12 January 2017

Everlasting Love @ Rimbun Dahan

Azliza Ayob ends her year-long residency at Rimbun Dahan – which includes her family moving in together – with an incredibly well-balanced exhibition, the lush surroundings providing both inspiration and contextual background to one whose works often comment upon consumer culture. Themes that emerge include personal interpretation (celebration and self-doubt), and formal representation (modernism and craft), which utilised medium is a significant factor in creating this plurality within art forms. Entering the basement gallery, one is greeted by stunning constructs made from PET bottles, although the artist’s acrylic paintings and collages in her characteristic surreal glittery style manage to hold its own remarkably well.

Blessings (2016)

The exhibition begins with a decidedly incisive presentation. Wall attachments such as ‘Passion’ (a giant red bunga raya), and ‘Shield’ (with its feather-like leaves/petals) invoke a Koons-like wonder at the meticulous craft involved, yet ‘Eternity’ (fish scales tinted in ocean colours) immediately projects a cynical take on the issue of marine plastic pollution. ‘Misery’, an all-black assemblage of a garden, protrudes into the viewer’s space; Its complementary work ‘Serenity’ hangs beside, its blue-green tints and sparsely arranged plastic strips leading the viewer, to notice the hand-woven effort and wire mesh support that make up these large creations. One broken branch – made from the same recyclable plastic materials – lies on the ground, its lucid blended colours reminding of a toxicity, its singular presentation a symbol of contemporary reality.

Shield (2016)

On the lighter side, the suspended ring-shaped ‘Enchanted’ is a magnet for social media moments. Many other exhibits are equally joyous, where painted works celebrate the abundant land, or record anecdotal observations during the artist’s residency. From the repeating flowers and raking of dried leaves in ‘Blessings’, the onion heads in ‘Excursion’, the back of a woman resting on a mat in ‘Reminisce’, to the dramatically-posed figures in ‘Torn: Act One’, one gets a glimpse of Azliza’s memories and observations. Surrounded by nature (crafted from decades of human intervention) and friendly persons, one is compelled to be grateful and savour the immediate environment, and temporarily put aside material concerns and political positions.

Detail snapshots of painted/ collage artworks

Nevertheless, Azliza is one who understands her art medium well. A single stream of trickling water glimmers in the outdoor centre of the gallery space. On closer inspection, it is a string of glass and plastic beads, non-expensive decorative products valued for its light-reflective properties. Two vertical creations – ‘Forbidden’ and ‘Valor’ – is made up of countless PET bottles, where jellyfish and leaf shapes are evidently cut from bottles in an upside down position, this approach denoting an opportunistic act to subvert the bottles’ original erect and consumer-friendly form. Exhibited paintings tend to be in the landscape format, which allow for imagined narratives; ‘Where We Belong’ implies an introspective vision by virtue of its title. A rocky waterfall landscape surrounded by flowers and greenery, is populated with surreal subjects and beaming doors.

Detail snapshots of artworks made with PET bottles: [clockwise from left, 2016] Serenity; Eternity; Enchanted 

Taking in the fresh air and green foliage at Rimbun Dahan, one thinks about the circle of life – flowers bloom and wilt, insects are caught in spider webs, leaves are reborn as trees grow taller. Human creations, however, privilege durability and longevity beyond the duration of an individual’s average lifespan. Utilizing consumer waste to create objects for cultural consumption, Azliza’s thrifty but laborious approach successfully highlights the distorted link, between source material and economic value. No amount of mosquito repellent, will prevent one getting bitten by the bug, known as consumer greed. The objects we buy outlast us, for better or worse. Here, the artist offers an optimistic worldview to face one’s nihilistic self-awareness. Focus on our immediate surroundings, be gracious, and be joyful. Enchanting, indeed.

Snapshot by a toddler of an adult looking at 'Where We Belong' (2016)