Lam Tung Pang shares the same experience with other Hong Kong artists who grew up in 1990s, whose coming-of-age coincides with drastic social changes, a result of his homeland’s decolonisation from constitutional monarchy and new allegiance to China in a short span of time. Traversing between the media of painting, site-specific installation, sound and video, Lam’s playful practice arises from a curious imagination that recombines traditional iconography and vernacular elements, innovating with a myriad of found objects and images to form new practices that are often experimental in nature. Lam’s works engage the themes of collective memories and fleeting nostalgia, which articulate an ongoing negotiation of the overlapping city-state’s reality. In his allegorical landscapes, journeys and sceneries become essential passages connecting time and distance, longing and loss.
Solo exhibitions of Lam’s include “Saan Dung Gei” (Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, 2019); “Hi! House – Lam Tung-pang x Old House at Wong Uk Village” (Wong Uk Village, Hong Kong, 2017); “The Curiosity Box” (Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, USA, 2013). Group exhibitions in which Lam has participated include “Ink City” (Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, 2021), “Memento: Jayashree Chakravarty and Lam Tung Pang” (Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA, 2021), “Classics Remix: The Hong Kong Viewpoint” (Hong Kong Museum of Art, 2019), “Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture” (Shenzhen, China, 2017); “CHINA 8” (NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany, 2015); “No soul for Sale – A Festival of Independents” (Tate Modern, London, UK, 2010). Lam is the recipient of the Asian Cultural Council Fellowship (2012). Lam’s work is collected by the Burger Collection, the Deutsche Bank Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art (Hong Kong), Kadist Art Foundation (France and USA) and M+ (Hong Kong), among others.
Lam currently lives and works in Hong Kong.
Meaningless / 2020
Lam’s practice incorporates macroscopic views of landscape embedded with traditional iconography and an assemblage of playful elements. The daffodil, wavering against a sudden wind, anchors itself in the soil in a bid to survive uncontrollable environmental forces. The anonymity of these plantations renders meaningless against the backdrop of our monumental world and history at large.
The Great Escape / 2020
Just like Harry Houdini, most magicians solitarily create miracles. Spectators consider these miracles as the fate of the “individual” in the collective body, like fantasizing in the open road about a secret chamber.
In the coronavirus outbreak of 2020, when The Great Escape was created, I spent most of my time stuck at home, finding the journey to my Fotan studio too difficult, and the space to lay out my stationery too luxurious. For I have a spacious studio for art-making, and a cramped home for living.
My studio space shrank from 3000 sq. ft. to an 11-inch surface, and I only found respite from daily chores at night when I could draw and read children’s books on my tablet. Always, at 4am, I would have to brave police roadblocks to return to my Fotan studio. At 9am, I come home to father my homeschooling children. So, in caring for children in the daytime, I become a child at night, reading children’s books, perusing that richly illustrated world, fantasizing about my own reality. Day and night, darkness and light, lightning, escape … my body’s interiority and exteriority become two distinct worlds, comprising this artwork, The Great Escape.
I am struck by memories of “escape” in my childhood, like sitting in the cinema anxiously trying to flee from the moving images. In The Great Escape, audience could choose a fixed point to view, or to pursue an embodied moving perspective along with the moving images. This is not a simple immersive gaze, but the shifting perspective in classical Chinese landscapes, or the multiple, mobile and fragmented perspectives in cubist paintings. The invocation of these art historical techniques manifests a certain dissatisfaction towards the failures of the present system, and the self-expression to break through.
We are all escaping, while being quarantined.
As entertainment, the techniques of magic are constantly developed and deepened, but its threat against the defensive mechanisms of daily reality is thoroughly neutralized.
Saan Dung Gei / 2018-2019
The audience encounters familiar iconographies in an unsettling otherness. Landscape in operation (2018) shows doctors in scrubs performing an open-chest surgery on a rocky landscape. In the video Hope (2006-2019), the flame of a struck match gives out feeble illumination, only to burn out and fizzle away as the bleached fireworks of Shining Stars in Cave (2018). Lam sees his city as suffering a monumental trauma. His yearning and desire to heal comes from a hope that is steeped in a sense of otherness—he foresees, or even wishes for an overwhelming force to intrude upon this place-to-be.
The Land of High Hill / 2018
Lam Tung Pang’s iconic painted landscape sprawls over a large plywood triptych, expressing the macroscopic sensations of being immersed in the grandeur of nature.
Before the night, Firework night / 2018
Re-folding / 2017
In Re-folding, Lam revisits a self portrait, Folding, executed ten years ago whilst studying in the UK. The work resembles a folding screen, in which the artist upholds his empty palms, seemingly holding a cloud of air. Ten years later, Lam photographs and transfers this work onto a wooden panel, and reinterprets it by drilling holes on the wooden panels, visualising the bottomless voids accumulated in a decade of emptiness.
The artist feels that the 20 years since the turnover of Hong Kong to China have left lots of questions in both parties, while many old memories are fading out. “It’s like digging holes in your body and having to fill it with new things, or old memories, as a response to the new situation.”
The original work Folding is born of the uncertainty of Lam’s future as an artist in the UK, while Re-folding demonstrates a similarly uncertain sense of belonging to his hometown, Hong Kong.
The Sinking World / 2015
The Sinking World No.6, made in 2015 after the Occupy Movement, is an elegant landscape on wooden panel in which weightless human figures fall without gravity.