Solo · Exhibition · Twice II: Of Seeing

Solo · Exhibition · Twice II: Of Seeing

“Solo · Exhibition · Twice II: Of Seeing” is the second joint exhibition by Yeung Tong Lung and Sze Yuen since 1995. The exhibition includes Yeung’s recent oil paintings, and Sze’s charcoal works and oil paintings from the past decade to the present. Yeung Tong Lung is known for his large-scale figurative paintings, characterized by vibrant colors, vivid contrasts, and collagesque compositions that connect multiple spaces, different characters, and narratives on the same plane. Sze Yuen’s creations have always adhered to a horizontal scroll format, with most of her works displaying muted color tones, imbued with a deep sense of uncertainty and instability in terms of location, space, time, and subjects. While their artistic styles diverge greatly, their works are connected by the shared experience of the city they live in, displaying warmth and care for “home” throughout, alongside an acute social awareness. “Solo · Exhibition · Twice II: Of Seeing” reflects the artists’ deep and unhurried contemplation on the act and process of “looking at paintings”, through the making of painting, the display of painting, and the interaction between paintings (and the artists). It may not necessarily reach a destination, but it unfolds as an intimate dialogue between the two.

Yeung Tong Lung’s diptych, Tattoo House, is composed of two panels—one panel showing the interior of a tattoo parlor, the other depicting a retaining wall of Rock Hill Street in Kennedy town. The work embodies Yeung’s longstanding interest in the practice of tattooing. The right panel portrays a shirtless man standing barefoot in a relaxed posture against a cobalt blue wall. He watches the tattoo artist intricately tattooing a client, while the buzzing sound of the tattoo machine fills the room. Stuck onto the tiled wall near them, are an array of image cutouts displaying different tattoos referencing the rich history of tattooing. These tattoos feature symbols from Japanese mythological creatures to Chinese fictional characters such as Shi Jin, known as the “Nine-Tattoo Dragon” in one of the classic Chinese literature Four Great Classical Novels. Some images feature tattoos inspired by contemporary art, including Dennis Oppenheim’s 1970 Reading Position for Second Degree Burn and Wim Delvoye’s highly controversial tattooed pigs. Mirroring the inconspicuous nature of tattoo, the artist also playfully paints on the verso of the painting, images of tattoos with hidden messages that are concealed from the front view. The other panel of the work portrays a high retaining wall covering a bushy slope at Rock Hill Street in Kennedy Town, adding an openness and interesting contrast to the interiority of the tattoo parlour. Drawing inspiration from diverse historical and cultural references, Tattoo House encapsulates the subculture of tattooing which transcends the boundaries of race and gender, while presenting a safe space for freedom of self expression.

Yeung depicts Indonesia Building on Leighton Road in Hong Kong, within which is the Indonesian Consulate General. Yeung skilfully aligns the interior view of the building with its exterior as seen from a top-down angle. The liveliness inside is contrasted by the deserted street. The man leaning against the window holds a notice which writes: “Covid-19 haven’t come yet…”, an eery reminder of 2019, before the city entered a standstill with the global pandemic. On the far left of the painting, a man and woman dressed in traditional Indonesian costumes take their portrait, against a photo backdrop of Borobudur Temple and its mountainous landscape, an iconic landmark in Indonesia. The center of the painting reveals the energetic hustle within the building. Muslim women with head coverings wait for their turn for visa applications, some of whom have just arrived in the city to work as domestic helpers. Yeung captures a bustling immigrant community within the confines of four walls, spotlighting the ethnic minority groups who are often overlooked by the city.

Whitty Street Fo Jeng (Gas Tank) Huǒ Jǐng depicts a food delivery woman seeking directions amidst the streets of Hong Kong. The work prompts viewers to reflect on a forgotten chapter of Hong Kong’s history, while simultaneously showing the artist’s keen recollection of his beloved city. The work juxtaposes a myriad of perspectives, exemplified by the inclusion of a man whose presence is only discernible through his bent back, peering in the corner of the canvas, with his forearm extending out from an unlikely angle. The manholes at the foreground are depicted from a top angle, while the lush trees in the background extend skyward beyond the confines of the canvas. The intentional use of different vantage points conjures an illusion of three-dimensionality, one that is not attainable in real life. Whitty Street, known colloquially as Fo Jeng or “gas tank”, derives its name from a gasometer once stationed there during the colonial era. In 1934, a leak in a gas tank resulted in a huge gas explosion in the area, leading to extensive damages and a devastating fire. During the accident, a South Asian watchman in the nearby neighborhood rushed into the fire scene, activating the emergency device to redirect remaining gas from the gas cylinders through the pipelines into the sea, thereby averting a greater catastrophe. He tragically lost his life in the process. To honor his sacrificial act, the locals erected a memorial tablet for him at the location of the gas explosion. The tablet was subsequently removed during recent years of gentrification but the title of Yeung’s work recalls the story of this nameless hero.

Ching Lin Terrace captures an aerial perspective of an intimate afternoon shared between a father and a son. The suspended terrace effectively divides the composition into two distinct parts. At first glance, viewers are drawn to the tender portrayal of a father and his infant lazing in the balcony. The boy dressed in a bright red tank top stretches his limbs effortlessly in different directions. The father seizes this rare moment of respite, engrossed in his mobile device. As the viewer’s gaze gradually descends, the depth of field expands significantly from the terrace to the ground level of Ching Lin Terrace. A drying rack protrudes along the corner of the canvas, accentuating the aerial perspective of the painting. The outdoor space exposed from below the ceramic tiled roof of the temple gives a glimpse to the absence of people, which further evoking a sense of tranquility and serenity of the sleepy afternoon.

Today Should Be…… Joyous portrays an elderly man in motion. The figure is portrayed twice in the same setting, but in two different moments. In one stance, the man sits on a sofa, fully absorbed in the careful preparation of meal ingredients. In another position, the man stands and leisurely munches on melon seeds, with the seed shells strewn across the floor in front of him, while his gaze fixates in quiet contemplation. Viewed from the vantage point of a storage room, an array of personal possessions is on open display. The foreground shelf is packed with family albums, books, photo frames, CDs, clocks, an analog radio, and even a playful figurine of Olive, Popeye’s love interest in the nostalgic American cartoon, all of which are objects that evoke the inexorable passage of time. The photographs in view are old, with one pinned to the bottom of the shelf depicting a young woman posing against the backdrop of crashing waves, reminiscent of a portrait of a loved one. A pile of objects is tucked away in the corner, neatly organized and wrapped. The man looks around for activities to occupy his time, gradually merging with the environment, becoming an integral part of the whole, while time comes to a standstill.

Sze Yuen’s Trip I: Journey is a triptych comprised of three 6-meter-long charcoal drawings placed in alignment, forming a spectacular 18-meter sightline. The drawings depict pan-cinematic scenes of the interior of a subway train traversing through the real and the otherworldly realms. Confined to a palm-sized height, the work orchestrates a narrow sightline that oscillates back and forth, immersing the viewer in a continuous visual journey. The format of the work also unfolds two possible viewing experiences – one allowing for a segmented frame-by-frame viewing akin to photographic contact prints, while the other presents a sequential narrative similar to comic strips. The left and middle panels of the work depict multiple groups of human figures in the train compartments. Positioned in the center amidst twelve others, a radiant figure encircled by a closely gathered ensemble. At their feet, a lamb peacefully rests. In the middle panel, the radiant figure reappears, this time cradling a baby emerging from a carriage door. Scattered throughout the train are figures dressed in black in various postures — some lie across the train seats; others sit, kneel and crawl in despair, while a few appear to be in a posture of prayer seeking for redemption. Sheep are also present in the train, lying peacefully next to the mighty Lion of Judah. In the right panel, the train undergoes another environmental transformation. The scene zooms out to reveal an unspecified dimension which precedes the train’s reappearance, hinting at an impending arrival in an indefinite oblivion.

Trip II: Mind Trip is composed of a central panel executed in charcoal on paper, flanked by two oil canvas on panels. The triptych culminates into a panoramic vista that depicts a myriad of geographies and timelines, mapping out a mindscape that transcends the confinement of four walls amidst lockdown during the pandemic. The top panel depicts aerial views of different sites. The plains, greeneries, and terraced fields are barely legible, and appear like abstract patterns. The central panel is rendered in black and white, portraying what seem to be ancient historical sites. The expansive image pans out like a comic strip, chronicling scenes of villagers in olden times engaging in wedding and ritual ceremonies. The architectures depicted in the image hint at their Middle Eastern origin. The bottom panel which is depicted in colour, presents more magnified views of the undefined locations. As one’s gaze traverses from the left to the right of the panel, the transition of day to night gradually unfolds, along with the transition from an outdoor space to an interior setting. Peering through the curtain on the far right of the image, is the corner of a bed. The weary wanderer is finally home after a long journey.

The City View series revolves around the perpetual cycle of day and night. City View IV: Day and Night is a quadriptych consisting of oil paintings and charcoal drawings. The upper panel juxtaposes the nocturnal moon-lit sky with the clouded daylight sky, scattered with trees and branches. The central panel on the left depicts a forest being slowly consumed by darkness which is in stark contrast to the right panel portraying a nebulous landscape vanishing into whiteness. The bottom panel depicts a wide-open landscape merging two distinct times and spaces. The day scene depicts a woodland filled with warm sunlight; whereas the night scene depicts a city scene dotted by street lamps and building lights, evoking a quiet tranquility devoid of human presence. The work invites the viewer’s gaze to move fluidly from one panel to another in different directions, forming a comprehensive perspective and narrative.

The obscurity in Sze Yuen’s charcoal works serves as a catalyst for unveiling complex human experiences, multitude of sentiments, sensibilities, spirituality, and dreams. These themes are interwoven in five charcoal artworks dated from 2013 to 2021 – To Kwa Wan Skyscape, View from 6th Floor, Glass, Life · Goes On, and Wandering – each offering a profound glimpse into Sze Yuen’s contemplation of art, humanity and the wider world. To Kwa Wan Skyscape captures a vertical perspective of buildings, portraying a dense cluster of office and residential complexes in the local neighborhood. The buildings frame the expanse of the sky, forming the image of an illuminated cross. Sze shades a subtle dark halo around the cross, accentuating the symbol of sacredness and spirituality. The work encapsulates Sze’s belief in the spiritual significance that art should embody. View from 6th Floor captivates viewers with its seamless fusion of reality and illusory space. The work seamlessly juxtaposes an endless highway extending into layers of clouds and mist. Disoriented architectural structures protrude along the top left edge of the image, contributing to a sense of distortion, and further blurring the boundary between reality and illusory space. In Glass, the artist frames multiple views of a blurred skyscape through a window. A thin layer of cloud penetrates through the windows, leaving an unsettling ambiguity, and a thicket of trees emerges along the bottom of the window, intensifying eeriness and mystique in the scene. Life · Goes On deliberately avoids explicit subject matter, initially presenting a chaotic composition rendered in deep charcoal. Upon closer inspection, a forest unfolds, revealing multiple layers of tarnished surfaces, creating a multidimensional painting space. Wandering depicts a figure floating in mid-air, trapped in an unsettling and disorienting state of limbo. The figure drifts across a disarrayed landscape of hills, staircases, fenced fields, and structures extending into oblivion. The figure is unhinged and unable to stay grounded, yearning for salvation and hope.