When things spiral out of control, it often ends up being a disaster. But James Ly has made “out of control” his friend, and he has a whole exhibition to show for it.
His first solo, with its existence hinging on unpredictability as much as the act of letting go and allowing nature to run its course, is on now at Minut Init Art Social, an art space he co-founded in Petaling Jaya, till tomorrow.
Aptly titled Inured (inure: accustom someone to something that is often unpleasant), the exhibition explores the concept of change, its implications, and the fact that it is out of our control. It is a topic that is all the more relevant now in our rapidly-changing internet world, where history can be easily rewritten at the touch of a button and passed off as the “truth” ... only until it is superseded by a new version.
“Change is happening faster than before and the way in which we communicate has evolved so much. It may be more efficient, but somehow also more ambiguous and less romantic,” says Ly, 31.
It might be inevitable that change happens, but its effect upon us often depends on how we react to it.
“A wise sage once said to stay rigid is to welcome death, so we need to embrace change and adapt. For example, we cannot control the weather, but we can make decisions on how to survive or adapt to it,” he adds.
Ly’s background in television broadcasting, multimedia design and animation shows in this exhibit.
On the illusion of being in control, Ly is convinced that more often than not, that is all it is – an illusion.
“I feel the subconscious has a way of intervening. We think we are in control, but we are really not.”
These sentiments are reflected in how he created this series of work, comprising 14 works, including two sculptures and an installation. The application of a mix of different paints using varying techniques on canvas, and then allowing the paint to form an image on its own, is, in some way, a demonstration of the ambiguity of our notions of control and non-control.
“The work process involves a lot of attuning to circumstances as I don’t have a finished idea in mind. I am wholly dependant on the alchemy of the materials and I depend on intuition to tell me when it is finished,” he shares of his paintings, which are predominantly crafted in a soft pink, blue and chrome, with a fluorescent base to them.
Ly pours paint on each corner of the canvas, allows them to flow towards each other, then pours water over it. Next, he sprinkles plaster onto the water. They swirl and mix in the paint and water, and then he finishes up with spray paint.
It sure sounds repetitive, but surprises lie even in the everyday.
“I might initiate the first move of pouring the paint but chance will determine how the paint will fall on the canvas, and after that the journey begins,” he explains.
For instance, #Revival and #Waveafterwave didn’t go as he expected.
“The plaster that was laid on cracked and fell,” he related, “so I had to adapt to that change. I had to think of how to use these shattered pieces and somehow make it work.”
He scattered them and poured on more paint in the hopes that it would all gel together, both literally and figuratively.
“The risk paid off, it resulted in an authenticity to the work that I could never have expected,” he says.
As for the slightly grim-sounding title, he believes that it is indeed human nature to resist change, unless one is enlightened to its benefits.
“On the other hand, it is also human nature to spark revolution,” he says, adding that the underlying message in this exhibition is to remain optimistic and find the positives within the changes happening around us and move along to the rhythm.
“We should never go against the grain, but rather flow like water. Changes are like rocks that stand in our way, but over time the water in the river can transform these rocks into refined specimens,” he concludes.
Inured ends tomorrow at Minut Init Art Social, Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Visit www.facebook.com/minut.init for more info.