Syed Thajudeen

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Syed Thajudeen
Syed thajudeen shaik abu talib.jpg
Syed Thajudeen has truly established his niche as one of Malaysia's distinguished figurative painters with a unique lyrical and poetic style
Born (1943-08-23)23 August 1943
Alagan Kulam, India
Nationality Malaysia (Penang)
Education Government College of Arts and Crafts, Madras, India (now known as Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai)
Known for Painting, Drawing
Notable work Ramayana (1972)
The Beginning: Founding of Malacca (2002)
The Eternal Love (2012)
Movement Cubism (early works), Surrealism, Figurative
Spouse(s) Kulsia Ishack

Syed Thajudeen Shaik Abu Talib was born in 1943 and spent his formative years as a student in Penang, Malaysia. He pursued his art education at the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Madras, India in 1968 graduating with a post diploma in Fine Arts in 1974.

Without doubt, Syed’s unique style and aesthetic sense draw inspiration from the Bauhaus art of Paul Klee and his Indian education background fused with Malay cultural elements.

A distinctive stylisation, romantic treatment of subject matter and the rich colours as in the Ajanta cave paintings of Maharashtra and of the Mughal (enriched from the wealth of Indian mythology) are apparent in his works. This, together with the traditional visual arts' integral connection with literature, music, dance, sculpture and philosophy, helped shape Syed's early works. His works, as individualistic as they are, attempt to evoke a state of rasa, or heightened mood that belongs to a larger tapestry and sensibility of Asian artistic traditions. In many instances where his favourite subject matters deal with women and love, they share the same archetypal symbols and metaphors.

Syed's impressionable days spent at the Madras College of Arts and Crafts had a profound influence on his search for artistic style and identity. Baroda, Calcutta and Madras were at the time rife with new ideas, experimentations and soul-searching discussions by the pioneering figures of India's post-independence visual artists. These artists were struggling to establish their individualistic styles. At the same time, they felt compelled to learn from the larger vehicle of Indian traditional arts that ubiquitously permeate the life of the masses in India. A larger number of these early figurative contemporary painters of India, found the rich tapestry of the Indian tradition, a source of inspiration as well as a point of embarkation for their own contemporary approach. These pioneering protagonists of India's visual arts had a deep impact on Syed Thajudeen's early paintings.

On returning to Malaysia, however, Syed soon established his own individualistic style and expression that transformed the early Indian influences into what is now his present style, an amalgamation of cultural elements and metaphors. Presently, Syed's works are accepted by Malaysia's art institutions and form part of a thriving Malaysian contemporary art scene. However, this has not always been the case. During the initial stages of Syed's career, Malaysian art was rampant with grandiose 'manifestos' and dogmas, which were critical of his work. This period in the 1970s coincided with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. This movement had a profound influence on the direction of Islamic painters favouring abstract paintings, with those who still chose to paint the human figures finding themselves scorned upon.

In the course of five decades of prolific and creative output in Malaysia, Syed has managed to convince his detractors – who had initially criticised him for his works which had deeply ingrained Asian influences and had overt decorativeness – his works are now an important element of Malaysian art and its history. Syed Thajudeen's Kebaya and Waiting for the Lover series are his widely popular works emoting the joys of love and femininity in its truest form and beauty. Syed Thajudeen successfully evokes the spirit of patriotism through his Merdeka series, where the Jalur Gemilang and the image of the Tunku proclaiming Malaya's independence is vividly expressed. His niche, however, lies in his passion and fervour in producing fine art in grand scales. Syed literally takes years to produce the mural sized paintings down to its minute detail. Ramayana, the first of his mural sized painting (72 x 453 cm), was painted in 1972 when he was still a student. Epic tales such as the founding of Malacca by Parameswara and his travels, have been captured in canvas by the artist in epic proportions. His current work which is part of the Malacca Sultanate series, The Eternal Love between Hang Tuah and Puteri Gunung Ledang, measures 183 x 762 cm. This masterpiece took Syed Thajudeen three years to complete.

Today, Syed's works are accepted by the mainstream Malaysian art circles and have become part of the rich Malaysian contemporary art heritage. Syed Thajudeen has exhibited extensively around the world, including the USA, Belgium, UK, and China with 9 solo exhibitions under his belt to date. His works decorate the walls of the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, Singapore Art Museum, Beijing Olympic Museum, corporate buildings and many private homes in Malaysia and abroad. Syed Thajudeen has truly established his niche as one of Malaysia's distinguished figurative painters with a unique lyrical and poetic style.

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

1975 – 1st Solo Exhibition, Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, Penang
1975 – 2nd Solo Exhibition, Samat Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1997 – 3rd Solo Exhibition, Pelita Hati Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2002 – Seroja, Sutra Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2004 – Love and its Many Splendoured Images, Sutra Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2006 – Cinta Tercipta… And there is Love…, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2007 – Cinta Tercipta… and There is Love, Pelita Hati, Kuala Lumpur
2007 – Women in Kebaya : A Tribute to Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood, Tanjung Art Gallery, Penang
2010 – Paintings on Love, KL Lifestyle Art Space @ Jalan Maarof, Kuala Lumpur
2015 - Retrospective, Penang State Museum & Art Gallery, Malaysia

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

1965 – Group Show for the Opening of Penang State Museum by Tun Sir Raja Uda, Malaysia
1970–74 – Annual Shows, Government College of Arts and Crafts, Madras, India
1978 – Malaysian Art 1965–78, Commonwealth Institute, London, UK
1979 – Salon Malaysia, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1982 – ASEAN Mobile Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur/ Singapore/ Jakarta/ Manila/Bangkok
1983 – 2nd Art Biennale, Bangladesh
1985 – 12 Malaysian Artist Exhibition, Taiwan
1988 – Contemporary painting of Malaysia, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California, USA
1989 – 1st ASEAN travelling exhibition of painting, Photography and Children Art
1990 – National Open Show, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1990 – Malaysian painting in Cologne, Germany
1990 – First Asian Symposium on Aesthetics Workshop and Exhibition
1991 – Asian International Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1991 – Annual Open Show, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1992 – Malaysian paintings in Brussels, Belgium
1993 – Malaysian Art 1993, Petronas Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1994 – Islamic Art, Petronas Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1994 – Time and Space -with Indian artists, Menara Maybank
1995 – Man and spirituality, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1995 – International Islamic Exhibition, Jakarta, Indonesia
1998 – Malaysia Artist Group Show 1998, Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi, UAE
1998 – Rupa Malaysia, Brunei Gallery, University of London, England
1999 – Malaysian Contemporary Art Exhibition, National Museum of Art, Beijing, China
2001 – Open show, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2003 – 45 @45, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2004 – Contemporary Art of Malaysia at the turn of the 21st Century, Guangdong Museum of Art, China
2007 – Merdeka 50: A Celebration of Malaysian Art, Islamic Art Museum, Kuala Lumpur
2007 – Between Generations: 50 Years Across Modern Art in Malaysia, UM, Kuala Lumpur and USM, Penang
2010 – World Expo Shanghai, China
2012 – Olympic Games Art Exhibition, London
2013 – China Malaysia Friendship Exhibition, China
2013 – M50, MAP, Kuala Lumpur
2013 – Wajah M50, Morne Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

Selected public collections[edit]

National Art Gallery, Malaysia
Singapore Art Museum, Singapore
Olympic Museum, Beijing, China
Shell Malaysia
PETRONAS Art Gallery
Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery
Avillion Port Dickson Resort
Yayasan Seni Berdaftar, Malaysia


Ibrahim, Ramli. 7 August 2002. Seroja: an exhibition of oil paintings and ink drawings by Syed Thajudeen. Sutra Gallery.2002