Syed Ahmad Jamal, Endau Rompin, 1985, Acrylics on canvas, 173x223cm
Nature has always been an inspiration for artists throughout the ages. Mountains, in particular, have inspired many regional landscape painters.
From China there has been a long history of artists who painted the many outstanding geological features of their physical geography. Some of these artworks besides depicting the shapes and designs of mountain formations in great detail also conveyed clear information of the various geological compositions of their landscapes.
One of the most well-known Japanese artists, Hokusai, from the Edo period, made colour wood block prints of a series of 36 views of Mount Fuji. The Great Wave of Kenagawa done in 1831 is one of Hukusai’s signature compositions of this collection of early postcards of Japan.
Cezanne paid homage to his boyhood home in Provence by painting the Mont Sainte-Victoire in Aix at least 60 times from 1885 to 1906. His devotion to a single hillock slightly over 1,000m in his backyard set the modern standard of painting and looking at European landscapes since the Renaissance.
He began to dismantle previous ideas of perspective and started to flatten out and break up his subject by using fragmented shapes, colours and brush marks. His paintings led the way for Matisse and Picasso and to Abstraction.
Syed Ahmad Jamal, Gunung Ledang Visited, 1992, Acrylics on canvas, 173x239cm
The mountains of Malaysia have attracted a few artists. Fung Yow Chork and Razak Abdullah are among the few landscape painters who got inspiration form the mountain backdrop of Kuala Lumpur, the Ulu Klang quartz ridge and Genting Highlands. Mount Kinabalu (4,101m), our highest mountain between the Himalayas and the Snow Mountains of New Guinea, has a devoted Sabahan painter — Benedict Chong.
Syed Ahmad Jamal, whose retrospective exhibition is currently at the National Art Gallery, has been moved by Gunung Ledang, near Muar, his home town, in Johor. Jamal has painted three artworks with that name. The first Gunung Ledang was in 1978 (this painting is not in the show), then Gunong Ledang Visited in 1992 and the last one Semangat Ledang in 1999.