Syed Thajudeen (b. 1943) has been painting for the past 50 years and is recognized as one of the stalwarts of the Malaysian art scene. He has honed his mastery of the human form, being able to create miniature pieces to mural-sized masterpieces. Syed Thajudeen has exhibited extensively around the world, including the USA, Belgium, UK, UAE and China with nine solo exhibitions under his belt to date. Syed Thajudeen’s paintings are a permanent collection of the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, Singapore Art Museum, Beijing Olympic Museum, corporate buildings and many private homes in Malaysia and abroad. He has taught Fine Arts at the MARA institute of Technology, Malaysia and was a resident artist at the United Asian Bank. He currently serves as a member of the National Visual Arts Development Board, Malaysia.
Myths, legends and folklore: From Ramayana to Hikayat Sejarah Melayu
Since time immemorial, Man has been fascinated with all kinds of stories – oral, documented or experiential: the simple, heroic, inspirational, starry-eyed, tragic, horrifying, comic, bizarre and even resembling the fantastical ‘Baron Munchausen’ types. Artist Syed Thajudeen mines these rich lodes of compelling ﬁction/fables, epic poetry and real human endeavours of history into his own tapestries of narration, with subtexts and local relevance to people and time.
Like a movie-maker, Syed Thajudeen is piqued by the ’love interest’ in any story, which he expands on and embellishes for a more wholesome picture. The Love theme is his messianic timbre that resonates throughout his repertoire. The stories may not have been in texts, testaments or parchments but carved as rocks as in the erotic art of the renowned temples of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, or in the rock-cut architecture of the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra with the stories drawn from Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
He was also drawn by the local folklore and legends, the glory of the Malacca Sultanate, the Malay Annals (Hikayat Sejarah Melayu), the legends of Puteri Gunung Ledang and Mahsuri. He was commissioned by Shell Malaysia to illustrate six Malaysian fables for its 1990 calendar. The stories included The Fairy Cloak (a Sabah tale of a Murut who married a fairy princess), The Cowherd and The Girl Weaver (a Chinese legend about a love affair between two stars), The Owl That Marries the Moon (an lban story about a ﬁsh eating only a certain kind of fruit) and Mahsuri (the Langkawi legend on a chaste woman executed for trumped up charge of zina).
The life lessons are eternal and are still relevant today, perhaps more so in a digital-tech world of the ubiquitous social media and real-time face-to-face communication even when worlds apart. The old worlds may have disappeared forever, but the core human values like love, compassion, faith, ﬁlial piety, honesty and trust remain the same. Indeed, Syed Thajudeen’s works are imbued with the feel – good spirit, with nary a shadow of worry or even care – even in times of purportedly violent strife. His works are an afﬁrmation of the good self, of togetherness, love and mutual nurture.