Cutting the lines that bind
In Ivan Lam’s practice the concept of duality has been continuously present throughout his journey as an artist.
The push and pull between what is present and what is absent, between black and white, between the seen and unseen, between the past and the present, between what is said and what is meant, between male and female, between young and old, between love and hate, between conditional and unconditional love…..
In this body of work, he explores the generational gap between family members, starting off introspectively by looking at himself and his daughters, and in turn that which existed between himself and his parents, and them with theirs-the persistent and ironic void that exists between our very own ‘flesh and blood’. Something that in some way, we can all relate to on some level.
He also looks at the space between his daughters as human beings, although conceived from the same parents, the duality in their beings and their very existence. These are issues prevalent to all of us as human beings, who are capable of processing this idea of self.
He initially grappled with this idea through ‘merging’ the faces of his two daughters on a two dimensional surface, through the use of one inch stripes, where each daughter’s face is sliced and interspersed with the other’s, over 60 stripes. Almost in an attempt to do away with, and banish the gap that separates them.
Through a painstaking process, of painting each face with a variation of black and white tones, to differentiate, yet link them, he found himself starting the work with a strong emotional connection to the subject matter, yet ironically in the process of making the work, became somewhat detached from it, as the work started to ‘take over’.
In 24 cuts, the piece that makes up the second work in this three part series, he continued pushing the idea of duality through cutting the work up into 24 triangular strips of wood. He then painted the faces of each of his two sisters on corresponding sides of each triangle, so that as one moves from left to right, and from right to left, each sister’s side profile morphs into the other. For the final work, Ivan employed the concept of a folding ruler, where the faces of his mother and grandmother have been painted on either side of 1 inch strips of wood, to make up a 30 inch artwork. The strips of wood are hinged, and can be opened up to cover a wall measuring more than 10meters.With each unfolding of the pieces, the work reveals the mastery of Ivan Lam and the complex thought process that has gone into conceptualizing and applying this idea of duality in the work.
While recognizing that contemporary artists are conceptualists, he still wants to take full control of the process from beginning to end.
Rather than being a manager like most artists are in the contemporary world, he feels strongly that there are lessons to be learnt from the physical making of a work. Understanding where the pitfalls are, and learning from them, so that he is fully-equipped to grapple with the next set of problems. While visually he might be able to achieve his ends to a means through an easier route, the very essence of his art and his journey, lies in the physical workings of the piece. This is what informs his journey and where he wants to go next. If the work is merely executed for him, he feels that he has missed out on the ‘soul’ of the process and the work.
In this highly digitalized, virtual world within which our lives are encompassed, this physical making of a work, takes him back to basics, grounds him and connects him to the real world.
He seeks desperately to wrestle the control back and he hopes that in doing so, his viewers too will be able to interact with him and his work through physically being there in front of it, and not merely through an i-phone, a photograph or a computer. The real impact of the work can only be fully and truly realized when standing in front of it.
The delicate balance between understanding what one can do (technically) and what one cannot do, will be something that runs throughout his practice. In the contemporary art world today, where concepts rule, sometimes this aspect is absent. Ivan Lam wants the best of both worlds, to be able to merge both the conceptual and the technical, to bridge that ‘generational gap’ in the art world today.
Cutting the Lines that Bind is a small yet intense body of work which continues the idea of the fact that within family, we are cut from the same cloth yet are uniquely distinctive. The works will require audience participation, as the pieces change and morph with the gradation of tones and the employment of traditionally used tools and mediums within a contemporary visual language. Allowing the work to transition, between the traditional and the contemporary, from one medium to another, and to progress and regress seamlessly, depending on how the viewer wants to see it.
Cutting the lines that bind will begin showing at Wei-Ling Contemporary on the 7th of April and will continue until the 9th of May 2016.