AOTM: You’re Not Alone In Malaysia by Askandar Unglehrt

AOTM: You’re Not Alone In Malaysia by Askandar Unglehrt

Every month, we feature artwork from Penang State Art Gallery’s permanent collection.

By Kay Lynn Chua

Askandar Unglehrt, You’re Not Alone In Malaysia, (year unknown), Collage, 50×50 cm
Image courtesy of Penang State Art Gallery

There is something dramatic yet meaningful about Askandar Unglehrt’s You’re Not Alone In Malaysia which begs viewers to take a second look, right after pondering the title of the artwork. This collage is a glimpse into the artist’s melodramatic style of juxtaposing poetic visual components, in this case, orangutans and foreigners. 

Unglehrt (born 1943, Germany) spent his academic years in France studying Poetry. While there, he met Tengku Idaura, a Malaysian princess, whom he married. He moved to Malaysia where he spent 28 years teaching French at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Language Centre and had many solo exhibitions in notable venues like the National Art Gallery and Valentine Willie Fine Art. Unglehrt’s works are collected by the Penang State Art Gallery, Singapore Art Museum, Petronas Gallery, and many other institutions. Currently, he resides in Penang.

Unglehrt’s assemblages are pulled from advertisements and other mass media and then carefully placed together to construct artwork. His background in Poetry gives his artworks an engaging yet conceptual undertone. This is apparent in You’re Not Alone In Malaysia where the artist evokes comedic and contemplative emotions through the composition.

On the right side of the assemblage, an orangutan mascot entertains a group of human foreigners and on the left side of the artwork, a mother orangutan holds her baby. The mother orangutan looks puzzled at the mascot, almost as if she was saying, ‘What is he doing?’. Amidst the background of a painterly Malaysian traditional landscape hovers the statement ‘You’re not alone in Malaysia’. The characters, elements, and words present in this collage perhaps symbolize Unglehrt’s perspective of the coexistence between nature and humanity in Malaysia.

When talking about his artwork, Unglehrt states, ‘I observe the East with one eye and the West with the other. A “Third Eye” which is my creative eye, combines the fragments of my observations into experiences of their own. Most of my works are humorous explorations of modern life.’

Kay Lynn Chua is a practising artist with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the California Institute of the Arts. Her other passions lie in teaching young children and writing about art.