Written by Zena Khan
The Glint is a new painting by the popular contemporary painter Ali Nurazmal Yusoff. At six feet by five feet, this monochromatic oil on canvas piece is a wonderful mix of expressionism and realism, demonstrating the artist’s technical mastery, while opening up new directions within his portfolio.
Ali is well known for his immaculately rendered realism style of painting, with works such as Imitation Master: After Caravaggio. He has experimented just as enthusiastically with an expressionist style, as can be noted in early works such as Konflik – Which One #1 #2 #3. These earlier canvases leaned towards abstraction, and showed the beginnings of the wavy lines audiences will note dominating The Glint. Ali then turned his attention back towards his now-signature style of realism, occasionally dabbling with a mix of abstraction in the process. Entertainer In Love showed a clown, an oft-used icon for Ali, who lay back in a bed that radiated wavy lines out in all directions. The idea of using undulating strokes to interpret form was thus born, representing a polar opposite to the Renaissance-esque realism the artist was easily perfecting. The pinnacle of these early experiments is embodied in Infernal Affair. At first glance, the entire canvas appears to be a red sea of rippling strokes; however standing back, audiences are able to detect the traces of a face filling up the entire canvas. The Glint pushes this technical concept forward, with an easily recognisable form created from a series of monochromatic waves.
Ali’s choice to use a smoking self-portrait is a mark of the experimental nature of the work. The artist is known to use his self-portraits as a control image while perfecting new techniques, and viewers well-versed in his career will remember his highly popular earlier smoking self-portraits, such as Supplier. Much like Supplier, the angle in The Glint is tricky; Ali paints his face from a perspective of looking up at the face, including the tips of his fingers at the bottom edge of the canvas. Perspective is key in convincing audiences what they see is “real” and Ali’s confidence in performing technical experiments from a tricky angle is a display of the self-confidence that radiates from his canvases.
Another new feature in The Glint is the monochromatic palette. Ali’s works are usually associated with the colours red and green, yet here audiences will note the dominant shades of grey, highlighted with touches of white and black. Ali’s mastery of realism painting is due not only to his ease with rendering perspectives but also his expert grasp of colour theories and their applications. His expertise in chiaroscuro techniques, the portrayal of light and dark, is a major benefit to a monochromatic expression, as he innately understands the gradations necessary within shades of grey in order to produce the subtleties required for realism. The black and grey tones are a result of layering several colours together, thus producing an unusual amount of depth and atmosphere. Ali’s foray into monotones indicates several new key developments. Serious painters require an almost scientific understanding on the properties and behaviours of colour. By producing black and grey from a series of brighter tones, the artist develops a truly intimate understanding on hues and shades, and is able to push them to their boundaries.
In the past, Ali has described his finished works as a series of studies that he hopes will lead him to an eventual “ultimate painting”. The mix of experimental mark making and new directions with colour in one of the artist’s most sought styles of a smoking self-portrait indicates to viewers that he is definitely on the right track. The Glint represents a turning point in Ali’s career, setting the stage for exciting new movements for this popular artist.
Title: The Glint
Artist: Ali Nurazmal Yusoff
Size: 184 cm x 168 cm
Medium: Oil on Canvas