The Art of Alism

Featured in Cosmic Magazine(Soka Gakkai Malaysia) in March 2013

The Art of Alism

At 35, Ali Nurazmal Yusoff is fast becoming the most-sought after contemporary figurative artist in the Malaysian art scene. He has three solo exhibitions, the third – entitled “Alism” – was held at Core Design Gallery (CDG) in Subang Jaya, Selangor, in September 2012. Admired for being unafraid to push the boundaries of conventional art forms, his passion and perseverance has been likened to that of the great ones like Jackson Pollock and Marcel Duchamp. Attempting to become a figurative artists at a time when figurative painting was not a trend in Malaysia was already a daring feat, but to take potraits by old masters as his subjects is indeed a courageous undertaking. Below is an adaptation from two articles entitled “Alism” by Scarlette Lee, the artistic director of CDG, and “In the Edge of Becoming” by Azzad Diah.

What is Alism?

[Ali Nurazmal] Alism stemmed from my name Ali Nurazmal. It is a deep search into my art and my soul to find the ultinate “-ism”. Throughout the last 20 years, I have dabbled and learned many different styles of painting ranging from abstract to expressionism and mediums from watercolour to oil on canvas. I am searching for a way or style that can combine all my knowledge to express my identity.

You seem to be very much influenced by the old masters from the Baroque and Renaissance periods such as Caravaggio and Micheangelo.

The old masters are to me still the most amazing artists. To match their ideas, skills and effort is simply daunting. Each of their pieces seems to reverberate with peace and serenity, unlike the modern living lifestyles of artists fazed by numerous distractions. I was trying to push my limit on perseverance, focus and most importantly, the energy to work on a major painting for a year like the way olf masters did. It was not easy and few artists have the patience to work relentlessly on a major oil painting of 6 feet by 11 feet with eight serious figures in it.

What is your sentiment on painting with the help of a projector? How so your methods differ from this?

Artists can choose any format to express their art especially in this current contemporary art scene. Personally, I take pride in freehand strokes-no-grid-lines, no projector or tracing lines. The latest major piece, “Imitation Master – After Caravaggio II” took me 6 months to compose; i had to paint eight serious potrait figures proportionately on to a 6 feet by 11 feet canvas, and spent another eight months to put in the colours and strokes before the final detailing. During certain periods, i was so obsessed with it that I slept next to it for weeks just to get it right.

(Author’s note : “Imitation Master – After Caravaggio II” gets it inspiration from Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s (1571 – 1610) masterpiece entitled “The Calling of Saint Matthew” which depicts a culminating moment when a presumably money-mad tax collector was about to give everything he has worked for- wealth, status and Honour – to follow a path of faith and spiritually. This painting, as with others, was painted with a dramatic use of lighting and potrays realistic human states of life, both physical and emotional. His works had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting including great artists such as Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn.)

You have elements of hunour in your work (clown like figure smoking in a serious painting like that of Caravaggio’s). Where do they come from?

I have always claimed to be an entertainer. The visual imageries are humorous and witty and at the same time bizarre for their context. “Imitation Master – After Caravaggio II” is ornate and elaborate; it’s to camouflage the real idea. Only upon close inspection can one discover the dark side and cynicism in the issues of our contemporary lifestyle. I have also painted my own potrait in mant of my works. Some describes this as self-obsession but I am just obsessed with absorbing myself into the mood and situation of the paintings. ( Author’s note : In “Imitation Master – After Caravaggio II”, his self-potrait is seen on the farthest left, drawing attention to the group’s activity.)

Azzad Diah wrote : Ali tends to favour large-scale, figurative and realistic paintings. Most of his subjects address his personal view of his environment. “I like to be up front, to take the lead”, he says. “I like to be in control of myself”…The recurring images of self-potrait, depicted in utmost dramatic composition, may project a sense of narcissism. However, it is not the case with Alu who believes that painting is a tool to communicate his view of the world. Hence, he depicts himself as sort of a mediator or the main actor in his paintings as he believes that one cannot escape the natural human trait to take control over his destiny. The will to control challenges the ability and capability to master, in order to advocate certain potentials in an indvidual. Potential here refers to the possibilities which occur from analysis and calculation of knowledge to meet certain level f quality as intellectual beings.

You use brilliant colours with an odd blend of green and red. Is it intentional?

Many told me that when they see my paintings they know it is Ali Nurazmal. I do not say that it is intentional; however, the brilliance of green and red colours has become quite a signature in my paintings. Funnily they are part of the odd blend of colours that usually do not combine well with each other. Yet I just cannot resist bringing them together; it is just inherent.

Azzad Diah added : Ali says, “I try to sum up my knowledge and experience by reflecting it in my art practises, in searching for identity”. Imitation could be seen as a learning curve; to advocate certain knowledge in order to understand our being in the world.

Is your work, at the moment, going through furtehr evolution? Beyond paintings ?

I am sure my works will evolve; I am just at the beginning stage of my career. I may have different subject matters or even different medium later. At this moment, I am still not satisfied with the current challenges I have set for myself.

(Photo courtesy of Silver Tree Studio)


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