Reviews

YOUTHFUL PROMISE

by Sam Christudas - VISION KL, AUG 1998

A stimulating exhibition of drawings and paintings by three young artists, all recent graduates, is on view at Valentine Willie's Bangsar gallery. Though lacking the visual intensity and emotional charge of works by their more mature colleagues, their gentle voices draw attention and admiration.

Badruddin Abdul Wahab from Muar, Johor graduated last year with a B.A. in Advertising from Marquette University in the US. His work in this show includes drawings, figure sketches from college and recent oil paintings done here. The huge charcoal of a human figure is quite impressive, though the set of smaller drawings (which have the look of work from figure drawing class) should not have been included.

The artwork accomplised in Malaysia is infinitely more interesting. Standing woman is a dynamic study in charcoal of a lady in traditional apparel with exciting deep blacks and quirky lines.

His best works in the show is Two Women (Dua Perempuan), a thought-provoking oil painting that juxtaposes a standing, partially draped woman with one fully clothed and seated. The women appear to be in a house, while the roof of another house dominates the background. The contrast in their attitudes as well as their attire is highlighted by technique and the picture projects a certain mystery, a hallmark of important painting.

Ivan Lam of Kuala Lumpur returned early this year from the US with a degree from Maine College of Arts. His clever arrangement of symbols, words and silk-screen tranferred photographs conjure up semiotic imagery. But there seem little that's personal about them: emotional colours and sensual lines are felt by their absence.

Nonetheless, by imaginative orchestration of two or three graphic elements, he creates intrigue. Nine shows a large numeral against a set of apparently random Chinese/ Japanese alphabetics. Another engaging piece, Oral Saver, depicts a large Japanese character sandwiched between a target sign and a women's head; Satan in Chinese reveals the artist's sharp wit.

I felt that Ivan's work is missing a perception of the intergrity and relative weight of images, alphabets and symbols, assembling them rather arbitrarily. While he does make some fascinating pictographs, they don't leave a substantial impression. With a stronger sense of their intrinsic visual and emotional values, I think he will handle his graphic elements more discreetly and could create great images. For this intelligent and diligent artist, that day cannot be far off.

Chang Yoong Chia is a gifted homegrown graduate of the Malaysian Institute of Art. He utilises an uniqued medium (acrylic and Chinese ink on rice paper) to fashion dreamlike images seamlessly intergrating animal and human form.

Mythic creatures inhabit his paintings. Though effectively coded and generalised, the pictures are, in fact, self-portraits that interpret the artist's dreams, fantasies and anxieties. They go far beyond illustration, reaching for a personal visual poetry.

Chia needs to evove a more sophisticated colour scheme which here feels melodramatic. and the trick of titles appearing well within the image frame is disturbing, particularly when misspelt. But his drawing proficiency is clearly admirable ( the monoprint form requires drawing a mirror-image on the back of the paper) and his Fire and Self-portrait In Blood are some of the best pictures in the show. His limited life-experience limits his themes, but I have no doubt he'll produce more powerful images as he expands his horizons.

The pictures in this show are worthwhile seeing on their own merits, but an equally important reason to visit this show is to encourage budding artists.

It is the young artist of today whose vision will shape the future. The exciting creations of these young artists promise much.

Three Young Contemporaries 1998, an exhibition of work by Badruddin Abdul Wahab, Ivan Lam amd Chang Yoong Chia is on view from 11-29 August at Valentine Willie Fine Art, 17A Jln Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, KL.