Astro Scout, 2002 by Jalaini Abu Hassan
‘Astro Scout’ was produced by Jai during his beloved son Jabil’s early childhood. At the time Jabil acted as a muse for Jai, who was charmed by his young son and the newness of fatherhood, and fascinated with the differences between Malaysia during Jai’s youth and Jabil’s. We see references to Jai’s early years through the wooden architecture of a kampung house akin to where Jai grew up, that forms a contrast to the modern robot toys Jabil liked to play with. As such ‘Astro Scout’ is a highly personal observation on the rapid developments Malaysia underwent due to political, social, economic and educational progress in the post-colonial period.
Several Jai signatures appear strongly in this work, marking it out as a classic Jai. Across the canvas are excerpts from Malay proverbs and thoughts, written in the artist’s distinct hand. The palette of orange is a shade Jai was mixing himself through his knowledge of colour theory, and this shade in particular grounds ‘Astro Scout’ in that specific period of his career. Finely finished and detailed, filled with an abundance of personal details, ‘Astro Scout’ stands out not only as a strong example of Jai’s practice in the early 2000’s but as an insight into the family life and artistic development of one of Malaysia’s most prominent senior contemporary artists.