Options: Congratulations on your latest solo exhibition, Changing Identity. It has been exactly two years since you last showed. Tell us what inspired this collection.
Choy Chun Wei: This new work is a continuation of the Encountering Mass Man series, which began in 2021. Human communication has been greatly influenced and transformed by technological intervention. This condition appeared to be progressive, with some tension and effects on our behaviour.
What do you want people to feel when they view the pieces?
The current expression of the totemic human form reflects people’s current sense of self. The structure and form convey primal and simplistic impressions while also providing a critical analysis of the current state of insecurity and fear. I don’t want to impose my feelings on the viewer, but the form presented gives the impression of undercurrent objectivity.
How many pieces were created in total and which piece did you feel posed the greatest creative challenge?
I have a total of 19 pieces, which include objects and paintings. Overall, these works are in constant dialogue with one another. One idea feeds into the next. For example, figurative objects feed into the theme of human representation that runs across the surface of my large-scale patterned paintings. The painted markings will then emerge from the painting’s surface, giving the sculptural object a painterly appearance. As a result, there is no neat delineation, something I began paying attention to because I value the studio process. This type of transferability is something I hope to explore further.
If I must pick one, then it has to be the relief piece, Parade of Remote Gazes. The balance between object-making (casting) and painting (shimmer) has good, satisfying effects within the generated form. I still want to push myself further on this scale. I am motivated by the opportunity.
Can you take us through your creative process for Changing Identity as it took place at a time when the world was reopening and coming back to life post-pandemic?
Yes, it is a time of relief, but with extreme caution. Life has evolved. It is an excellent time for material reflection and resistance. I had missed certain qualities that existed prior [to the pandemic] and was aware of certain superficial infrastructure that was given new life.
You also lecture at Taylor’s University. What advice would you give to young people who want a successful career in art?
I am willing to share my own journey with anyone who wants to know about it. To me, the longer I stay and continue to do what I do, the more I see art as a calling. Find out about yourself and make the most of each step forward. There are no shortcuts.
And as a graduate of Central Saint Martins yourself, what are your thoughts on Pharrell Williams’ recent appointment as creative director for Louis Vuitton Men’s? What do you think the message is to all art and design students?
That the creative corporate sector is beginning to recognise the importance and leadership of artistic thinking and process, as well as its long-term viability in restoring human values.
What are you working on next? What are some of the topics you might be hoping to explore through your oeuvre?
While in my studio making art, I hope to maintain and expand my freedom of space and play. I enjoy experimenting with form, medium and technique to see what meaning emerges.
Do you have a preferred time of day to create?
No, I like to work in the mornings ... say, between 7am and 11am. But to be able to do so is a luxury. So, more often than not, I work with my limitations.
What are the books you feel every art student needs to read and why?
I enjoy reading [English anarchist poet and critic of literature and art] Sir Herbert Edward Read. To Hell with Culture and Other Essays on Art and Society is an insightful and honest book. I am becoming more aware of the power of creating art. So another book I would recommend is Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description by Tim Ingold.
When did you feel art defined your personal definition of happiness?
When I discovered myself to be clumsy and imperfect but still able to persevere in generating the potential of what I had.
'Changing Identity' runs until March 4 at Wei-Ling Gallery, Brickfields, KL. See more here.
This article first appeared on Feb 27, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.