Malaysian artist navigates between modelling glamour and reflective art contemplation

CHAN KARWAI’s journey towards becoming a renowned artist was not paved with the conventional milestones of higher education. Hailing from Ipoh, Perak and raised by a single mother, Chan faced unique challenges from an early age.

Despite societal pressures, she chose to limit her education to secondary school, prioritising her family’s well-being.

“In a world where higher education is often a privilege, I made the conscious decision not to add to her burdens,” Chan reflected.

$!Chan has followed her heart in making the transition from a lucrative career in modelling to becoming an artist.

From hobbyist to artist

Chan’s passion for art started as a mere hobby, shared and celebrated on social media platforms. Over time, her talent caught the eyes of many, leading to collaborations with prestigious car brands and participation in auctions.

“With time, I began receiving private messages inquiring about purchasing my pieces... I’ve evolved from a hobbyist to where I am today.”

Initially, Chan’s art centred around the picturesque landscapes of Ipoh. However, as her journey evolved, her pieces began to reflect deeper, surreal themes.

“My paintings evolved into surreal pieces that go into the depths of my innermost thoughts and beliefs – a reflection of the profound journey I have embarked upon,” she described her transformation.

One of Chan’s most impactful series “Superheroes: Redefined” serves as a tribute to resilience and inner strength. Drawing from personal experiences of childhood bullying, this collection resonates with many.

“This series of paintings has prompted some people to private message or text me, expressing how it helped them through difficult times,” Chan elaborated.

Transitioning from the world of modelling to becoming a full-time artist was not without its challenges.

Chan confessed that the most challenging thing for her is always doubting herself.

“Modelling pays well, and I already have many commercial video shoots and commercial photography gigs.”

However, her determination to pursue her passion for art prevailed.

$!Chan’s preferred medium is oil on canvas.

Inspirational painting

Oil colours dominate Chan’s artistic palette, offering her a rich texture and blending experience.

“My creative process begins with inspiration drawn from various sources. This method allows me to streamline the painting process while ensuring the final piece captures the essence of my initial inspiration.”

Chan’s creative journey has its ebbs and flows. During periods of creative stagnation, she seeks inspiration through travel, museum visits and networking. “These endeavours serve as catalysts for generating fresh ideas and reigniting my artistic passion.”

Chan’s collaboration with McLaren stands out as a defining moment in her career.

“I had the extraordinary opportunity to paint on a physical car... the pinnacle of my artistic journey was reached when a painting from my Cupid series was featured in an auction at Phillips Auction under the auspices of the esteemed Singapore National Gallery,” she recalled.

Chan leverages social media as a powerful tool to connect with her audience and showcase her artwork globally.

“Social media provides a powerful platform to connect with people worldwide... It is essential to take the first step and start sharing our art.”

While Chan considers herself a self-taught artist still on a learning curve, she offers valuable insights for budding artists.

“Make full use of the internet and social media. We have the opportunity to pursue both avenues, working with galleries and showcasing our work online,” she advised.

Passionate about female empowerment, Chan is currently exploring projects that resonate with this cause. She is also keen on collaborations that allow her to blend her artistic touch with automotive canvases.

“Moreover, I’m continuously seeking inspiration to create artworks with deeper meaning, hoping to inspire and uplift my audience through my creations.”

$!Motor sports features heavily in Chan’s work.

Chan’s journey from modelling to becoming a respected artist is a testament to her resilience, passion, and unwavering determination. Her art not only reflects her personal experiences but also serves as a source of inspiration and empowerment for many. As she continues to evolve and inspire, Chan’s story reminds us of the transformative power of pursuing one’s passion against all odds.

Keep up with Chan through her social media accounts @karwaichan_ on Instagram and @karwaichan on TikTok.