  Who else can you see? What elements of this theme has the artist chosen to include? What has he left out? How does the title change your reading of the painting?