“Just graduated from Honours at UniSA, Aida Azin’s artwork brilliantly translates her view on identity and environment as she challenges themes of social and political justice.”
For the readers that haven’t yet come across your work, would you give us a little introduction?
My name’s Aida and I am an Adelaide-based visual artist. I work mainly in the discipline of painting. I’d describe the influences in my work as quite diverse; they range from concepts that touch on social justice to non-figurative abstraction.
Tell us about the first time you gravitated towards exploring your cultural identity in your art.
Around four years ago, I began to take more of an interest in my heritage when I started to notice that I was considerably more interested in it as a theme than my peers were. I’ve always been very sensitive to issues of social justice and I just assumed that it was because of my parents’ story of migration and settlement. Even now I still find their histories fascinating and so relevant to how I perceive the world and understand others.
I know many Asian-Australians, including myself, have been through the ol’ overwhelming stages of feeling disconnected to both cultures here and there, and whilst your work dwells upon your cultural identity, does such an identity crisis ever accompany the process?
I like this question because, yeah, I do. Especially because I don’t speak my parents’ languages I find it very challenging to claim my ethnicity. I explore this a lot in my paintings – even when I don’t want to. Sometimes I just want to give people a break from it. But at the same time, the more I paint the more it validates my identity in a way – so I have to do it for myself.
Any wise words for young Australians, particularly with other cultural heritages that might be going through the same confusion in their identity?
First off, I think that all young Australians should look at the true history of how Australia was founded so that they respect the land and the culture of the people they share it with. This is important for creating strength between first Australians and new migrants/people of mixed heritage.
I think that self-esteem and inner wisdom is the best way to deal with that weird confusion we’re talking about. It doesn’t mean that it will completely go away forever. It will come back over and over but that’s just life.
When I was growing up I didn’t have many non-white people in my life that I could turn to. That’s changed quite a bit now and people have come to understand how much it means to me to talk about a strange loneliness that I’m sensitive to. I’m really grateful for the network of artists and friends who have shown me support and empathy – I think they understand it even if they haven’t gone through it themselves. I think the younger generation of ethnic kids are probably living in a whole different Adelaide to what I was used to, but to anyone who does struggle from time to time, any creative outlet seems like the best place to start in boosting your self-esteem. Whether it’s practicing or supporting writing, music, film, drawing or sport; whatever it is, build a community with the people that you want to be around – people who are good for you. Find a balance where you don’t have to assimilate to the old school British Australia but you don’t have to become a mascot for your heritage if you don’t want to either.
Whilst your style has developed over the years, I’ve also noticed that you have experimented with different mediums. Tell us about how your work has progressed as you’ve grown older.
I think you’re talking about the big bamboo structure I made for the UniSA Honours grad show. Last year I looked at the works of David Hammons and Fred Wilson and started to get an understanding of how racism has affected our perception of modernism and what we term as ‘high art’. It was an ode to every time I’ve been called ‘exotic’. The works in my practice seem to get bigger and bigger. I can never just make something clean cut and to the point. They’re always cluttered. I think that might be where my art is heading – somewhere toward anti elegance.
Much of your work is full of colour, what does this mean to you?
I think it’s a filthy compulsion. It hurts my eyes looking at my own work. Even in my everyday life I’m drawn to signs and characters that are bright and clashing. But I do like colourful art… like Sally Gabori in Australia, graffers on Instagram and Filipino artists like Carlo Ricafort and Pow Martinez.
What do you hope to see from yourself and your work in the coming years?
I really want to just DO more. I want to paint everyday and exhibit in Iran and the Philippines. I’ll probably go back to studying and do my masters one day too. Just paint more and learn more.
Interview conducted by Sascha Tan.
Work by Aida Azin.