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  • Writer's pictureAishath Aboobakr

#KoraliReview - Azleena's Soft Moments at the Gallery 350

Sea the Sea from the Soft Moments exhibition.


What is life without risk? With Soft Moments, Azleena’s solo exhibition, both the Gallery 350 and the artist are woven into a thread of risky experiment. And it is very encouraging to see this small but selective gallery indulge an artist’s most whimsical work.  

That said, Azleena is not a surprising choice for the gallery, she is an accomplished painter who is extremely capable in other mediums. She makes some bold choices here, not always pleasing to the eye but still worthy of respect.

The weakest pieces for me are her most experimental ones where she stitches together canvas and fabric. They are interesting if nothing else and perhaps that’s fine and sufficient for certain tastes. But I find them to be more a cool concept that hasn’t fared too well in execution. Something’s not quite right, but maybe I am trying to see beauty where none was meant. They are curiosities, and they make a kind of sense in the context of this exhibition but individually, I don’t think they hold up well. Maybe they have some meaning and layers to be unpacked for the artist, I don’t know. I know that I’m not sold.

Meanwhile, there’s an arresting portrait of the lower portion of a person in a sari or maybe it’s a mundu. One foot is in view, the other is shadowy. Lengthy objects appear on either side of this person, as though they are dangling them. And at the tip of their foot, a top stands still, but you sense it spinning. The painting makes you think about what’s not readily apparent – the nature of this person, what they’re doing and for whom. It’s mysterious without being coy – that is, it has all the modesty of a fact. The anonymity and obscurity of the subject is necessary because what the artist wants you to focus is right there.

This kind of concealment is also in the main work which is, at least visually, I think the strongest. Neither the baby’s nor the mother’s face is visible, but that rush of purple cleverly anonymising the pair just screams ‘love’. The other objects in the frame – the bench, the plants, the rug on the floor, the partially framed red object – they make up a space, maybe an actual one, where the mother and child are completely at home. This piece, titled Sweet Almond, whispers that a moment like this is worth years of broken sleep. It is especially moving at a time when fertility rates have plummeted, and children have lost their place in people’s lives to cats.

 

My favourite though is a portrait of a dark-skinned person on the opposite end of the room from the mother and child. Unlike that piece, here an androgynous face is the centre of attention. Their eyes are clear and expressive, facial features, outlined in pink, reveal a vaguely contented expression. The eyes say nothing and the face remains unreadable – apart from that suggestion of contentment. Revealing the face has only deepened the mystery.


Azleena’s exhibition shows the depth and breadth of her abilities in a medium that demands to be taken seriously and considered fine art by our art appreciating public. To convince us, she’s being vulnerable, experimental, and playful – putting herself out there in harm’s way, come what may. I hope this inspires others to experiment and explore beyond their home turf and to make discoveries in a spirit of playful creation.  

 

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