Brought to you by the National Gallery Singapore

Masterpieces from the Gallery

Zulkifli Yusoff’s The Power II.
Zulkifli Yusoff’s The Power II.PHOTO: FUKUOKA ASIAN ART MUSEUM

The Power II is the companion piece of Malaysian artist Zulkifli Yusoff's iconic The Power I, which won the Minister's Award and the Major Award for sculpture at Salon Malaysia 1991/1992. The Power II was awarded the consolation prize at the same event.

Zulkifli's The Power series was done after his return from the United Kingdom, where he pursued a master's degree at Manchester Polytechnic's Faculty of Art and Design. Resembling a ritual altar, this Manichean-like, black-and- white installation is flanked by two rickety throne-like structures that are bound by cloth strips.

The middle of its scaffold-like structure, which is set against a central patterned banner, is festooned with mock Malay ceremonial headdresses known as the tengkolok, which are meant as representations of the various Malay social classes.

Dipping into Malay history and folklore as inspirational sources, The Power II confronts one with the lively debates in the early 1990s on the continued deference to the power and aura of the Malaysian sultans, as well as commenting on the pomp and regalia of Malaysian royalty.

  • THE POWER II (1991)

  • By Zulkifli Yusoff (b. 1962, Malaysia)

    Canvas, ink, cloth, wood and metal bars, 24 x 24 x 18cm

    Collection of Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

The work's seemingly precarious construction alludes to the capriciousness of power (also implying the potential national downfall of absolute power corrupting absolutely) and speaks for the artist's distaste for the arrogance, prejudice and brutality that often follow when authority is abused.

Yet it calls on the sovereign power and, by extension, political leaders and captains of industry, not to be intoxicated by the power they wield, but to use it judiciously.

• This is the fourth of a six-part series brought to you by the National Gallery Singapore. The Gallery houses the largest public collection of Singapore and South-east Asian art and opens to the public on Nov 24. Go to nationalgallery.sg for more information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline 'Masterpieces from the Gallery'. Print Edition | Subscribe