Sapar Contemporary is proud to present Lust for Life, Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s first exhibition in New York City in 15 years. The work of this prominent Malaysian artist hinges on series of figures and still life -- art historical forms that are both classical and universal, but reconceived critically and defiantly with innovations that are personal and innovative to Zakii’s practice. This exhibition, Lust for Life, centers on a group of his finely detailed individual charcoal male nudes abstracted from any background, and fruits and vegetables set in relation to each other on emptied tables. Working initially from live figures, but then from images of those models in his studio, Zakii draws sinewed, singular male nudes, partially disembodying them as thighs dissolve into backgrounds and headless figures float in space. (When heads do appear, faces are turned away from the viewer, retaining a certain abstraction and anonymity.) While referencing live figures--and seen by Zakii as autobiographical, these nudes appear statuesque and stilled. Zakii’s fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, adhere to art historical conventions of still-life or nature morte, but appear animated and held in a state of living suspense as some even seem ready to dance together. These paintings are about relationship, about the tension of two opposing and distinct bodies coming together. In this way, unexpectedly perhaps, these works take on a sensual, even sexualized, charge that the nudes resist, in part through the phallic impression of certain elements. A leading artist in Malaysia, revered by younger generations, Zakii has quietly subverted forms and conventions of the country’s art scene, which has largely favored abstraction in the context of painting.
Written by Beth Citron