"You will take a second look," says Ahmad Zakii Anwar, the Malaysian artist better known as Zakii. "They might shock, they might make you laugh … there will definitely be a reaction."
The works Zakii is referring to are the 14 still-life paintings comprising his solo exhibition "Pleasure and Pain" at Galerie Huit until May 20.
At first glance, the clean and simple images showing fruits and vegetables on a table look innocent enough, but it's their strategic and suggestive positioning that triggers a double take.
One shows a couple of bananas leaning suggestively against each other, another depicts a lemon with a sharp knife running through it. There are many showing incompatible fruit and vegetables trying to find their point of balance - a long bean desperately trying to depend on its cucumber partner; a tomato looking awkward as it leans against a pumpkin.
For Zakii, the dark underlying message in the images are metaphors for human relationships. "When we are in relationships it triggers all sorts of complicated emotions. When there is love there is hurt but these are essential to the growth of the soul and heart," says the 59-year-old artist.
"For these new works I wanted to express the emotions of human relationships, such as love, lust, desire and pain, mirrored in positions of fruits and vegetables - and how they interact with each other. But I wanted to do this in a light-hearted manner."
A graduate of the School of Art and Design, Mara Institute of Technology Malaysia, Zakii started out in graphic design before turning to fine art. "At art school I was influenced by [British figurative painter] Francis Bacon and [American abstract expressionist painter] Mark Rothko - they have been huge inspirations. Their works are so fluid."
He staged his first solo exhibition outside Malaysia in 1998, in Singapore, and, in 1999, his work featured in New York's Barbara Greene Fine Art gallery, in an exhibition called "Presence". In 2007, he made waves in Hong Kong when a piece from his "Tales from the Primordial Garden" series sold for HK$336,000 at Christie's Hong Kong - outselling its pre-sale estimate of HK$80,000.
Zakii is also know for his preoccupation with the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of urban life, as seen through his use of icons, symbols and allegories.
He is also known for constantly exploring new ground, a trait that may have come from his equally interesting background - his father, Haji Anwar bin Abdul Malik, was a prominent politician credited with coining the name of the political party that has held power in Malaysia since the country's birth in 1957: United Malays National Organisation, or Umno.
Galerie Huit, G/F, 8 St Francis Street, Wan Chai. 11am-7pm Mon-Sat. Ends May 20. Inquiries 2520 0281