Ismail Zain

(b. Kedah, 1930 – d. Kuala Lumpur, 1991)

Born in Kodiang, Kedah, in 1930, Ismail Zain attended the Malayan Teacher Training College in Kirby, England. Between 1961 and 1964, he participated at the Ravensbourne College of Art, followed by the Slade School of Fine Art, University of London, from 1964 to 1966.

He became the first Malaysian citizen to be appointed the Director of the National Gallery of Art (1972-1975), then he was appointed the Director of Culture at the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports (1975-1982) and Director General of National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) (1982-1985).

The late Ismail Zain was a multi-talented and visionary artist fascinated with computer art and digital manipulation. His pioneering work in digital collage, with images and text from various sources, opens a new chapter in web art and digital art in Malaysia.

Ismail Zain was a post-modernist who created iconic artworks like “7PM” and “Pupus Siti Nurbayah”. A solo exhibition titled “Digital Collage” in 1988 was a display of his cutting-edge electronic art. He also wrote “Seni dan Imejan” (1980) and “Toward Utopian Paradigm” (1989). He was awarded Ahli Mangku Negara in 1973 and Kesatria Mangku Negara in 1975. Ismail Zain passed away in August 1991 at 61 years old. A tribute exhibition titled “Al-Kesah: Homage to Ismail Zain”, organised by Petronas Gallery in 2016, aimed at encouraging “the exploration of new ideas and critical thinking through artistic engagement”. In 2019, an exhibition titled “Ismail Zain: Foreboding Purpose” was organised by Fergana Art in collaboration with Maybank Foundation and National Art Gallery, showcasing 77 paintings and reproductions of his digital collages.

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