The Nature of Ismail Zain’s Art: A Different Vision in Malaysian Contemporary Art


  • Issarezal Bin Ismail Faculty of Art and Design, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB)
  • Setiawan Sabana Faculty of Art and Design, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB)


This study is an exploration of Ismail Zain’s art, one of the pioneers in new media art in Malaysia. It will focus on his outstanding display in Digital Collage exhibition, an exhibition was notable by art critics from Malaysia and Asia Pacific as the touchstones of a new approach in art which was a non-personalized medium that specifically depended on highly mechanized consideration. The purpose of this study is to explore Ismail’s art in terms of the process itself. In order to understand the nature Ismail’s art, there are three important questions: What are the idea and concept in his art? What are the medium and technique that were used in his art? How was the artwork itself? These questions are addressed by data gathered in Malaysia through collection of the artifacts, documents regarding interviews, and some institutional historical resources. The data have been divided and presented into the following themes: (a) conception, (b) operations and (c) synthesis.


Piyadasa, R. 1993. Modern Malaysian art 1945-1991: a historical overview, in Turner, C (ed). Tradition and Change: Contemporary Art of Asia and the Pacific. Queensland. University of Queensland Press.

Antoinette, M. 2002. Different visions: contemporary Malaysian art and exhibition in the 1990s and beyond, in Turner, C (ed). Art and Social Change. Canberra. Pandanus.

Read, H. 1944. Education through Art, London. Faber & Faber.

Barrett, M. 1982. Art Education: A Strategy for Course Design, London, Heinemann Education Books.

Weitz, M. 2007. The role of theory in aesthetics, in Wartenberg, T. The Nature of Art: An Anthology. California. Thomson Wadsworth.

Prinz, J. 1991. Art Discourse/Discourse in Art, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press.

Owens, C. 1984. The allegorical impulse towards a theory of Postmodernism, in Wallis, B (ed). Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation. New York. The New Museum Of Contemporary Art.

Joselit, D. 2003. American Art Since 1945, London, Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Jit, K. 1999. Ismail Zain: Retrospective Exhibition 1964-1991, Kuala Lumpur. National Art Gallery.

Giddens, A. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge. Polity Press.

Benjamin, W. 1968. Illuminations, New York, Schocken Book.

Appadurai, A. 1990. Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy, in Featherstone, M (ed). Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity. London. Sage.

Saidon, H.J. & Rajah, N. Pameran Seni Elektronik Pertama. Kuala Lumpur. Balai Seni Lukis Negara.

Castells, M. 1996. The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford. Blackwell.