Writing in Painting


Samsudin Wahab is an artist from Malaysia whose paintings are highly political and current he uses a comic book style of painting reminiscent of Stan Lee, Richard Hamilton or Roy Lichtenstein.

The use of text in his work is usually carried out in a similar colour to the main colour scheme of the works. Politics and the news move at a great pace and the connection between the political event and the artwork would be rapidly lost without a written reference attached to the work. That Wahab embodies the title as part of the artwork is of course his own prerogative but I think it says something about the state of the world today.

I am unable to trace the news/political events related to figures 1,2 and 3, but figure 4 refers to the three week Gaza war of 2008 to 2009 with the banner “Operation Cast Lead”

It is a sad reflection on the number of horrors committed in the world today that this painting was not merely titled “Operation Cast Lead” and everyone would recognise its significance as they do with Picasso’s painting Guernica.

Wahab is known for taking inspiration for his work from his daily newspaper and in comparison to Picasso’s emotional connection to his Spanish homeland in 1937, I feel that this particular work lacks such emotional connection and has a journalistic feel to it as a consequence.

It could be that as part of his process Wahab feels the need to embody the title of his work as a banner headline to prevent his work being renamed as often happened in the past, for instance the true title of Whistlers Mother is A Study in Black and Grey.

Figure 1. Samsudin Wahab (2008) Dogs want to be the Statue of Liberty (Google translation)

Figure 2.Samsudin Wahab (2008) Goddess of Justice

Figure 3.Samsudin Wahab (2008) Puppet (Google translation)

Figure 4. Samsudin Wahab 2009 Dono’s angels fallen from the sky

I was quite familiar with the work of Ed Ruscha having seen the exhibition Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire and referred unconsciously to his work Standard Station in my previous studies, which I later saw at MoMA. His inclusion in an investigation into text in Art didn’t come as a big surprise. I imagined it was referring to advertising slogans and trademarks.

However, when I started to look on the internet he had a whole other oeuvreout there where text was included in his art and the images were almost as a background to his Haiku like poems of modern everyday expressions.

He has experimented wildly with his materials using strawberry jam, ketchup, maple syrup and other media, he even invented his own font, Boy Scout Utility Modern for use in these works. (I already checked, it isn’t a font option on word)

If I have your interest, I would beg you to watch the documentary listed in the bibliography it is a great fantastic summary of the career of Duchamp’s greatest American disciple, and quite possibly the best Art documentary I have ever seen.





National Gallery (2018) Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire. At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/past/ed-ruscha-course-of-empire (Accessed 05/01/19)

Internet research

Art Story The (s.d.) At:https://www.theartstory.org/artist-ruscha-ed-artworks.htm#pnt_5 (Accessed 05/01/19)

Culture Vulture (2011) At: https://issuu.com/studio25/docs/culture_vulture (accessed 04/01/19)

Mutual Art (s.d.) At:https://www.mutualart.com/Artist/Samsudin-Wahab/82949F6642F8CAE8#more (accessed 04/01/19)

Wikipedia (s.d.) Edward Ruscha. At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Ruscha (Accessed 05/01/19)


Riopelle, C.(2018) Curators introduction: Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire, At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IidGsafONKs (Accessed 05/01/19)