Yeah, Azam Aris’ third solo exhibition to date, features 9 of his recent paintings and also one installation work. In each painting, the same image is repeatedly painted to cover the entire surface, and the image is portrayed almost in a similar pose. This new body of work clearly indicates the artist’s exciting development, both in his thematic and stylistic treatments, since his first foray into the local art scene in 2005.
These paintings radiate not only a pop-art tinge but also a minimalist aesthetics, particularly in their use of image repetition and gridding techniques. In many paintings by Pop Art artists, repetition of an image often makes the image looks so profoundly banal and mundane. However, reproducing the same image across each painting can also give rise to some interesting readings of the work. First and foremost, by repeating the same image in his painting, Azam seemingly tries to illustrate the triviality of the subject matter as well as its lack of emotional significance. Additionally, the use of repetition can result in a highly (albeit fairly uniformly) textured surface. Nevertheless, this process can also rob Azam’s paintings of any focal point, thus making it impossible for the viewers to hang on to any single image as the centre of the compositions. In Azam’s paintings, the portraits of male subjects are repeated into infinity, providing a sense of continuity, balance and harmony to these paintings. Moreover, the endless repetition of similar images in minute sizes can give the viewers a meditative and hypnotic experience; that is what Azam partly attempts to achieve here – to transform the surface of his paintings into a space for meditation and reflection upon our lives.
Azam’s repeated imagery may express all sorts of meanings and representations related to our daily experiences. These images of male subjects in coats, neckties and sunglasses may possibly represent the faces of those in modern urban crowds who are striving to keep up with the rat race of city life. However, these images also conjure up a frightening spectacle of mob, or herd, mentality now deeply entrenched in our society. To be exact, perhaps the artist is commenting on today’s terrifying social phenomenon whereby the mass of the people are becoming more uniformed, homogenous, and sterile. Lacking individual creativity, intelligence and self-confidence, they act and behave in the same way as the majority of those around them. They thoughtlessly go along with the rest of the people and just follow the present trend of affairs supposedly in order not to fall behind their peers and to survive and thrive in this fast changing world.
As mentioned by Azam, one of the main elements in these paintings is the sunglasses worn by the male subjects. The main purpose of wearing sunglasses is to reduce the intensity and glare of bright sunlight. However, sunglasses can also hide the wearers’ eyes from being seen by other people. The eyes are the windows of the soul – Azam confirmed this from his own experience when his mother was so scared of the eyes in one of his paintings that she decided to remove it from the wall of their house – thus hiding them behind sunglasses is to camouflage one’s inner-self and personality from the world.
Helmi Azam Tajul Aris hails from Perak, and was born in 1983. He obtained his Diploma in Fine Arts from UiTM, Sri Iskandar, Perak in 2004, before pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in the same field at UiTM Shah Alam in 2007.
Azam held his first solo show, Float, upon the completion of his 6-month residency programme at HOM Art Trans in 2008. His second solo exhibition, Paranoia, was held at RA Fine Art Gallery in 2010. Before that, he was one of the finalists for the 2005 Nokia Art Award and the 2007 Pact Max Malaysian Art Award, and won a Consolation Prize in the Live Drawing competition organised by National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur in 2005.
The artist has participated in many group exhibitions, including Open Show (2002) at the Sri Pinang Gallery in Penang; Experimental Video (2005) at the Multimedia Gallery, MMU, Cyberjaya; Sonic Cosmic (2006) at the Planetarium Negara, Kuala Lumpur; Young & New Part 1 (2008) at HOM Art Trans, Ampang; BAD (2010) at MAP@Solaris, Kuala Lumpur; and Young Contemporaries (2010) at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.