Little Girl and A Tiger in the Water

Written by : Zena Khan

Little Girl and a Tiger in the Water is the latest painting by the prolific contemporary Malaysian painter, Ali Nurazmal Yusoff. An oil on canvas that measures at 6 feet x 8.5 feet, this new work represents a shift in direction for the artist conceptually, presented in the hyper detailed realist style that is Ali’s calling card.

While on a self-imposed sabbatical of four months, Ali traveled to East Semporna, in Sabah. Initially, slightly worried about security in East Semporna due to the occasional attacks by the Filipino pirates in the area, Ali was instead struck by the beauty and tranquility of the area. Despite the constant underlying threat of attack, Ali found the locals living a peaceful, innocent life, even if the way of life is slightly behind times- this is by choice. Wandering around one day, Ali noticed that the locals still used payphones frequently, and saw a Bajau woman talking on one, her young daughter by her side. The manner in which little girl was telephoning imaginary friends and animatedly chatting to them caught Ali’s attention and he took several pictures of her, feeling this encapsulated the essence of his impression of the district. We find this little girl captured on the extreme right of the canvas, painted large and bright as one of the two main subjects of the painting.

On the extreme left of the canvas, a tiger arises from watery depths. The tiger summarizes the importance of ‘form’ to Ali as an artist. Ali has painted the tiger as three dimensional, creating a sense amongst the audience it may emerge from the canvas itself at any moment, teeth bared, ready to pounce, sitting in stark contrast to the innocent and unaware child. The tiger symbolizes the danger that lurks in the seas by East Semporna, from which the pirates can appear at any moment to disrupt the quiet harmony that prevails.

In the past Ali has been prolific with the inclusion of self-portraits in his work, so it is interesting to note this is absent in the first major painting after his hiatus. The audience can view this as a change in direction, the artist is shifting from a point where he looks at situations in relation to himself to a new point in which he is studying the world at large. This change in direction is also noticeable in his color palette.

Ali famously uses reds and greens in the majority of his work, these colors speak of himself in terms of his Malay and Chinese heritage, yet Little Girl and a Tiger in the Water is brought to us in new colors with an overwhelming turquoise background and white tiger. Ali has remarked that he considers his finished paintings as a series of studies through which he explores both his personal self and the world around him, commenting they are notes on his quest to create what he feels will be his ultimate painting. The fact that he had paused in the middle of an exploding career to center his focus and move forward in a new direction demonstrates his dedication to his art, and speaks of his determination to be present on the contemporary Malaysian art scene as a major player in the long haul with his ability to constantly create exciting new paintings that capture the imagination of critics and collectors alike.

Artwork Caption :

Artist : Ali Nurazmal Yusoff

Title : Little Girl and A Tiger in the Water

Size : 183cm x 300cm

Medium : Oil on Canvas

Year : 2013

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