Ilse Noor is a renowned fine graphic artist who uses etching to communicate her ideas about the world. Her semi-autobiographical work depicts landscapes, animals, buildings or objects, which often suggest a deeper, hidden meaning. Landscapes harbour dark secrets, animals are deceitful, honourable or playful and objects are used to depict happiness, rage or loss.
Inspiration is drawn from her surroundings. Born in Hückeswagen, Germany, Ilse studied art under H Stucke in Bonn, Germany and graphic art in Munich under Professor Franz Nagel at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München, before emigrating to Malaysia. Ilse’s works depict a love for her adopted culture, mixing the precise art of etching with a world of emotions and spiritualism.
Ilse’s earliest inspiration was from German realism. “Ernst Fuchs and Alfred Kubin used to interest me,” says Ilse, “As a child I found ‘Die Andere Seite’ (The Other Side). on my mother’s book shelf by writer and illustrator Alfred Kubin. It was the illustrations in this book that fascinated me and which also inspired Franz Kafka to write ‘Das Schloss’ (The Castle). s, cultures and people.
Her art is a semi autobriographical journey influenced by Ilse’s fascination with the myths, legends, traditions and cultures of both east and west. From dwarfs forging metal in the middle of the earth, Tristan and Isolde, knights and the griffin of European legend to the Malay Keris, cenderawasih the mythical bird of paradise, and from Bach, Beethoven and Mozart to keroncong and gamelan. Ilse straddles both worlds, as artist, writer and poet.
"I want my pictures to tell a story,” explains Ilse. In the Musical Frogs and the Legendary Prawns series, frogs are found in various whimsical poses playing gamelan instruments, while prawns are depicted in various guises from the Storyteller to the Pirate, the Princess, the Dancer and the Midwife.
In the Series of Letters, a number of torn letters and broken eggs convey a sense of anger and abandonemnet.
Apart from just under a 100 group and solo exhibitions worldwide, Ilse has also written three books, illustrated posters, magazines and various children’s books including for Oxford University Press.
In 1991 Ilse published a series of 24 etchings of historical buildings commissioned by Shell Companies Malaysia in the Warisan Nusa Shell Book of Malayisan Heritage. In the book, Ilse writes about the background of the various buildings and her experiences while visiting the sites, some in remote locations around Malaysia.
The success of this project, which marked the importance of preserving dying building traditions helped garner awareness in the conservation of Malaysia’s historical buildings.
Following the commission, Ilse wanted to look deeper at the occupants of some of these buildings. In her book, Tujuh Mimpi, Tujuh Istana (Seven Dreams, Seven Palaces), she portrays Sultan Abdul Musa as he visits seven palaces in which he encounters seven separate dreams. ‘I got excited by the past with all its secrets,” says Ilse. Written in verse, the book spins a tale of Sultan Abdul Musa’s visit to seven palaces where he has seven unusual dreams.
Other commissions include one for His Majesty the Sultan of Selangor (then HRH Crown Prince) to produce etchings of Selangor’s Istana Bandar (Bandar Palace), while Malaysian Airlines (MAS) requested a number of etchings to commemorate the company’s 50th anniversary.
In 2010 Ilse produced a number of etchings for Malaysian filmmaker U-Wei Haji Saari for his film Almayer’s Folly (Hanjut), Based on Joseph Conrad's first novel, the film tells the story of Almayer, a Dutch trader struggling to survive in Malaysia at the turn of the 19th century.
Her works reside in galleries, museums, banks and private collections all over the world, from Malaysia and Germany to the US, UK, France, Singapore, Indonesia, Egypt and Bosnia.
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Website designed by Natalie Noor-Drugan, London, UK. Photography by Halim Rahim Fine Photography, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.