Ali Nurazmal Yusoff talks to us about beyond paintings
Contemporary artist Ali Nurazmal Yusoff has made a name locally and internationally with his realist paintings that explore observations of globalisation, post-colonialism and the meaning of east-meets-west via contextually rich paintings. His last show, ReALISM, showed at Art Stage Singapore in 2016, and now he interrogates further questions of society and different dimensions in his latest solo exhibit, Beyond Paintings. Ali tells us what he’s been up to since ReALISM and what we can expect with Beyond Paintings.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR GROWTH IN TERMS OF MEDIUM AND SUBJECT MATTER IN THE PAST FEW YEARS?
I’m beginning to see paintings beyond the normal 2D format and representational forms. Breaking the forms and viewing in three dimensional layers interest me more. Subject matters change constantly and I’ve grown to place more importance on how I convey my thinking process.
YOUR SUBJECT MATTER HAS ALWAYS BEEN YOU OR SOME ASPECT OF YOU. SOME PEOPLE MAY QUESTION HOW MUCH POTENTIAL THAT WOULD HAVE IN THE LONG RUN, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?
Being a contemporary artist is about understanding the thoughts of an artist about his surroundings and himself as a reaction to the environment he is in. Vincent Van Gogh painted hundreds of self- portraits. My self-portraits are not self-portraits per se – I’m just using my face to illustrate my transition from one period to another and the technical process that goes on behind that. As one might have noticed, not one of my self-portraits is ever the same as another. From painting Supplier in 2011 to Face Off in 2015 to Resurrection in 2016, each period portrays the ways in which I observe my own environment and how I intend to challenge the status quo.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE GREATEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR WORKS THAT APPEARED IN ALISM AND THOSE THAT APPEARED IN YOUR PREVIOUS SHOW, REALISM?
ALISM 2012 signifies a need for change and ReALISM represents the courage to change. 2012 was about tuning the realist rendering for creating forms whereas ReALISM is about the ability to break forms and create the flow of movement in figures, as evident in works like Ralik 2.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE GREATEST INFLUENCES WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CURRENT WORK?
Just personal observations and the challenge to continuously improve my painting skills in order to achieve an Ali Nurazmal Yusoff style.
YOU’VE PUT DIFFERENT ERAS ON CANVAS, FOR EXAMPLE DRAWING FROM THE BAROQUE STYLE OF CARAVAGGIO WHY NOT STICK TO JUST ONE?
I am not copying Caravaggio – my intention was to draw attention to the post-colonial effects on Malaysians. It’s a matter of observing the heavy Western influence on our society and blending it with unique Malaysian flavours.
TELL US WHAT THE CREATIVE PROCESS FOR ONE OF YOUR PAINTINGS IS LIKE FROM START TO FINISH
I observe my surroundings, and I find the subjects of my concerns often revolve around the art industry or society at large. An example would be my artwork, Patriotic, which shows my love for our country and my concern for our people. It is made up of seven interchangeable panels – the interchangeability symbolises what I perceive to be the current state of our country in terms of unity – the uniformity of the flag is achieved at the expense of the people and vice versa.
IS ALI NURAZMAL YUSOFF SOMEONE WE WOULD GET TO KNOW FROM HIS PAINTINGS? WHO IS THE PERSON WE KNOW FROM THE PAINTINGS AND HOW IS HE DIFFERENT FROM YOU?
The paintings are Ali Nurazmal Yussof and Ai Nurazmal Yusoff is the paintings.
HOW WOULD YOU PERSONALLY DESCRIBE BEYOND PAINTINGS?
Beyond Paintings is about taking my years of painting skill to another level. As I mentioned earlier, I no longer see things in 2D format, but as layers of 3D form. Beyond Paintings is about challenging my skills as an artist, but not merely as a painter.
WHAT WOULD LIKE THE AUDIENCE TO TAKE AWAY FROM BEYOND PAINTINGS
I hope that the audience is able to appreciate the fact that a Malaysian contemporary artist is putting up a museum-standard show and feel proud that Malaysian art is of international standards. Beyond Paintings also shows Ali Nurazmal Yussoft’s courage to take on the challenge of pushing the concept of visual identity to another different level.