Gan Chin Lee

The City Tales series

I am a painter who is keen on depicting the appearances of different people in the world. I believe in realism and I am constantly searching for new forms of contemporary realistic painting.

It isn’t an easy feat to be a realistic painter in Malaysia. Many think that realism is a derivative of the socialist country, and we haven't had such an ideology to support this art form. On top of it, realistic paintings are often thought of as less avant-garde due to its conservative style. Despite the difficulties I’ve faced in my journey of becoming a realistic painter, I remain optimistic in negative situations.

The series City Tales consist of eight individual paintings. They were created to express concerns of the everyday Malaysian set against our social themes. As a realistic painter, I respond and record livelihood issues as well as existing principles. For example, "City Tales II 百無聊賴" reflects my driving experience in Malaysia. The traffic situation in Kuala Lumpur has been particularly bad in recent years. I could stuck in traffic at any time and at any location, so often that I feel my life is consumed mostly on the road.

I chose to absorb the visual similarity from Japanese Ukiyo-e and traditional Chinese New Year woodcut paintings to reflect the deformity of public social issues with a dash of humour.

The messages I want to convey are all written on the painting itself and suggested by the title. They are coded onto the surface of these paintings and aren’t difficult to understand. To me, the content beneath the art formality is more important. This series of works are intended to convey a common social experience under a multi-ethnic social structure.

I think language transmits emotional temperature and ethnic characteristics. Each different languages and its respective proverbs accounts for its ancestral life experiences and values. Although there may be structural differences between languages, surprisingly, it seems coherence all the languages. Due to language differences, it is easy to be misread or misunderstood or it might even lead to conflict on a more serious note. However, the differences in languages are also an important factor for civilization. It is by these great people, the human civilization that exists today is formed through the mixture and injection of respective cultural essence in their own languages.

I have titled pieces in this series with idioms in three different languages to emphasize the stimulus brought on by social complexity. It often promotes evolutionary changes within individual cultural development. Multicultural societies such as Malaysia are excellent platforms for people to contrast, to exchange and to build up better cultural qualities.
Gan Chin Lee