What can Malaysian art be? Exhibition lets you enter visionary artist Ismail Zain's mind


Ismail's digital print 'Aku Rela Tenggelam' (1987), a nod to Pop Art legend Roy Lichtenstien's 'Drowning Girl'. This work surrounds itself with questions about gender and the status of women in Malay culture. It is part of his '(Mem) Bayang Maksud - Foreboding Purpose' exhibition at the National Art Gallery in KL. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

The 1980s are back at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. A series of computer generated prints featuring Bruce Springsteen, the cast of TV soap Dallas, Linda Evans, Liza Minnelli, a Lamborghini Countach (a hint of Miami Vice?) and Malay pop star Sahara Yaacob have become conversational topics once again among art enthusiasts as they try to understand the playful yet incisive mind of the late Ismail Zain (1930-1991), who created all these works on his Macintosh computer in the late 1980s.

These pioneering digital prints are part of the larger Ismail Zain (Mem) Bayang Maksud Foreboding Purpose exhibition, the National Art Gallery’s new retrospective on Ismail. It is the first major museum exhibition dedicated to him in over 24 years.

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