Chang Yoong Chia (b. 1975, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) graduated from the Malaysian Institute ofArt in 1996 with a Diploma of Fine Art in painting. Since then, he has participated in numerous exhibitions in Malaysia and abroad. Chia’s works, ranging from Surrealist-inspired paintings, laboriously crafted collages, paper sculptures to painted shells explore wide-ranging topics such as politics, religion, and culture.
The repeated gestures and complex methods reflect a commitment with craft in which the labor adds another layer of meaning to the work. Placing an importance on the media, he believes that each medium has its own characteristics, malleability and symbolism thus new interpretations are conjured when finding or mundane objects such as postage stamps and seashells are transformed in an almost alchemical fashion into intricate artworks.
THE BOTANY OF DESIRE
Chang collected leaves from around the area of his artist residency in 2010 at Tembi Contemporary in Yogyakarta, an old steeped in traditional culture and beliefs, thriving under the spiritual site of the active Merapi volcano erupted and he had to leave Indonesia abruptly.
When he took up a residency at 1-Shanthi Road in Bangalore in 2012, he decided once again to collect leaves to make a body of works. “The Botany of Desire” is made from dried leaves collected during his many visits to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens.
“Based on England’s Kew Gardens, Lalbagh, to me, represents the foregone era of British colonialism. Plants from all over the world were brought in, and if profitable, introduced to other reaches of the British Empire. Perhaps a tree I saw in my own country is a descendant from Lalbagh. Perhaps I had climbed this tree, ate its fruit, or wore something made out of it.
This work is a playful attempt to find connections with my post. By using leaves I found in Lalbagh, I made a work that resembles shadow puppets (which, of course, originated from India but is a widespread art form in Southeast Asia) and created a melodramatic story from stereotypical ideas about India, from bits and pieces of Tamil and Hindi movies I see throughout my life and observations during my walks in Lalbagh.”
Otaru Fable was made during Chang’s S-AIR 2017 artist residency in Hokkaido, Japan. He transformed these discarded shells of scallops commercially farmed for mass consumption to tell a fable of his trip to a tourist destination called Otaru. By reassembling and painting on seashells and other natural objects that used to host life, Chang hopes to give a “second life” to them.