Artwork’s Title: Hold Fast to desire
Materials Used: Caran d’ache, oil and gouache on MDF wood
Studio Based: Thames-side Studio, London
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I often start a piece of work with many many drawings on paper. I love writing down my feelings alongside some sketches in the early morning when I just get into the studio. They become my motifs of each work. I find there is a sense of liberation through working on paper. From time to time, I love overlapping two drawings on top of each other and recreate a new drawing by using their overlapped lines.
I need to be extremely confident about the drawings first before I can move onto a painting or my wood engraving. Drawing has always been a really direct and intimate process to me.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Touch, separation, love.
Could you share with us some insights on your painting Hold fast to desire? Is there any particular story behind this artwork?
Hold fast to desire that is showing at Cornucopia is a piece that responds to Michelangelo’s The creation of Adam in Sistine Chapel. This is one of the frescos that embedded in my head during my childhood when I started engaging with art and also says a lot about me. I was so drawn into the touch of their hands that is about to happen in between Adam and God but they always have a distance. I always use this fresco referring to the distance of people at a city, especially growing up in Hong Kong where you seems to be so close with strangers but also quite distant. It is my desire to be intimate when reality does not allow it.
In the Hourglass Universe is an engraved relief painting that I developed into after finishing my solo. I specifically love working directly onto wood rather than canvas because of its flexibility and pure flatness. I wanted to preserve intimate relationships into eternity where love blossoms. The process of engraving is a bit similar to making a line on a drawing but the marks you make on wood is irreversible. Because of the material physicality, it somehow enables me to think in an intuitive manner.
The drawing Aquaduct- Hide and Seek was inspired by an aquaduct I visited in Istanbul. It reminded me of a weekend trip I did with one of the archaeologists in Rome and the amazing Roman aquaduct history that he told me during our visit. Even though they are completely different but when I was walking through the arches of it, I felt I was walking back into its history.
You recently collaborated with Cornucopia gallery presenting your new exhibition in London. What kind of new artworks are you showing there?
In this solo, I exhibited a body of cut out paintings and drawings that I was working on since the beginning of lockdown last year in March at London. It was a dramatic change for me because the pandemic started straight after I finished my residency at the British School at Rome where there was a strong collective creative community. I took this opportunity to reflect on my research there. I began looking into how frames perform and enclose with exaggerated figures. The frames act as a gesture of embrace. I use a lot of archetypes that involve around the conversation of alchemy, mythology and religious iconography. I have always been interested in the historical narrative in them but to question their true meanings to me.
‘I is Another’ is your solo show’s title. How did you decide to give this name?
I is another started from a conversation that I had with one of my dearest who I collaborated on a poem that showed as a part of the show press release. It is inspired by the quote of Arthur Rimbaud, who was a French poet. I am particularly into his surreal use of symbolism in his writing but the ambiguity in it. There has always been a lot of interpretations around this quote, ‘I is another’. I personally interpreted it as a relationship in between the others and myself. Especially living on my own without seeing anyone during a long period of strict lockdowns, I began to give characters to my figures to ease the extreme loneliness that I had. It is a little bit like a role play to entertain and to talk to yourself. In my works, the others can be me and I can be the others.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
I often have a specific image or narrative that I wanted in the first place. That’s why quick sketches help to get the concept down. But it always turns into something else during the process of making. I believe once you start creating something, the work will tell you what it needs. I think I am in a constant battle of controlling and out of control.
Has this corona virus pandemic offered you any inspiration somehow during all these long lockdowns? Do you think people should learn something from this worldwide tragedy?
Definitely! I started looking into contexts about nature more. I was so fascinated by Ernst Haeckel’s Art forms in Nature and his depictions of plants and animals. They could be something so trivial to us who are living in a city but the power and beauty in nature should not be neglected. I think we slowly forget we are also a part of it. If you look at art nouveau architectures, designs or art forms, you can observe that humans used to be aware that nature and humans are inseparable. But I think this attitude has slowly rotten. There is no doubt that this pandemic is an awakening for us.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?
The intimacy and separation in humans. I always reflect myself in relation to the others. Especially living in London on my own for the past 11 years, I want people to appreciate being able to be around the people who they love is truly a blessing.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
I am never content with just hanging a painting on a wall. I would prefer to have my works that are able to exhibit in conversation with the architecture around it. Just like my solo, it exhibited under a railway arch space and I love how the wall painting installation can respond to the characteristics of the surroundings.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Georgy Kurasov, Fortunato Depero, Ana Mendieta, Giorgio de Chirico, Wifredo Lam.
Recently, I am so in love with Gahee Park who is a Korean New York based artist. I found her paintings are amazingly quirky and genuine. I visited my friend, Tom Hardwick-Allan’s studio the other day and was so impressed by his recent series of wood engraved paintings too. I just couldn’t take my eyes off!
Do you wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?
It’s a good question. I would say the process of creating will never be finished because there is always something more that you can explore or learn. But when I decide the work is done, its more about if the result satisfies me or not. If it doesn’t, then I would consider to work on it again.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
My studio is at Thames-side studio where it is a massive compound with 600 artists in it. I love the place not only because it is over looking the thames river in London, the community of artists is definitely something I appreciate the most! I love my studio space because it is facing the north. During daytime, it has the most neutral light to see my work perfectly.
What do your mum and dad think about your art?
Proud. I guess.
Which are your plans for the near future?
I have recently finished making an oracle card for White Crypt Space and there will be an exhibition in September to showcase the card that I made. I am currently also working on a new body of works for two online exhibitions in June with @the_artists_contemporary curated by Anna Woodward and @purslane.art curated by Charlie Siddick. And some profits from the exhibition with Charlie will go to a charity!
All images courtesy of the artist & Cornucopia Gallery