Screen print on fabric | 2012
J: How did you become an artist? To you, the relationship between design and art is…?
Y: I never considered myself an artist. I have been drawing since I was a child and still find myself miniscule in the infinitely vast world of the arts. I took up design as a means of livelihood and it never occurred to me to carve out a career in the arts. It was only later when I worked under a graphic designer, an art graduate who started his own design business, did I realised the two are closely entwined – that a sense of aesthetics is inherent in both. That inspired me later when I was burned out working a full-time job, and decided to call it quits to go back to school. Art seemed to be a natural choice.
I undertook a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) programme co-organised by Hong Kong Art School and RMIT University. Though I majored in painting, I also dabbled in other media, such as ceramics and printmaking. In fact, printmaking is a bit like design in its practices and modes of thinking. After graduation, I had the good fortune of being offered an artist residency at Hong Kong Open Printshop and the rest is history.
Oil painting | 2018
J: What is most important to your artistic creations? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Y: In making arts, the most important thing is to be true to yourself, to follow your heart rather than fulfilling market expectations or catering to popular taste. Only then would your work speak for you.
I am a rather sentimental and sensitive person. My areas of interest invariably involve people: interpersonal relationships and the connections between soul and flesh. In fact, many a little makes a mickle, and you only discover, belatedly and surprisingly, their ties and mutual influences in hindsight. Taking up courses by Yixing Clay Teapot master Wong May-lee at Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre recently, I reminisced of the teachings of ceramic artist Wong Kwok-sun, Sunny, in my days at Hong Kong Art School. I suppose the seeds were sown back then. Like attracts like, so do inspirations.
J: Which creative medium do you prefer, printmaking, ceramics or painting?
Y: Currently, it is ceramics, for it helps me to understand myself better. Whatever you feed is what you get. Pottery is like communicating with your own body – you will get to learn about your own inadequacies. Ceramics offer a wealth of possibilities: a ceramic work can be flat or three dimensional; its ability to accommodate different materials means it is also ideal as a component of a composite.
J: Your works encompass a variety of styles and media but the “subject” is invariably a simplistic yet highly individualistic human figure. Is there a reason?
Y: I guess I draw and make these simple figures because humans to me are too complicated, and it is probably a bit of psychological projection on my part to make these figures simple. Or perhaps I am just lazy (chuckles)!
J: Which exhibition or art event you participated in left you with the deepest impression? Do you have any new projects on the horizon?
Y: My artist residency at Hong Kong Open Printshop was the catalyst of my first solo exhibition, “The Line”, a milestone and watershed moment in my career. And from then on one thing led to another, including my residency here at JCCAC.
Materials in the form of line were employed throughout — from silkscreen-printed works to wire mesh balls. In fact, the concept of line is the common thread that runs through the exhibition, the invisible chain that binds people together. Like a relationship, a thread can be fabricated into a variety of shapes at different times: knots (entangled), broken lines (disconnected), criss-crosses (paths crossed), representing the myriad choices we make in life.
I have plans for another exhibition (to be held in July or August tentatively) as a continuation of “The Line” but I will need to come up with some breakthroughs. For that, I have allowed myself time for my thoughts to sink in, to unearth new possibilities by trying my hands at various creative approaches, such as marrying ceramics with painting and other mixed media. So far, I have come up with one work that I am happy with: rustic prints on gauze, a work that documents the time when my mother fell gravely ill and my feelings and understandings gleaned from this episode. Healing is as much about the soul as the mind. Through this work, I was able to re-examine issues from the perspectives of a patient and those around him/her alongside my relationship with my own family.
Wire installation | 2012
J: Moving from your workshop in Fotan, how do you compare it to JCCAC in terms of artistic ambience? And what keeps you motivated in making arts?
Y: Compared to Fotanian, I am more “alert” at JCCAC and have an urge to achieve something here. While the terms were more lenient at Fotanian, the opportunity at JCCAC did not come easy and I would not want to waste this precious space. To be frank, I am not a person who pursues the arts at all costs for the sake of interest. The road of the arts is a long and winding one, only made easier and sustainable with a place and time like this. I count myself extremely lucky to be able to set up my studio here where I can continue to draw creative strength from. I am indebted to all my mentors and teachers who have helped me along the way: Hau Siu-ching who taught me to sketch and the art of letting go; my maths teacher in secondary school who enlightened me about how solving a complex mathematical problem has more to do with the process than the answer itself. The many invaluable lessons – the ways to treat people and handle things – learned from each one of them will always be my compass in life.