Encountering Mass Man

Isolated, disconnected, fragmented—these are recurring themes that have encompassed our lives over the last year; sentiments which are encapsulated and expressed through Choy Chun Wei’s new series and solo exhibition, Encountering Mass Man, proudly presented by Wei-Ling Gallery. As an artist widely-acclaimed for his multi-layered collage work—one that draws constant inspiration from his environment and how he witnesses the evolution of society—the way the pandemic has shifted our way of being, thinking, and connecting, spurred him to create this monumental oeuvre.

Chun Wei was born and raised in Sungai Petani, a small town, in the state of Kedah, located in the northwest of Malaysia. At the age of 13, his family moved to Petaling Jaya, a greater area of Kuala Lumpur. This Feeling of dislocation—of moving from the peaceful rural life he grew up in, to the unending noise and the ‘coldness’ of the urban setting, never left Chun Wei. He has continuously sought for a medium to investigate the unsettling emotions that he felt, as he experienced the drastic change between these two environments. Finding clarity in the act of arranging different forms, colours, words, numbers, formats and textures into vast-ranging compositions, it has always been through the technique of collage that Chun Wei channels his concerns and observations.

Geometrical elements that depict facades of the suburban, as well as magazine headlines that resonate with our consumer-driven society, are ever-present in his past series. However, it was only through his last body of work, Tectonic Traces (2018), that Chun Wei began introducing hints of painted human figures. Framed inside rectangular outlines, these faceless portraits which bear no facial expressions, are representations of individuals being trapped and consumed inside their mobile or computer screens, of the virtual world.

Thus, as Chun Wei’s work grew more complex and mature over the years, his observations of the human condition allowed him to become more attuned to the understanding of human behaviour. Through Encountering Mass Man, the artist began recognizing the sentimental aspects of being under lockdown, especially with our heavy use of technology as a way of coping with the strange conditions—be it for working, connecting with people, or as a form of entertainment. This time, the portraits are completed with typed symbols that represent facial features such as the eyes, nose and the mouth. Interestingly, the visual inspiration behind these portraits is his own early work, Self-Portrait (1999), whereby the artist painted a textual portrait of himself, consisting merely of two dots, a dash and a letter ‘p’. A once popular texting style known as ‘emoticon’, years before the smartphone and ‘emoji’ became a worldwide phenomenon.

Chun Wei believes that abstraction has the power of conveying emotions. And, as he described, “It isn’t just about the advancement of the technology itself anymore, rather the feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and breaking down that it results in. There is a certain fragility that comes out of it.” However, he continued, “There is also a feeling of nostalgia, and a sense of happiness from communicating and regrouping with others.” Like a blessing in disguise, this pandemic has also allowed him to cherish certain memories, and re-establish meaningful connections. This hopeful way of looking at the situation is also expressed through a vibrant palette of blue, turquoise, red, and yellow, as well as dynamic textures, combining smooth and robust surfaces. Although most of the time the artist would place himself as an observer, as he himself summed it up with these words: “This series feels more personal than ever.”

Encountering Mass Man’ by Choy Chun Wei is featured at Wei-Ling Gallery from 2 March – 24 April 2021.

Wei-Ling Gallery is located 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm.

For appointments and further assistance, please contact +60322601106 or e-mail weiling.siewboon@gmail.com.