The Star Malaysia - Star2
Painting with the giants
Ali Nurazmal Yusoff isn’t short on satire and humour as he reimagines Baroque classics.
CONTEMPORARY artist Ali Nurazmal Yusoff’s Project A: Last Man Standing (Project A )isoneof the first new exhibitions to grace the National Art Gallery (NAG) in Kuala Lumpur since it reopened on June 23, with public health safety guidelines in place.
Ali’s Project A, presented by Subang Jaya-based art gallery Core Design Gallery and curated by Kedah-based Italian artist Benedetta Segala, runs till July 30 at NAG’S Reka Gallery It features 18 artworks by the artist.
Project A, Ali’s seventh solo, was originally scheduled to run in late March at NAG but it had to be postponed after the movement control order (MCO) came into effect in Malaysia.
“This exhibition serves as a narrative and timeline both for me, the artist as an individual, and also as an insight to my personal observations of the social changes in Malaysia in the past 10 years,” explains Ali, 42.
The Penang-born artist, who lives in Subang Jaya now, adds that Project A is a mid-career exhibition.
Ali took nearly two years to put it together, with a catalogue of 13 older works (loaned from collectors) from his Imitation Master series, and five new works, which are a continuation of the series.
Remember his Imitation Master After Caravaggio I in 2009, where he recreated the Italian master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s 1594 painting The Cardsharps and painted himself into the picture?
This became the start of his Imitation Master series, which spans nearly 10 years.
Throughout Project A, the visitor can experience Ali’s cheeky and irreverent contemporary elements added into Baroque and Renaissance paintings, especially those by Caravaggio.
“Being born in the era where the idea of Wawasan 2020 was ingrained in me, I have often wondered how I could be a part of this vision. These works are my own individual perspectives about it,” says the UITM fine art graduate.
“I have continued to build up on this series by documenting the sudden shifts and changes in Malaysian society and also looking at the state of the world. The use of satire has not ceased under all that Caravaggio colour tone and style,” says Ali, whose previous exhibitions include Beyond Painting (2018), Negaraku (2017) and Realism (2016).
The exhibition, filled with large paintings, looks grand, but it offers a complete shift from the actual narrative of Caravaggio’s biblical subjects.
“It is interesting to discover, step by step, entering the works and mind of Ali, how the characters of Caravaggio themselves, depicted in the same actions, completely tell another story,” says Segala, the curator.
One such example is Ali’s Imitation Master - Nasi Lemak Spaghetti (2020) oil painting based on Caravaggio’s 1594 The Fortune Teller. Instead of a gypsy fortune teller, it is Ali in the painting, wearing a T-shirt with the national flag and holding a pack of nasi lemak.
“I want to amplify all the great things which exist here in Malaysia ... a conversation about people here and our culture. It’s time to understand where Malaysia stands today,” he concludes.
Project A: Last Man Standing is on at Reka Gallery, National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur till July 30. Free entry. Opening hours: 10am to 4pm (Tuesday to Sunday). Only those between 14 and 60 years old are permitted entry. SOPS apply. Visitors are encouraged to wear masks and practise social distancing at all times. Facebook: Balai Seni Negara.