Charles-Cham-Unknown-Partners (Detail), 1997

Charles Cham

Malaysia 1962


Charles Cham
Charles Cham
September 22, 2016

Charles Cham, a Malaysian painter, creates puzzlingly primitive artworks that resemble the images from the walls of prehistoric caves. His human figures and faces consist of simple geometric forms, while his use of colors is bold and temperamental, full of contrasting hues. I believe that drawing is thinking and painting is feeling. Therefore, I draw what I think and paint what I feel, says Charles Cham about his working technique. In addition to his childlike and simplistic artworks, the artist is also known as the founder of the Orangutan House, a gallery located in the historical downtown of the city of Malacca.

Charles Cham's paintings and artworks depict principles of yin and yang. He painted fragmented faces
Charles Cham – Melancholy In Black And Yellow, 1997 (Left) / Moody Blue, 1998 (Right)

Navigation through Charles Cham’s Early Childhood: Inspiration in Movies and Cake Powder

Charles Cham was born in Malaysia in 1962. He was an extremely imaginative kid – when he was just five years old, he already showed an interest in visual arts, movies and artwork. In his early work, he painted various faces he saw in movies. The artist didn’t use only pencils and colors to create his childhood artworks – he also played with his mother’s cake powder, using it as a paint and creating a wide range of improvised mixed-media pieces at his house. Cham followed his dreams for many years and eventually became an editorial artist in Kuala Lumpur. After a while, the artist decided to make a change in his life and relocate to France in order to further his education and training in painting. He became a member of the prestigious Association des Artistes Indépendants in Aix-en-Provence in France. Thanks to this institution located far away from his home, he exhibited his works at the Salon des Independents in 1990 and 1991.

In his earliest childhood painting with cake powder, Charles Cham used to depict various faces he saw in old movies and cartoons

Cham's famous drawing from 2016 can be found in singapore and kuala lumpur
Charles Cham – Silent Passion, 1997 (Left) / Tension in the Night, 1998 (Right)

Information on the Orangutan House Gallery

In 1992, Charles Cham founded The Orangutan House in his hometown in Malaysia. This artistic haven located in the historical downtown of Malacca is both his studio and gallery. Nowadays, it also represents one of the most recognizable and most beautiful buildings in Malacca, due to its unusual architecture. Talking about the nature of Cham’s artworks, it investigates the sign of duality of life and the attraction of the opposites – which is known as the Yin and Yang in Eastern philosophy and culture. The Yin and Yang paintings are actually multiple paintings. They are in fact two oil paintings on one canvas, with each other facing in the opposite direction, explain Chan the common composition of his pieces, which often contain the elements of reversed figures and contrasting colors, metaphorically representing the sign of duality and the contact of the opposites.

In 1992, Charles Chan founded The Orangutan House in his hometown of Malacca in Malaysia, which became his studio and gallery

Cham painted unusual figures as a child
Charles Cham – The Yellow Bigamist, 2016

The Power of Artwork based on Childlike Vision

Charles Cham has exhibited his artworks in many Asian and European countries – in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, France, the UK, Switzerland, Portugal and of course his home country. His oil paintings can be found in the collections of various international art connoisseurs in more than 40 countries. Cham’s work is highly appreciated for being evocative of the rich tribal cultures, feel and history of Southeast Asia. Also, his childlike and simplistic vision makes his work emotionally intense and comprehensible on a primal, intuitive level.

Charles Cham lives and works in Malacca, Malaysia.

Featured image: Charles Cham – Unknown Partners (Detail), 1997
All images courtesy of Addicted Art Gallery.

Year Exhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2012 Face To Face With Charles ChamArt-2 Gallery, SingaporeSolo
2012Selfless PortraitsKarin Weber Gallery, Hong KongSolo
2011Art Asia MiamiMiami Florida, USAGroup
2008Faces To FiguresKarin Weber Gallery, Hong KongSolo
2005Ballads IIArt-2 Gallery, SingaporeSolo
2005BalladsKarin Weber Gallery, Hong KongSolo
2005ARTSingapore 2005Contemporary Asian Art Fair, SingaporeGroup
2002Opposite AttractionGanesha Gallery, BaliSolo
2002ARTSingapore 2002Contemporary Asian Art Fair, SingaporeGroup
2001Fantasies and RealitiesFramed Gallery, Darwin, AustraliaSolo
2001The Yin and Yang of Charles ChamGalerie LeonArt, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
2001ARTSingapore 2001Contemporary Asian Art Fair, SingaporeGroup
2001Summer ExhibitionKarin Weber Gallery, Hong KongGroup
2001TIME: The Watch Has No NumbersArt-2 Gallery, SingaporeGroup
2000Yellow CultureKarin Weber Gallery, Hong KongSolo
1999Aku: Portret DiriGaleri Petronas, Kuala LumpurGroup
1998Recent PaintingsThe Orangutan House, MalaccaSolo
1996Cultural Property AsiaPutra World Trade Centre, Kuala LumpurGroup
1995Yin Et Yang Et CeteraCreative Centre, National Art Gallery, Kuala LumpurSolo