Chee Way: A Touch of Surrealism

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JUICE hit the streets and got close to this urban artist’s dark side. Visual artist Chee Way’s unique street style shook us by our shoulders and grabbed us by our balls.

As art often imitates life, Chee Way’s work is a reflection of his dark journey. Chee Way grew up in an average family. Although his parents never pressured him to study, Chee Way always knew that he would become an artist – as a kid, he drew his favourite cartoon characters constantly. When he entered his teens, Chee Way admits that he barely passed his studies.

Attending a school infamous for breeding troublemakers did not help. “I was quite lost as a kid in that environment,” says Chee Way. But life took an unexpected turn when he won an art competition organised by a local Chinese daily, gaining a scholarship from the Malaysian Institute of Arts. After graduating, Chee Way took on various jobs for two years, including mural painting, food displaying, web designing and animation.

In 2004 with working visa, Chee Way left for the UK. Landing in the factory town of Wolverhampton, what he found was a completely different world. Chee Way worked in restaurants as a dishwasher and in factories packing meat, sandwiches, pies and paper. At one point in a Cadbury factory, he ate chocolates until his nose bled. It was here that he met fellow workers of different nationalities which later became the prototypes for characters in his art.

Seizing the opportunity, Chee Way took art courses which led to small exhibitions. “The audience there seemed to appreciate art more. They would take time to research about artists and find out where they were coming from,” he says on the feedback he received. “I don’t usually talk about my time in the UK because, strangely, some people here seem to view that as arrogant. But the public’s acceptance of art over there is definitely better,” adds Chee Way who believes shopping malls should be converted into museums.

Returning to Malaysia with new vigor, Chee Way developed his style and began experimenting with graphic and fine art. Although he dons a bookish exterior, Chee Way quickly points out that he is “not the fine art or philosophical type”. Rather he is influenced by the simple beauty in life and “real” characters like his co-workers at the factories or the hawkers at Jalan Chow Kit. A touch of Surrealism is also present in Chee Way’s work with one of his favourite artists being Max Ernst.

In 2008, Chee Way hooked up with some friends to open a non-profit art gallery called Findars at Annexe Gallery, Central Market. Although his work has been exhibited at a number of art shows, from myXFUNSer in Taiwan to local shows like Notthatbalai Festival; finding commercial success is not his agenda. “To me, art is about finding yourself,” says the 29 year old artist. As a freelancer, Chee Way makes a living by doing the same things he did before going to the UK without the slightest bother.

“Selling art is a bonus, making art is a reward in itself,” states Chee Way. “It’s a bit hard to find inspiration in a dollar-chasing society, but there are a lot of people doing what I’m doing and they’re not giving up. So why should I?”

Check out more of Chee Way’s masterpieces by clicking on to this webby –

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