Legendary Malaysian painter Yusof Gajah dies at 68

10 Mar 2022 11:20am
Mohd Yusof Ismail, better known as Yusof Gajah was one of Malaysia's celebrated painters.
Mohd Yusof Ismail, better known as Yusof Gajah was one of Malaysia's celebrated painters.

SHAH ALAM - Celebrated local painter Mohd Yusof Ismail, better known as Yusof Gajah has passed away yesterday. He was 68.

The national literary and arts institution, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka confirmed the death. However, the cause of death was not revealed.

According to his second son, Abdul Aziz Yusof, 37, Yusof passed away at their family residence in Greenwood, Gombak on his 10th day of quarantine after being confirmed to be infected with Covid-19.

Yusof Gajah was born on Feb 10, 1954 in Johol, Negeri Sembilan and his passion for art began at the tender age of six.

He spent his schooling years in Singapore and was later enrolled at the Indonesian School of Fine Arts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia until 1974. He continued his studies at the famous Indonesian Academy of Fine Arts or ASRI in Indonesia in 1975 until graduating fine arts studies.

The Formula of Contemporary Love (1976) was his first naive work which he produced right after returning home upon his graduation.

Since then, the naive image he carried using elephants as the main element in his works, and this is how he got the name Yusof Gajah since ‘gajah’ means elephant in the Malay language.

One of the latest artworks produced by Yusof Gajah.
One of the latest artworks produced by Yusof Gajah.

He admitted that he was inspired by the painter Zulkifli Dahalan who was the first painter to introduce the art of naive style painting in Malaysia.

Related Articles:

He carried forward the legacy of the art of naive painting after Zulkifli Dahalan died in 1977.

Throughout his life, he has received various awards such as the Pratita Adi Karya prize in 1974 while studying in Yogyakarta.

In 1985, he won second place in the Annual Art Competition organized by the Sabah Art Gallery. He also received a winning prize from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka when his work was used as an illustration for a children's book.

Yusof was also won the NOMA Concours for Children’s Picture Book Illustration (ACCU) competition in Tokyo, Japan four times.

He won the Children's Picture Book Competition and the Children's Book Illustration Competition organized by the Malaysian Book Council in 1992, twice.

Yusof Gajah was also involved in painting exhibitions in and outside the country such as the Folk Art Festival in Sabah, the Children's Book Illustration Exhibition at the Petronas Gallery, Peace Story Nambook in Korea and many more.

Children’s story books such as True Elephant and Chemophant are adorned with drawings from his Elephant Series and Scenery Series which have been translated into English, Japanese and Mandarin, proving his credibility as an artist renowned internationally.

Through the Elephant Series, which has undergone an artistic transformation over the past three decades, three other elephant series have emerged, namely the Elephantoides Fun Series, Elephantoidea Models Series and Mother & Child Series.

These three Elephant Series are the most notable series that shape the psyche, character, personality of Yusof Gajah as a superior naive painter in Malaysia.