Beside the City 城外
Beside the City
Stephen WONG Chun Hei
YEUNG Hok Tak
7 Septemeber - 5 October 2019
Opening: 7 September 2019, 4 -7 pm
Gallery EXIT is pleased to announce "Beside the City", a joint exhibition by Stephen WONG Chun Hei and YEUNG Hok Tak. The exhibition will open on 7 September 2019 and remain on view through 5 October 2019. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, 7 September from 4pm to 7pm.
The works in this exhibition are the result of an unusual project. After meeting at WONG's 2018 solo show at Gallery EXIT, the two Hong Kong artists agreed to join forces. Soon, they came up with a plan: they would visit different places in the territory's countryside together and afterwards paint what they had seen on their excursions.
The idea was inspired by a historical collaboration. In the summer of 1869, the French painters Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir decided to travel to a place outside Paris to work alongside each other. Their views of LaGrenouillère, a floating café and popular bathing spot on the river Seine, are key works in the development of the impressionist style of painting.
Following the example of their French forebears, YEUNG and WONG visited a number of scenic spots in Hong Kong, such as Tai Tam Reservoir, Lamma Island or Cape D'Aguilar at the extreme southeastern corner of Hong Kong Island. But unlike Monet and Renoir, who painted "en plein air", or on the spot, the two contemporary artists were content with making sketches or taking photos. Later, they used this material to create the final works on their own, in the isolation of their studios.
As a result, their views of the same place often differ dramatically. Combining influences from both Western and Eastern art, WONG's work has stronger ties to traditional landscape painting. Over the past years, his artistic production has almost exclusively revolved around Hong Kong's natural scenery. Continuing this theme, his most recent canvases feature wide skies, sweeping mountain ranges and expansive coastlines.
Although they have real places as their subject, WONG's vistas are not constrained by realism. They are dreamlike reimaginations of past experience, idealised sceneries as seen by the mind's eye. Often, they abandon the Western rules of perspective in favour of the flattened space of Chinese mountain-and-water painting. In his large panorama of Tai Tam Reservoir, the succession of peaks appears compressed, drawing the viewer irresistibly into a world of winding roads and mountain paths.
YEUNG's work takes this rejection of realism even further. To him, the outdoor experience is only the starting point of an associative process that frequently leads into unexpected territory. His paintings can be satirical or nostalgic, comedic or tragic, surreal or subtly political. Often, they are all these things at the same time.
One of his paintings shows a whale skeleton erected at Cape D'Aguilar. But in YEUNG's imagination, the scene merges with the Fire Dragon Dance, an annual performance during which 300 participants carry a 67-metre-long straw dragon through the streets of Hong Kong's Tai Hang neighbourhood. In this way, what started as a simple observation becomes a pointed jab at Chinese traditionalism.
Seen next to each other, YEUNG's chimeric inventions and WONG's immersive landscapes make for a fascinating comparison. But as different as they may seem, they have one thing in common. They are the result of a shared curiosity - a curiosity that has brought two artists together and can serve as an inspiration for others.