New Straits Times, 23 August 2009
Art: Not mere paint
by Vimala Seneviratne

The Beginning Is The End The End Is The Beginning

The Beginning Is The End The End Is The Beginning

Waiting For A Better Future, Hoping For A Better Life

Waiting For A Better Future, Hoping For A Better Life

All Things Fast, Past, Shiny Whiny And Glittery Is Not Gold

All Things Fast, Past, Shiny Whiny And Glittery Is Not Gold

Using house paint, Ivan Lam’s artistic creations take his viewers on a journey of exploration, writes VIMALA SENEVIRATNE
ARTIST and lecturer Ivan Lam has elevated good old normal house paint to artistic proportions. “Why not? It’s still paint but in a different form and what’s more, it serves the same purpose – beautifying an otherwise plain surface.”

Using Nippon paint, the 34-year-old Lam incorporates and blends the colour palettes, displaying his versatility and the medium used.

“I was quite surprised to learn that Nippon has about 3,500 colours available. I had a field day experimenting with the hundreds of hues,” says Lam who is holding his second solo exhibition at Wei Ling Gallery.

Entitled Panorama, the current exhibition features seven ordinary but thought-provoking images – traffic jams, construction machine (piler), waiting lounge at the airport, car workshop and ferris wheel.

“What I’ve done is paint very ordinary scenes that people can identify with,” says this father of two daughters as he walks towards the painting entitled The Beginning Is The End The End Is The Beginning.

“This work documents the daily trip that almost everyone makes. The sun is down, the rush hour traffic is at a crawl.

“Depending on how you want to look at it, you could either get stressed by it or give in to it and enjoy the time you have to contemplate your life. You could, for example, say ‘I have come full circle back to the same sky…’.”

As for the piler, Lam sees the construction machine when he commutes from his home in Klang to his college in Cheras and his studio in Cyberjaya.

“It’s there all the time, pummelling the piles into the ground. But there is a fine line between development and the environment, between man and nature. It troubles me seeing so much development at the expense of the environment. Where is the balance? I ask myself that question all the time.

“We should see things in a wider perspective, look beyond the ordinary and the mundane.”

For Lam, Panorama marks a journey that started in 2005 when he started experimenting with synthetic polymer paint. He is, in fact, the only artist in Malaysia to demonstrate the versatility of Nippon paint in the production of his art.

“Compared with oil or acrylic, the pigment in synthetic polymer paint is thinner or lighter. Initially, I used it as a primer and then decided to go a little further. I was curious, what if I used it on the surface? After some trial and error, I found the technique of getting it just right, the way I want it to look.”

Some of his paintings have six to eight layers of paint to get the correct tone. “What I like about the paint is that I don’t have to mix the paints, like all artists do, to get the right colour. Mine comes pre-mixed.”

The four years also mark his own personal journey.

“There were so many ups and down and changes – completing my Master’s in Fine Art, becoming a father, changing jobs, buying a house – the drama of life.”

Lam, who has exhibited widely in the local and international arena and has garnered multiple awards in a 12-year career that includes solo and group exhibitions, is disciplined in his work – from taking photographs, sketching and visualising to capturing his images on canvas.

“Sometimes I start out with a particular image in mind but along the way I modify it, always tweaking and refining my work,” says Lam who considers himself a contemporary artist.

Last year, one of Lam’s paintings entitled Three Buses received a final bid of HK$120,000 (about RM60,000) at Christie’s Hong Kong Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction.

He is putting up the second half of Three Buses for auction and plans to donate the proceeds to a home for children. Nippon Paint will also re-paint the home as part of its CSR programme.

Lam has no problem juggling his career as a lecturer in painting and drawing in a private university, pursuing his passion for painting and being a family man.

“It’s all a matter of discipline… know what you want, how badly you want it and work steadily towards it. One should not be done at the expense of the other.”

When he finds the time, he takes off in his modified Honda Civic sports car to the Sepang race track. “Nothing beats the exhilarating feeling when I am at the wheels, pushing the car to its maximum. That’s one of the things I enjoy doing.”

View Panorama at Wei-Ling Gallery (8 Jalan Scott, off Jalan Brickfields, KL) until Aug 27. Open daily from 10am-7pm. Free admission.