Iskandar Jalil



Iskandar Jalil (b. 5 January 1940, Singapore–) is an eminent local ceramist who uses fine clay to develop bowls and pots into artworks, integrating Japanese and Islamic styles. Iskandar was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts in 1988.1

Career
The youngest of five children, Iskandar grew up at Kampong Chantek in Bukit Timah. He was originally trained and worked as a maths and science teacher. His second Colombo Plan scholarship in 1972 brought him to Japan, where he was introduced to pottery and thus began his passion for this art form. Since the 1970s, in addition to Singapore, Iskandar has exhibited his work in countries including Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Sweden.2


Besides being a prolific potter, Iskandar also influenced young artists through his teaching career. In addition to teaching at the Baharuddin Vocational Institute and later at Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design until his retirement in 1999, he also taught at community centres and the Nanyang School of Fine Arts. Iskandar has been an external examiner for colleges in Australia and Malaysia, and continues to gives lectures on pottery at the National University of Singapore. In 2004, he helped to fund the Singa Kiln Project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, among other community projects in which he has been involved.3

The characteristic features of Iskandar’s works include tactile, rich surfaces; the use of twigs as embellishments; use of Southeast Asian motifs and Jawi calligraphy; use of his signature blue glaze known as the “Iskandar Blue”; his one-hand technique and local clay; and the influence of Japanese ceramics aesthetics and philosophy (Mingei Craft Movement, for example). Iskandar has produced large public artworks alongside the modest chawan bowl.

Iskandar’s work is featured in the collections of many international public and private collections such as those of the National Museum of Sweden and of former heads of state.5 His work is also in the collections of Singapore personalities and institutions including former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, National Museum of Singapore, banks, statutory boards and educational institutions. Some of his larger works can be seen in public places like the wall mural in the Tanjong Pagar MRT station (1988), and the wall mural in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal Two (1990).6

Philosophy
According to Iskandar, it takes 20 years to learn the craft, develop one’s style, and become a good potter. He enjoys working with clay because it is soft, pliable and simple. Iskandar creates one-off pieces rather than produce large quantities of products for profit. Being a representative of Singapore’s first generation of potters, he believes that he must concentrate on laying the foundations and setting the standards for future potters. The simplicity and significance of the form of the bowl is of prime importance to him.7

Timeline8
1962: Teachers’ Training College, Singapore
1966: Colombo Plan scholarship (textile), Maharashtra, India
1971: First group exhibition, ASEAN Art Exhibition at Malaysia
1972: Colombo Plan scholarship (ceramics engineering), Tajimi, Japan
1985: First solo exhibition, Raw, Earthy and Pliable, at Alpha Gallery in Singapore
2000: Returns to Japan to visit his old teacher to investigate his renewed interest in the form of the bowl. This teacher conferred him the title of “master potter” to acknowledge the “full circle” of his professional journey.
2001: Economic Development Board sponsors a book on Jalil’s work entitled Square One: A Potter’s Journey, featuring works commissioned by the board to mark its 40th anniversary and other works produced throughout his career.

Solo exhibitions9
1985:
Raw, Earthy and Pliable, Alpha Gallery, Singapore

1990: The Potters Journey, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1991: Singapores Pottery, Stockholm, Sweden
1992: Ceramics, Miyazaki, Japan
1993: Hong Kong Festival of Arts, Hong Kong
1995: My Dialogue With Clay, Takashimaya Gallery, Singapore
2001: Potters Life, Potters Thoughts, Ministry of Information and the Arts, Singapore
2004: New Zealand International Arts Festival, New Zealand
2007: Material, Message, Metaphor, Art-2 Gallery, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts Building, Singapore
2016: Dr Iskandar Jalil: A Master Potter’s Philosophy & Process, The Art Gallery, National Institute of Education, Singapore
2016: Iskandar Jalil: Kembara Tanah Liat (Clay Travels), National Gallery Singapore10

Selected group exhibitions
11

1971: ASEAN Art Exhibition, travelling exhibition in ASEAN countries
1975: 14 Singapore Ceramics Artists, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1976: Contemporary Singapore Sculpture, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1979: Ceramics and Sculpture, Gallery Asia, Singapore
1981: International Design, Osaka, Japan
1985: International Ceramics, Taipei, Taiwan
1986: Clayworks, Alpha Gallery, Singapore
1987: Transformation Image Contemporary Ceramics in Singapore, National Museum, Singapore
1987: Basic, National Museum, Singapore
1987: National Museums Centenary Art Festival, National Museum Art Gallery Singapore
1987: Ying and Yang, National University of Singapore
1988: Clay and Cloth (joint exhibition of pottery and quilt arts with wife), National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1988: Infinity, Westin Stamford Hotel, Singapore
1991: Clay Pieces, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1994: Contrast, Takashimaya Gallery, Singapore
1995: Singapore Art 95, Suntec City, Singapore
1995: 4th International Ceramics Competition 1995, Tajimi Gifu, Japan
1995: Malay Artists, Petronas Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1999: Handmade: Shifting Paradigms, Singapore Art Museum
2004: Material Matters, The Gallery, Arts House at Old Parliament, Singapore
2006: Ceramics Beyond Borders: Commemorating 40 years of Bilateral Ties between Singapore and Japan, National Library Building, Singapore
2007: Fourth World Ceramics Biennale, Incheon, Gwangju and Yeoju, South Korea

Awards
12

1977: Special Award, National Day Art Exhibition
1988: Cultural Medallion Award for Visual Arts
1994: Fellow, Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore
1998: Pingat Apad, Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya
2002: Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award. Iskandar had designed the trophy four years before he became a recipient. The three steel bars on top of the pewter column represent past, present and future achievements of the recipient.13
2016: Honorary Doctor of Letters, Nanyang Technological University14

Family15
Parents: Haji Abdul Jalil bin Abdul Halim and Hajjah Rohana bte Haji Sirat
Wife: Saleha bte Amir
Children: Daughter Elena and son, Edzra
Granddaughter: Lea Edzra



Authors

Ruth Creamer & Lindy Poh



References
1. Abbas, D. (1980, August 24). Penduduk terkemuka degan seni tembikarnya. Berita Harian, p. 3; Curran, A.-M. (1984, December 9). A 25-year affair with clay. The Straits Times, p. 5; Lim, R. (2001, August 1). No begging bowl: The spirit of the bowl. The Straits Times, p. 4; Pereira, B. (1982, March 28). Pottery – forever Ci. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH) 
2. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, pp. 38–43, 171. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH); Iskandar Jalil. (2001). Square one: A potter’s journey. Singapore: Economic Development Board, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 ISK)
3. Iskandar Jalil. (2001). Square one: A potter’s journey. Singapore: Economic Development Board, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 ISK); Lim, S. (2004, March–April). Of clay and gundus: Potter and teacher Iskandar Jalil. Spring, 8. (Call no.: RSING 307.095957 SLN); Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, pp. 39–43, 48. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH); Potter Iskandar gets Achiever of the Year Award. (2002, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, pp. 22, 24, 28, 35, 48. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH); Huang, L. (2016, August 30). Iskandar Jalil’s lifework in two exhibitions. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5. Saini, R. (1995, December 19). It’s talking to me at last! – The clay is human, and it is a woman: Iskandar. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Iskandar Jalil. (2001). Square one: A potter’s journey. Singapore: Economic Development Board, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 ISK)
7. Lim, R. (2001, August 1). No begging bowl: The spirit of the bowl. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH); Iskandar Jalil. (2001). Square one: A potter’s journey. Singapore: Economic Development Board, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 ISK)
9. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH); Jalil, I. (2001). Square one: A potter’s journey. Singapore: Economic Development Board, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 ISK)
10. Huang, L. (2016, August 30). Iskandar Jalil’s lifework in two exhibitions. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
11. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH); Jalil, I. (2001). Square one: A potter’s journey. Singapore: Economic Development Board, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 ISK)
12. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH)
13. Lum, M. (2002, August 13). Off to Desaru on my bike. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Loh, C. J. (2016, July 25). 7 in 10 NTU graduates secured jobs before graduation: Survey. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
15. Poh, L., & Iskandar Jalil. (2007). Material message metaphor: The pottery voice of Iskandar Jalil. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery, pp. 2, 39. (Call no.: RSING 738.095957 POH)



Further resources
Chia, W. H. (1987, March 29). Potters spring pleasant surprises. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Choy, S. (1971, March 6). Sound advice when buying a vase. New Nation, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Curran, A-M. (1984, December 9). A 25-year affair with clay. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Dewani Abbas. (1988, July 17). Lapan visi. Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Hasleen Bachik. (1995, December 18). Pameran tembikar Iskandar. Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Holmberg, J. (1975, June 12). The bold ones in fine art. New Nation, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Iskandar Jalil, my cinema paradiso. (2006, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Kamsah Sirat. (1984, December 6). Iskandar lahir ilham menerusi seni tembikar. Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Kamsah Sirat. (1984, December 24). Pameran seramik Iskandar dapat sambutan hangat. Berita Harian, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Nayar, P. (2007, March 23). When Iskandar sculpts his personal stories. The Business Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Quek, S. P. (1984, December 17). The face of poverty in pottery. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Ramthan Hussain. (1987, October 12). Lima pelukis melayu daki tangga kemajuan. Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Sabapathy, T. K. (1987, March 18). Pots as containers of ideas. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Seah, L. (2006, March 2). A house for all seasons. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tinsley, B. (1982, May 13). A craftsman at heart. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tsang, S. Y.(1986, March 10). A pot of excitement and dreams. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Usaha galak pembuat seni reka mahir. (1987, April 19). Berita Minggu, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Art)
Iskandar Jalil, 1940- --Biography
Arts>>Decorative arts>>Pottery and ceramics
Arts>>Visual Arts
Potters
Potters--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Visual Arts
Award winners