All That Glitters @ Wei-Ling Contemporary

As chemically uninteresting gold is, it has retained its value as a successful currency due to its material splendour. The same applies to many other natural elements, which shine and sparkle tantalises one’s vision. Azliza Ayob crystallises her perceived fascination with bling, by sprinkling decorative glitter atop collage and acrylic in this series. The only work that follows a visually linear narrative, à la her Mughal miniature paintings, is ‘All That Glitters: The Quest’. Fiery pinnacles represent an inferno threatening to swallow the protagonist, who extends one palm towards the forbidden fruit, while the other arm morphs into a phoenix’s wing. Eve’s extravagant crown grows from an earthy gown, a contrast to the bright flowing drapes of the character to the right. The tree of life sprouts from a Robin Hood head – complete with feathered cap – as toxic green clouds, flying jewellery, and an assortment of fantastical creatures envelop the eastward-facing scene.

All That Glitters: The Quest (2013)

At left, a hooded figure holds out a sabre, its being propped up on a white chair on one leg, garbed in an oversized flowery gown with diamond bracelets as skirt tassels. Such surreal icons are bountiful across Azliza’s oeuvre. The artist is adept at giving images new meaning via disfiguration and reassembly, collage being an effective mean for this approach. Consumerism commentaries are inconsequential when material beauty is so elegant – her collage on washi works suggest a cut-and-paste effort from Malaysian Tatler, also serving as a repository of inspirations for larger pieces.  In ‘Whispers of Desire’, red cut-out lips scatter across a background of blue and white porcelain patterns. The same half-open mouths reappear among the excessive glitter in ‘May The Light Shine on You’; It also anchors ‘Sweet Sensation’ like a sensuous black hole, magnetising an assortment of costume jewellery for literal consumption.

Whispers of Desire (2013)

Craft and hobby transcend into fully-formed art in the sophisticated series of four, hung behind the gallery bar. A minimal selection of flower and body parts create intriguing pictures with definitive statements, where ‘Wonderlust’ is the most attractive by virtue of the presence of human eyes. This series recalls Hannah Höch, which "...are completely abstract in their organic-shaped imagery but totally emotional in their effect, as she reaches into her own mind to find a combination and juxtaposition of the spirit she wants to express." Adrian Hamilton’s description of the German Dadaist applies to Azliza, whose uplifting hand gestures seen in these C4-sized collages, are supplemented with umbrellas and billowing pleated cloth in ‘Hope and Pray’. The straight-up pictorial structure follows on from works last seen in Galeri Chandan, yet its vigorous disposition is superior in comparison.

Hope and Pray (2013)

‘The Bystanders’ resembles her older work ‘Death Robbers’ in its emblem-like layout. Leafy wreaths and a small figurine in the centre, contribute to a perfectly balanced classicism, which also feature intricate jewellery patterns and side profile stares. When these complex arrangements converge onto a central subject, like in ‘The Bouquet’, creepy crawlies and colourful butterflies provide visual depth in this fine example of static exuberance. Elsewhere, bricolage of motifs are linked together via ribbons, in the dark and disquieting ‘Lost to be Found’. ‘The Swan Lady’ projects a vibrant and harmonious arrangement of kimono, swan, and lilies. Yet it is the single eye again which draws the viewer’s attention, presenting an evident truth about eye contact in social interaction. Composition is Azliza’s forte, which include central candlestick forms, linear landscape narratives, singular point of focus, and the all-encompassing splendid background.

The Bystanders (2013)

‘Great Waves of Uncertainty’ fully embodies the power of collage in its reference to a familiar image, i.e. Hokusai’s ocean waves. Layered upon a print, this mystical and mesmerising work stands apart from the many others inspired by Japan. Pumpkin shapes and self-indulgent gestures dot the canvas, where the threat of being drowned by painted swirls of water and cloud, is ominously present. Perhaps learning from her accomplished painter husband, Azliza demonstrates confidence in portraying atmospheric gloom in acrylic. The artist does not hesitate to touch-up pasted cut-outs, in order to illustrate her required aesthetic, transforming the readymade symbol into something more. Nonetheless, painterly enhancements cannot resolve the assimilation of disparate objects without a clear layout, evident in the murky ‘All That Glitters (In Small Parts)’.

Great Waves of Uncertainty (2013)

The confluence of collage, painting, and composition, coalesce in the phantasmagorical masterpiece ‘Meat Eaters Assembly’.  Drawn in a cartoonish manner with thick outlines, garish pink clouds set the scene for the medley of bizarre characters on display. Unlike ‘Great Waves of Uncertainty’, the all-over background does not create horizontal layers on the canvas, but spreads out towards the viewer and draws them into the pitch black horizon at the centre. The entities within are not under threat, but revel in their surreal independence as the ultimate symbols of freedom, breaking away from conventional aesthetics to excite the viewer in an uncompromising style. Knights in shining armour flank a ladybug sitting on a domino tile, her head on fire. Arms push a swing with a pile of garments sitting on it, while a jacked up head nearby prances around on schoolgirl legs. This neon dream glitters, and one cannot stop looking at it.

Meat Eaters Assembly (2013)

Glitter succeeds as a sparkling embellishment, but cannot be taken seriously to represent “a form of escapism from the triviality and banality of (women’s) daily lives.” In the catalogue essay, Nur Hanim Khairuddin summarises the impact of the aesthetic value in Azliza's works. "The sheer intensity and immediacy of strong, contrasting palettes enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the scenes depicted. The artist's employment of brilliant colours and a melange of intriguing forms and shapes draws the viewer deep into the surreal world created within the picture plane. Moreover, it augments the viewer's emotional and intellectual engagement with not only the works' intricate materiality and complex imagery but also their thematic contents and metaphorical allusions." All that glitters is (not) gold, but a mishmash of ephemeral instances, which trigger reflections of the intrinsic value we associate to visual cues.

[l to r] (2013): Can't Let Go; This is Future; Wonderlust; Foxy Ride