Hello! Obama Speaking… is a 2013 mixed media work by Ahmad Shukri Mohamed. Famed for his highly textured, three-dimensional practice, Shukri departs from the norm in a sense by featuring a painted portrait of current American president Barack Obama as the main feature of this work, opening up an exciting new direction in his work.
Hello! Obama Speaking… comprises of two large panels, each measuring six feet by six feet, joined together. Completely covering the panel on the right is a larger than life portrait of the American president’s face, speaking on the telephone, his right hand and wedding ring prominently visible. The beautifully painted portrait, which has been further overlaid with mixed media imagery techniques, is an unusual element in Shukri’s work, as he rarely produces figurative paintings, reserving them for occasions where they are the sharpest manner in which he can make a point. Shukri employs a loose sketchy style in his figurative painting, implying the purpose is to capture the essence of Obama as an icon, thus rendering him instantly recognizable. The monochromatic greens and blues enhance the gold wedding band and the president’s red ear, signifying two elements Shukri is highlighting. While Obama appears calm and collected the audience can infer he is angry or getting worked up, from the reddening of his ear. The gold wedding band however underlines Obama’s well documented persona as a family man, he is strongly associated to his wife and children, refers to them frequently and this subconscious hint immediately links back to the American president’s public image, proving Shukri’s understanding of the icon is sufficient for identification without the need for hyperrealism painting.
The second panel is composed of a grid, like shallow open boxes. The spaces are wallpapered with flags from various countries. The visual of the flags and the technique of wallpapering symbolize ‘home’, whether through the idea of nationalism or an interior. Interestingly the individual flags nestled in their boxes next to Obama can also be seen as a reference to the influence America currently wields internationally on economic, military and cultural fronts. The collage aspect of this panel instantly links to Shukri’s famous mixed media style. Shukri has a well-documented fascination with working the surface of his canvas and often refers to workmanship techniques he notes in artifacts from other branches of design such as architecture, fashion, carpentry and industry.
Serious collectors and institutions not only look for works that incorporate recognizable artistic signatures, but also pieces that signify conceptual or technical growth and that feature rare elements, icons, materials or techniques. For a successful artist like Shukri, who has a strong portfolio of delightful mixed media works, the inclusion of a large figurative portrait is unusual, rendering this piece exciting for avid fans of his career. This, when coupled with the currency of his subject matter and hyper detail mixed media applied across the large canvas, signals Hello! Obama Speaking… out as a work that is likely to be a highlight when his successful career is eventually studied retrospectively.
written by Zena Khan
artist : Ahmad Shukri Mohamed
type : mixed media
dimension : 187 x 371 cm
price : RM 115, 000. 00