Glint, 2014 by Ali Nurazmal

For Ali Nurazmal the figure is an aesthetic vehicle to continually refine his artistic and philosophical capabilities. Today he has cemented his reputation as one of Malaysia’s leading figurative painters through a portfolio of meticulously executed large-scale figurative paintings, and was invited to stage his solo show ‘Project A: Last Man Standing’ at National Visual Art Gallery Kuala Lumpur. He has won several art awards including Grand Prize for the Malaysia and Japan Art Competition(1995), Third Prize at the Kenyir Landscapes competition (199) and placed in the Top Five for Life Drawing -Landscape competition Shah Alam (2004).

‘The Glint’ debuted at GMCA II, an important exhibition curated by Farouk Khan and staged at the well-attended Malaysian art fair Art Expo 2015. GMCA II presented a cross-section of leading Malaysian contemporary artistic practice, making it the perfect showcase for an artwork that Ali described as a comprehensive picture of his career to date at that moment in time. One of Ali’s strongest signatures is an incredibly intense palette. Usually in Ali’s hands colours are vibrantly sharpened, conveying emotion, atmosphere and narrative. ‘The Glint’ is unusually formed from monochrome, as Ali intended to sharpen his formal art skills via the removal of colour. He asked himself if he would still be able to convey the likeness of a figure when it was reduced to only form and tone? As he built a near perfect figure through individual expressionist brushstrokes in ‘The Glint’ it became clear the answer was a resounding ‘Yes’.

The use of Abstract Expressionism as seen in the brushstrokes of this painting was not completely foreign to Ali. Early in his career he frequently turned to the genre as a means to perfect basic formal painting skills that could be applied to the more complex figures he sought to produce. As his confidence in Realism was cemented he once more returned to the freehand strokes of his youth to test the depth of his understanding of the figure. Thus a self-portrait was the perfect symbol, being that the figure he understands best is his own self. The value of ‘The Glint’ as a key transformative piece in his oeuvre is emphasised not only in the self-portrait, but that it is a smoking self-portrait, one of the best known tropes Ali uses to declare a major shift forward in practice. The tricky perspective and three-dimensional figure here in ‘The Glint’ were a milestone from which he pushed forward in his subsequent painting a year later, ‘Face Off’, marking ‘The Glint’ as a foundational work for Ali as well as Figurative Painting in Malaysian contemporary art.