(b. 1955, Johor Bahru, Malaysia)
A graduate of the School of Art and Design, MARA Institute of Technology Malaysia, Ahmad Zakii Anwar began his career as a graphic artist, producing some of the leading advertising graphics of his time before turning to fine art practice.
Zakii came to attention for his virtuosity and command of a spectrum of media from charcoals to oils, building a reputation for stunning photo-realist still-life paintings and expressive portraits. Later, a more contemporary edge surfaced in his works as Zakii introduced urban subjects and settings into his canvases. He is lauded for capturing not just city motifs and urban features but also a distinctive psychological dimension and cinematic quality in these scenarios. Zakii’s preoccupation with the spiritual or metaphysical aspects of urban life, as seen through his use of icons, symbols and allegories (including metaphors of theatre, performance and masks) have also marked his practice.
In “Being”, Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s most recent solo exhibition held at the National University of Singapore Museum in 2009, his series of solitary figures “provocatively propose the body as not just the locus of physiological processes and metabolisms but also as a target directly involved in a sociocultural field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it, the invest it, mark it and train it, perhaps even torture it”, as put by Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, an assistant curator at the NUS museum.
Zakii’s remarks in an interview conducted for the exhibition “Being” were both revealing and ambivalent. He says, “my works examine the diverse belief systems, from paintings of Christ-like figures to depictions of the Buddha. And in all of these I don’t find a contradiction. Ibn Arabi, the Andalusian Sufi, has a wonderful term for it. He calls it, ‘…uniting the contraries.'”