New Straits Times, 5 March 2011
Unusually artistic
by Sushma Veera

Ivan Lam - Everything I've ever known, I'm giving back to you (2010) | Nippon paint and resin on canvas; 2 panels, 198cm x 244cm (each)

Everything I’ve ever known, I’m giving back to you

Ivan Lam - For a lark I will eat a crow (2010) | Nippon paint and resin on canvas; 2 panels, 198cm x 244cm (each panel)

For a lark I will eat a crow

Ivan Lam - I called but you were engaged (2010) | Nippon paint and resin on canvas; 2 panels, 198cm x 244cm (each)

I called but you were engaged

Artist Ivan Lam uses water-based house paint in his works. He tells Sushma Veera why. While most artists use oil and acrylics in their artwork, one man decided to try something different.

One of the nation’s leading contemporary artists, Ivan Lam says there are many benefits in using synthetic polymer paint, commonly used as house paint.
The 36-year-old started using water-based Nippon paint seven years ago.
But why house paint?
Lam, who won the Philip Morris Art Award in 2003, explains: “I have endless options (of house paint) to choose from. Besides, I don’t have to mix my own colours anymore. Instead, I can walk into a paint shop and the machine will mix any colour I want.”

“If I run out of a particular colour, all I need to do is give the shop the code and the colour will be 99 per cent accurate as opposed to a 70 per cent accuracy when I mix it myself.”

Lam, who holds a Master’s degree in contemporary art and design practice, says he settled for Nippon paint after trying out numerous brands.

“Nippon paint not only gives the best coverage with its wide variety of colours but it is also consistent. The paint is also bacteria-free and has a unique scent.”

He adds that the colours are super vibrant and vivid. “I work with the medium, not against it.”

Lam has showcased his works in numerous exhibitions. He is currently holding a solo exhibition, Together Alone, at Wei-Ling Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

The exhibition features five sets of artwork made up of two canvases with different pictures.

“It’s a singular approach towards a pluralistic vision. I’m trying to match each image to another,” says Lam, adding that one should look beyond the artwork to understand or interpret it.

“Basically, it is a play of text and images.

“For example, in You Are Being Missed Dear, you are supposed to visually shoot the deer with the target but you will most likely miss it because the target is not the deer but beside it.

“Everything That I Have Ever Known I Am Giving It Back To You features planes and images. I used the same images some years back and I’m using them for the last time. It reflects the departure of the old and the arrival of the new.”
Gallery director Lim Wei-Ling says Lam’s work reflects the present time and generation.

“Together Alone is an evolution of his previous exhibition called Panorama two years ago. It is a challenge to work on such a large format and having to carry the paint tins around.”

“When you stand in front of his work, it is so big that you feel as if you are being enveloped by the artwork,” adds Lim.

Asked why there are only five sets, Lam says: “It seems to be the right number, especially since the pieces are not of the more regular sizes.
Each painting is 2.4m high and 4m long. But Lam has no qualms about working on such big pieces.

“I enjoy working on large scale canvases. It also gives me time to reflect on things.”

Lam, who has a studio in Cyberjaya, takes two months to complete a painting. He teaches drawing, painting and art history at a private college in the city.
“My job keeps me sane. There are only so many hours that you can paint.”

Together Alone is on at Wei-Ling Gallery, 8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, from March 8 to 28. Viewing hours: Noon-7pm (Mon-Fri) and 10am-5pm (Sat). Free admission. Call 03-2260 1106/07.