Malaysian artist Chang Fee Ming depicts powerful and personal stories of independent communities who live in remote parts of the world that is fast changing. Chang a watercolourist, met the challenges of printmaking at STPI with bravura to produce 51 new works that captures the physical and spiritual strength of inhabitants from his costal hometown, Terengganu to the rugged terrain of Tibet. Chang’s stories of faith, hope and survival are especially poignant as we come to an end of a tumultuous year marked by the collapse of revered modern world establishments.
Chang a habitual traveler seeks to trace cultural, ethnic and historical links of communities where religion and spirituality play an important role. He is fascinated by rituals, rites and symbols that transcend geographical boundaries, portrayed in works such as The Naga King’s Daughter which features Chinese, Islamic and animistic influences. Chang said, “I’m inspired by a 6th century Chinese journal which described Ch’ih Tu, a long lost kingdom in the northern part of Malaysia close to Terengganu. There’s evidence of pre-Islamic traditions and cultures which have survived until today.” In the Bull Year series Chang depicts the grandeur of a Tibetan ceremony against a backdrop of five elements of wood, metal, earth, water and fire derived from Chinese cosmology that has roots in Tibetan culture. These celebratory depictions pay tribute to the survival of inherited ways of life and cultures and their innate beauty.
The printmaking medium posed an exciting artistic outlet for Chang who experimented with different techniques and devised effects to invoke peculiar moods and textures of people and places he met on his trips. He seeks to express the profound experience of his subjects by paying close attention to textural details of their skin or textiles in rich intense colours, such as the monk’s deep vermillion robe that rise like flames in Zadoi…The Cordyceps Heaven! and the close crops of seasoned hands and feet of an old kampung woman in Nasihat Nenek. The juxtaposition of simply clothed working class Indian women with sassy Bollywood celebrities in My Mumbai Groove, portrays a “garishness” of places where tradition, poverty and bright modern imports clash together. Chang pictures Asia as he sees it – the exigencies of urban life, the shadow of political history, the grappling with disenfranchisement in a region that is continually changing.
Chang a self-taught watercolourist from Terengganu Malaysia, who left school early and took up a job painting signboards is one of South-east Asia’s most successful and sought after artists. He was one of the first contemporary Malaysian artists to appear on the South-East Asian auctions held by Christies and Sotheby’s in Singapore. He has exhibited widely with solo shows in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bali and participated in numerous major exhibitions in Asia and North America. He has made tangible and accessible the beauty and spiritual courage of people on the edge of the developing world who are survivors of the last vestiges of Asia.