Aida Azin’s paintings command our attention. Bold colour, energetic figures, text and found materials occupy canvases that are often left unstretched, their edges raw. Operating with an activist’s tenacity, Azin’s practice is grounded in her Filipina- Iranian heritage and experience as a “third culture kid” living and working on unceded Wurundjeri land.
Azin is an artist not afraid to ask difficult questions.
Since her solo exhibition Everything is Stolen (2016), she has focussed on examining histories and cultural truths through the lens of a member of the Filipina diaspora. In Toodles Galore, a standout work in ACE Open’s 2020 South Australian Artist Survey, an operational garage door periodically reveals and conceals a painting laden with commentary on representation. The work is daring, assertive. Azin lays bare the exoticisation of Asian women by the West, from Disney’s Jasmine to a poster from a men’s bar proclaiming the availability of Filipinas, calling us to consider the dominant voices in popular culture. Language is a recurring motif for the artist and here, the English learned growing up is entwined with her mother-tongue, Tagalog, allowing ancestry and contemporary life to occupy the same space.
Paintings that have gained recognition this year see Azin draw on her dream state, a site ripe for processing the abstract and the unanswerable. Help Yourself, shown in 20:20 at
the Murray Art Museum Albury, sees tangled elements of the tropics jostle for a comfortable position against a black background. The artist, always presents but not always recognisable, appears disembodied amongst it all.
For Azin, an exploration of the politics of self-representation runs parallel to a critique of art history, the institution and her place within it. In Brown Pillars (2019) she suspended canvases from grid-like bamboo scaffolds, effectively breaking apart and rebuilding traditional modes of presentation. Across a canvas, capitalised text demands that White critics take a seat. Overlayed, under the outline of a self-portrait, she writes, The rest of us will stand.
Image: Installation view of Aida Azin’s, Brown Pillars, Firstdraft, Sydney, 2019. Courtesy: the artist.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 95, JAN – MAR 2021.