Aiman is all grown up now. Sure, the artist is still a bubbly man-boy prone to fits of smiles, and his trusting nature leads to candid confessions that might land him in hot water; but professionally -– at the risk of sounding like a highfalutin art critic – his work has taken a decidedly more complex and polished turn.
For one, he has switched gears from his signature deliberately kitschy style to more photo-realistic techniques; a move that has proven to be a hit among critics and collectors alike. His recent participation in Glenmorangie’s Unnecessarily Well Made exhibit, as part of collaboration between the Scotch whisky house and art gallery Vue Privee, got the attention of a collector who snapped up a painting with a hefty five-figure price tag. Not bad for a 28-year old.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Aiman is branching beyond the canvas and dipping his toes in another medium – video. Next month, he’ll debut a video installation in collaboration with a boutique hotel. He happily admits, “I’ve never had any form of training or experience in video installation, so I’m purely self-taught. I did my own research and experimentation to get it right. And it turned out amazing.”
He’s also excited about a solo exhibition he’s planning later this year, which will include a couple of video-related works alongside his paintings. “I’m thinking of calling the exhibition Oxo-biodegradable,” he muses. “I came by the name by accident, actually. I saw the term on a plastic bag a while back and thought it would be a nice name for a solo show. I wanted to talk about the idea of plastic being recycled and given a second life.”
Men’s Folio: Describe the style of art that you do.
Aiman: I’d call it contemplative art, because there’s a lot of thought put into every painting. Everything from the composition down to the details such as the unspoken history of the items I choose to include in the painting tell a bigger story.
There’s a recurring use of toys and dolls in your paintings. Any reason behind that?
It plays a part in the social commentary aspect of my paintings. I see toys as something created with a purpose – each toy has a character, a background story and a role for it to play, even if they reinforce certain stereotypes. And the retro figurines that I use are those that incorporate the flavour of the time and bring an element of nostalgia. I think as artists we like to immortalise the zeitgeist of an era or an issue, which people can then ponder.
I see toys as something created with a purpose – each toy has a character, a background story and a role for it to play, even if they reinforce certain stereotypes. ‘More Maneki Neko More’ (above).
Your Toy Story series is a collection of oil paintings that are social commentaries. How different is the new Toy Story 2 series versus the original?
Every series, or the idea for the series, has a different angle of social commentary. The first Toy Story series dealt with the idea of culturalisation and the resulting aloneness that a person might feel in the process. So with the second Toy Story series, I wanted it to have a more positive outlook – I’m trying not to be too emo in my work, though I love being emo. In a way it’s an evolution of my perspective on things by ending the painting on a positive note, shifting the power from society to the individual. Like in Freedom Dances Like Clockwork, I included a wind-up key, which is a mechanism that anyone can turn on their own, so it symbolises an individual’s power to make the necessary changes to regain control over a situation. In my past work, which explored the struggle between society and individuals, society always won. So I’m shifting the power back to the individual.
Why is painting your chosen medium for social commentary?
Painting is something I’ve enjoyed since young, and I’m always drawn to the artisan type of work. And as a medium, it resonates well with my personality. I don’t mind spending hours working on a canvas. But these days, I’m starting to enjoy spending hours in front of a computer doing video work. I’m currently working on a project with a hotel to display my video-projection artwork, and hopefully it’s something I hope to work more on for my solo project at the end of this year. Perhaps I’ll add a couple of video-related works to the mix, but it’ll still be in sync with my other paintings in terms of the message.
Tell us about your collaboration with Adrian Pang’s production company Pangdemonium.
It’s for a play that they’re currently doing, Rabbit Hole, and I produced an image for the play that they use in their collaterals. Olivier Henry, the owner of Milk Photographie, is a long-time friend of Adrian, and he connected me to the project. Milk Photographie has always been sponsoring photography for arts-related events, so the three of us had dinner and talked about the play and I suggested my idea for the image. It’s sort of a visual interpretation of the play and it ties back to the theme of my work: there’s a recurring use of toys in my painting and the play touches on the subject of lost innocence.
‘The Rabbit Hole’ (For Pangdemonium).
In a previous interview, you mentioned that you choose not to convey a taboo subject matter such as HIV in a depressing tone.
There are already too many sad things in the world – everyone on my Facebook is depressed! I think even when you’re feeling down and whining on Facebook, you always want someone to give you a positive affirmation to lift you up. It’s the same for art, I feel.
Are there any subject matters that you have yet to touch on but have fascinated you for a while?
Not really, when it comes to a subject matter, it’s always easy to incorporate in the art. I’m usually more interested in the technical side of things: the use of materials or just the process behind other creative mediums like sculpture and video. I’ve always been intrigued by the know-how behind each work of art in various media and it’s something that I’m curious to explore.
How has your art evolved over the years?
I think my art is more mature now both in skill and overall presentation.At the moment, my work is moving towards a more photo-realistic format. It takes forever to finish but I love it. The arrangement is more laborious, but there’s a sense of maturity to my work – especially when it comes to storytelling.
That Time of The Day You Told Me A Story (Video Still).