Sarkasi Said



Sarkasi bin Said (b. 27 March 1940, Singapore–), who goes by the artist name Tzee, is an internationally renowned Singaporean batik painter.1 The artist is noted for his unconventional use of a wax-resisting technique for batik painting, his bold use of colours and his frequent depictions of nature.2 In May 2003, Sarkasi’s 103-metre batik painting set a Guinness World Record for the world’s longest batik painting.3

Early life

As his parents were separated when he was just three years old, Sarkasi was raised by his grandparents.4 His passion for art was sparked by a treasured hand-made toy aeroplane from his grandfather for his fifth or sixth birthday. Its construction without the use of nails impressed the young Sarkasi.5 It made Sarkasi appreciate the joys of hand-made works of beauty, and he aimed to accomplish the same with his paintings.6

Although Sarkasi performed well enough at school, he felt that art was his calling.7 When he was 16, the artist made the daring move of dropping out of Beatty Secondary School to concentrate on his art.8 Sarkasi then took to street painting, cycling to different locations to paint and sell scenes of nature. His works were highly popular with the expatriates in the Bartley and Gilstead areas, some of whom even recommended his paintings to their friends.9

Artistic career

Sarkasi’s exposure to batik art came during his formative years and was a result of helping his grandmother who sold batik cloth as an extra form of income.10 However, he began to develop a serious interest in the art form after he saw an Italian artist’s exhibition in a gallery in Singapore in the 1960s. He noticed that the foreign artist was using a technique that was a traditional art form in the region.11 As a Javanese, Sarkasi felt that it was important that he should return to his cultural roots, and focus on batik art because of its significance in Malay culture.12 He was inspired by the wax-resisting or wax-dyeing batik painting technique instead of both water colours and oil for his paintings.13

To deepen his knowledge and understanding of batik art, Sarkasi travelled extensively in the region so that he could learn from the batik printing centres.14 His stay at Karang Malang was one of the personal highlights of his sojourns to Indonesia, as it was his grandparents’ hometown.15 On the same trip, Sarkasi was also able to study under Pak Aznam Effendy, a painter-teacher at Yayasan Akademi Senipura Nasional in Jakarta.16

The artist rose to prominence in the 1970s with his portrayal of the orchid on a dress. The National Trades Union Congress was conducting a nationwide search for a Singapore Dress design that could be representative of the nation.17 Sarkasi had chosen to branch into batik painting on dresses, and it was during this period that people began referring to Sarkasi as the “Baron of Batik”.18 Such batik-print dresses were sold at Tzee Creation, a company he started up with four other partners but is now defunct.19

Sarkasi has since expanded his repertoire to include batik designs on shirts, scarves and other products that are sold both locally and abroad.20 Detractors of his work are critical of Sarkasi’s popular appeal as they think that his works are overly driven by commercial impulses.21 Sarkasi, on the other hand, sees the popularity of his works as a means of inspiring new artists, as well as to promote batik art to the layperson, allowing them to understand that the art form possesses both a decorative and functional aspect.22 Admirers of his work include the art historian, T. K. Sabapathy, who has praised the artist for his bold and effective use of colours, as well as the dynamic and intricate decorative elements in his paintings.23

Sarkasi takes a contemporary approach to batik art by utilising abstract and modern techniques in a Singaporean context.24 He also publicises the art form by holding exhibitions in countries such as Brunei, France, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and the United States.25

Over the years, the batik painter has been a board member of several art committees such as the National Arts Council (NAC) (2006–8), Singapore’s Modern Art Society and the Malay Museum Committee. He was also appointed the Chairman of Public Affairs and Education at the Malay Heritage Foundation.26 He has won a number of awards including Pingat APAD (from the Association of Artists of Various Resources) in 1974, and Best Foreign Entry (Sarasota Art Exhibition in the United States) in 1981.27

The artist had also volunteered as an art teacher at a drug rehabilitation centre, who frequently donates to charitable organisations, also volunteers as an art teacher at a drug rehabilitation centre.28 One of his first students at the Khalsa Crescent Drug Rehabilitation Centre, Kelvin Lee, held his first batik art exhibition in November 1993.29

Singaporeans continue to appreciate Sarkasi’s art. In 2014, the People’s Association (PA) launched a set of commemorative ez-link cards featuring Sarkasi’s trademark orchid batik design for the Chingay celebrations.30 He regularly conducts batik-painting workshops.31

Sarkasi’s son, Ika Zahari, is also a batik artist who has studied batik from Sarkasi from a young age.32 Before becoming a full-time batik artist, Ika was an auxiliary police officer.33

Education
Tanglin Tinggi Malay Primary School34
Madrasah Aljunied Muslim School35
Duchess Primary School36
Beatty Secondary School37

Family
Grandparents: Haji Mukayat and Madam Suriati38
Parents: Said bin Haji Abdul Razah and Hajjah Suminah Sarpan39
Wife: Hajjah Salamah Ahmad40
Children: Ika, Illya, Indra, and Imelda41



Author

Hong Xinying



References
1. Esplanade Theatres on the Bay. (2016). Sarkasi Said. Retrieved 2016, August 2 from Tribute.sg website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/visual-arts/sarkasi-said
2. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
3. Target reached. (2003, May 21). Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
5. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
6. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, pp. 29–31. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
7. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
9. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
11. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, pp. 33–34. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR); Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
13. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR); Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1988, March 24). World view of Sarkasi. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, pp. 35, 37. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
16. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
17. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
18. Sarkasi paints batik prints on dresses – for a change. (1978, July 4). The Straits Times, p.11; Long-drawn feat. (2003, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Zainul Abidin Rasheed & Norshahril Saat. (Eds.). (2016). Majulah!: 50 Years of Malay/Muslim Community in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific, p. 604. (Call no.: RSING 305.697095957 MAJ)
19. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1993, March 20). The art of sellingThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. (2016, December 5). Bizfile. Retrieved 2016, December 5 from Bizfile website at: https://www.tis.bizfile.gov.sg/ngbtisinternet/faces/oracle/webcenter/portalapp/pages/TransactionMain.jspx?selectedETransId=dirSearch#%40%3FselectedETransId%3DdirSearch%26_adf.ctrl-state%3D18oveumtpm_9
20. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1993, March 20). The art of sellingThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
22. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR); Tuminah Sapawi. (1992, October 19). Big on batikThe Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
24. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
25. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1993, March 20). The art of sellingThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR); National Arts Council. (2016, October 21). Appointment of new members to National Arts Council [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, October 22 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Appointment-of-new-members-to-NAC.html
27. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
28. Veloo, R. (1993, October 31). Hooked on art. The Straits Times, p. 6; Artist praised for contribution to Mendaki. (1991, July 18). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Tuminah Sapawi. (1993, October 23). Ex-drug addict to hold art exhibition. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. EZ-Link. (2016). EZ-Link Launches Chingay 2014 Commemorative ez-link Cards set [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, April 15 from EZ-Link Pte Ltd website: http://home.ezlink.com.sg/2014/02/ez-link-launches-chingay-2014-commemorative-ez-link-cards-set
31. Esplanade Theatres on the Bay. (2016). Sarkasi Said. Retrieved 2016, August 2 from Tribute.sg website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/visual-arts/sarkasi-said
32. EZ-Link. (2016). EZ-Link launches Chingay 2014 commemorative ez-link cards set [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, April 15 from EZ-Link Pte Ltd website: http://home.ezlink.com.sg/2014/02/ez-link-launches-chingay-2014-commemorative-ez-link-cards-set
33. Heng, M. (2015, September 19). Critics called him ‘crazy’. The New Paper. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
34. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
35. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
36. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
37. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
38. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
39. Sarkasi Said. (1997). Lyrics in wax: Art of Sarkasi Tzee. Singapore: Tzee Creation, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)
40. Kamali Hudi. (2003, June 26). Sarkasi melekat pada batik. Berita Harian, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Kasih ayah dicurah melalui lukisan. (1987, June 16). Berita Harian, p. 2; Memupuk harmoni dengan lilin dan canting. (2003, May 13). Berita Harian, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Ee, J. W. W. (2010, March 28). Artists concerned about centre revampThe Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Heng, A. (Director). (2003—2004). Art Nation. Episode 13. [Videorecording]. Singapore: Mediacorp TV12 Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 700.95957 ART)

Leong, S. (2003, September 5). The big breakThe Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Martin, M. (2007, September 10). Different strokes in one direction. Today, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Najip Ali. (Director). (2002—2005). Infusion. Episode 6 [Videorecording]. Singapore: Media Corp.
(Call no.: RSING 782.1 INF)

Sarkasi Said. (1991). Introspection. Singapore: Tzee Creation.
(Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SAR)

Sarkasi Said. (2002). Memory: Black & white sketches of Sarkasi Said Tzee. Singapore: Baoyou.
(Call no.: RSING 741.95957 SAR)

Sasitharan, T. (1989, July 14). Wax-and-dye in vibrant colours. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Sarkasi Said, 1940-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists
Arts>>Painting
Painters--Singapore--Biography
Artists