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FLORA & FAUNA

FIRST SOLO BY CHANG YOONG CHIA



Kuching, Sarawak

Oversized animals, lillipudlian human figures, wildlife morphed into fantastical configurations, an environment bursting with febrile excitement - these are just some of the images that will confront you in FLORA & FAUNA, an exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculptures by Chang Yoong Chia.

Delving into his memories, Chang explores his early fascination with animals in a style reminiscent of book illustrations. He regards the animals in his works as imaginary friends, lodged in his memory from his various encounters with actual wildlife and nature documentaries. He uses their images as ‘mediums of expressions’, placing them in black & white jungles where they interact with each other in ways that startle and surprise.


I'll Wait for You at the Bus Station

Chang’s alter ego also appears in many of the works as a figure donning a white shirt, black tie and a pair of black trousers, representing the “tired white-collar working man” , to be rejuvenated only by the sight of another human being; this one, a female. In Chang’s art, what starts out as a questioning of the relationship between man and nature ends as his personal declaration of love to another.


Eggplant

But there is nothing sentimental about Chang’s love. Whether the figures are engaged in playful courtship or tangled in the heights of passion, the nature-environment they are placed in does not judge but is still fraught with danger and uncertainty. It is a nature that is not only amoral, but in this case, also strangely unnatural. For Yoong Chia, humankind longs for a reunification with the natural order, but tragically fails in the bizarre distortions that result from his attempts at doing so.

“Human beings no longer see themselves as animals. So when we encounter wildlife, we are reminded of our paradoxical identity crisis. We tame nature around us; put them in cages, plant them in pots, make them bear more fruits, breed hybrids to decorate our gardens and shift their genetic code around . They become our living toys, our surrogate children and we, the source of their existence.” says Chang.


Kingdom

The art-works come in various sizes; from the smallest, a sculpture measuring no more than 3 inches in height to the biggest, an oil painting on canvas measuring 24 ft in length. While most are made using more conventional materials, there are some in the show that are made using eggshells and bones.

“For me, eggshells symbolize the beginning of life and bones, the end. Both materials suggest fragility and impermenance yet are some of the strongest defences organic life has against the elements. It also symbolizes what being in love is like for me.” explains Chang.

On one level, Chang’s art is a love story. On another, it is a meditation on the wider relationship between contemporary humankind and nature. In landscapes where the conflation of disparate expectations arouses a disquieting anxiety, Yoong Chia offers us messages of hope; messages that strangely rejuvenate in their celebrations of unfettered love.


Miao Miao

Chang Yoong Chia graduated from the Malaysian Institute of Art with a diploma in Fine Art in 1996. A founding member of Spacekraft, an artists-run space based in Kuala Lumpur, he has helped organise art activites such as Comics? with Fariza Azlina at Artscafe@ National Art Gallery 2001 and Chow Kit Fest in 2002, in addition to exhibiting extensively in and around KL and . He also paticipated in KHOJ international Artists Workshop 2002 in Mysore, India. He was last spotted stitching portraits taken from newspaper obituaries at Urbanscapes 2004, which he will make into a quilt a few years from now.

Reka Art Space 2004