by Laura Fan- The Edge; Options, 10 DEC 2001

Five young artists have banded together to provide a mutually supportive and critical group to pursue their art-making practices. Graduates of the Malaysian Institute of Art, Chang Yoong Chia, Voon Poh Yin, Wong Perng Fey, Chan Kiat Feng and Yong Ching Sui call themselves the Wall Lizards.

Their exhibition, aptly titled Climbing the Walls, questions the meaning of life through ordinary things. The best works in the exhibition do just that. They turn to domestic settings, ordinary objects and novels to find truths germane to the human condition. These paintings show a maturity that leaves behind art school experimentation and indicates the emergence of a sustainable artistic approach.

At the same time, some works in the exhibition use monumental symbols such as mystic statues and forests, to their detriment. These make vague universal statements and lack a nuanced personal understanding to ground the work. The paintings merely state the obvious.

In the exhibition, Chang displays the greatest breadth of subject exploration and medium. He takes risks that occasionally works and sometimes repel. However, they speak of real emotions and in doing do, change upon the vulnerability that honesty uncovers.

Chang is in his 20’s and not surprisingly, his works address the anxieties of his life. Sex, love and loss overwhelm his psyche and spill forth in pained and sometimes horrific fantasies. The best works of this series pulse with sublimed sexual tension such as his Colour TV (10 for 3 Pirate VCDs). There is a compelling oddness about his painting with the focal spot of colour comprising Maggie Cheung clad in a fastfood chain uniform, her face filling the TV screen. A young, naked couple lounge about indifferently watching the screen while two children cavort around the furniture. A young man walks into the scene, with muted shock in his face.

The narrative lends itself to reflection. A love triangle is suggested by the three adults and also by Cheung’s image that is culled from a movie with a similar theme. At the same time, the banality of the act of watching television neutralizes the sexual charge of the naked couple. The pirouetting girl and boy playfully hiding behind the armchair further inject a note of oddity to the scene. Further complexity comes from the blue glow suffusing the scene. The uncanny quality lends the work an ambiguous and disturbing quality that more overtly sexual work lack.

Other works of Chang’s worth examining are his self-portrait sketches and his cubic The Room. His sketches explore his sense of self via the words of novelist Paul Auster and through metamorphosised sexual organs. The Room extends the uncanny quality seen in his Colour TV (10 for 3 Pirate VCDs) with the bedroom becoming the tense, erotic battlefield of the two lovers.

Voon’s obsessive exploration of houses formed with wooden blocks also has a restrained, contemplative quality that engages. Drawn with pencil on canvas, they speak of an almost Buddhistic control of self banish any possibility of emotional excess. Voon’s approach indicates the emergence of an original style.

Wong displays accomplished, monumental scale landscapes. Slicker than his earlier series, they reflect a subject matter that has become too polished to permit further exploration.

Climbing the Wall: An Exhibition by the WallLizards
Gallery MIA
152, Jalan Ampang
Hours: Noon to 8pm
(Tues-Sun), Until Dec 15