Blue Art: Color Series 1 (featuring works by Chun Kwang Young, Mao Lizi, Yan Wei, Tetsuya Ishiyama, Cecilia Avendaño, Zhou Lian Hua, Chae Sung Pil & Studio 30)

What does the color blue evoke? Serenity, coolness, depth, sadness, otherworldliness? The sea and sky? This article introduces ten mostly monochromatic blue works by eight artists. Let’s dive into blue!

1. Chun Kwang Young: Aggregation

Chun Kwang Young; Aggregation 17 – DE096 (Star 33) (2017, mixed media with Korean mulberry paper); Art Central 2018 (Sundaram Tagore Gallery Hong Kong)

Here are two works from Korean artist Chun Kwan Young’s Aggegation series. The  works in this series are abstract three-dimensional mixed-media pieces  created from Korean mulberry paper (also know as hanji).

Detail view

Mulberry paper is strongly associated with Korean culture. Besides being used as writing paper, it has also been used as wrapping paper for food and as a kind of insulating material. As mulberry paper is made from indigenous plants, one can say that Chun Kwan Young’s artwork is literally made from part of the Korean landscape.

Chun Kwang Young; Aggregation 17 – MA021 (Star 4) (2017, mixed media with Korean mulberry paper); Art Basel 2018 (PKM Gallery)
Detail view

The process of creating the artworks is outlined below:

  • Mulberry paper is sourced from discarded books. Consequently, some Korean words—mainly in Hanja characters—are still visible on the artwork.
  • Some of the mulberry paper is cut and twisted to form strings.
  • Stryfoam is cut into small triangular prism shapes.
  • The paper is wrapped around the styrofoam prisms and tied with the string to form what look like little packages. The inspiration for this package design came from Chun Kwang Young’s memories of a childhood visit to a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) doctor where he saw packs of wrapped medicine hanging from the ceiling. For a more detailed description of the artist’s inspirations and thought processes, you can check out this highly-informative page: www.chunkwangyoung.com/html/03_Biography.php
  • These packages are then colored (usually with natural dyes).
  • The colored packages are then assembled in tight clusters to form patterns.

The end result is that from a distance the artwork looks very modern and abstract, while up close there are many reminders of traditional Korean culture—in the paper, the texts and the wrapping techniques.

Chun Kwang Young; Aggregation 17 – MA021 (Star 4)
Detail view

Mini-bio: Chun Kwang Young  was born in 1944 in Hongchun, South Korea and studied at Hong-Ik University and the Philadelphia College of Art. He is best known for his paper-based artwork.

2. Mao Lizi: Ambiguous Flower

This is an image of Mao Lizi's painting Ambiguous Flower. Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Mao Lizi; Ambiguous Flower (2017, oil paint on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Parkview Art Hong Kong)

These two abstract oil paintings are from Mao Lizi’s Ambiguous Flower series. At first, I thought they were ink paintings because of the soft stain-like flow of the paint.

Mao Lizi is deeply inspired by traditional ink painting, especially those works that express a minimalist sense of beauty. In an interview with Denise Tsui, he states:

When I was young, I visited the Palace Museum near the Forbidden City [in Beijing]. It was there that I saw Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) painter Xu Wei’s ink painting Grapes. I felt like the ink was just dropped randomly on the painting. It had a simplicity that was beautiful. The experience left a great impact on me. Throughout my career in painting I have always strived to achieve the same spirit as what is captured in Grapes.

artasiapacific.com/Blog/InConversationWithMaoLizi
Detail view of an oil painting, entitled Ambiguous Flower, is by Chinese artist Mao Lizi: Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Detail view of Mao Lizi’s painting: Ambiguous Flower

Mao Lizi’s aim as an artist is straightforward: he strives to create happiness and beauty via art.

What I like about his paintings is his attention to shading, space and texture. In the Ambiguous Flower paintings, the shading seems to give the paintings a sense of movement, and the focus on texture brings out the intricate patterns of veins that carry nutrients and water through the leaves and petals of the flower. To me, these two things—the sense of movement, and the intricate patterns of the veins—give the paintings a strong feeling of vitality and life. At the same time, the empty white space creates a good balance between form and space while the use of the color blue adds a feeling of serenity to the work.

This is an image of Mao Lizi's painting Ambiguous Flower. Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Mao Lizi; Ambiguous Flower (2017, oil paint on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Parkview Art Hong Kong)

Mini-bio: Beijing-based artist Mao Lizi (毛栗子) was born in 1950 in Shanxi province. In 1979, he co-founded the Stars Group, an influential collective of experimental artists in China. Earlier in his career, he specialized in photorealistic paintings. He studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1987 and worked as a visiting professor in France in 1990. Since the early 2000s, he has focused on abstract oil painting (though he has stated he will likely change styles again in the future).

3. Yan Wei: Unpredictable Distance

Yan Wei; Unpredictable Distance (2016, acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Line Gallery)

Although some of Yan Wei’s imagery can be quite disturbing (like in her ink paintings of children: surreal-art.tumblr.com/post/119119786476/artisafeeling-yan-wei-aka-kokomoo), the scene in Unpredictable Distance is touching; two human-faced, giraffe-bodied creatures look like they are about to nuzzle one another affectionately. As the creatures are alien, we have no reference point as to their sex (or if the species even has different sexes) or age. They could be lovers or they could simply be parent and child. The relationship is uncertain;  what is certain is the sense of affection and feeling of serenity.

Unpredictable Distance (Detail view)

At the same exhibition, the painting Unpredictable Distance was paired with the painting shown below (However, I didn’t record the title of that one).

Painting by Yan Wei (acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Line Gallery)

Mini-bio: Beijing-based artist Yan Wei (闫威), also known as kokomoo, studied at Tsinghua University’s Academy of Art and Design and worked as an illustrator in the advertising field before choosing to concentrate on her career as an artist. She uses ink, acrylic and watercolor to create vibrantly-colored surreal scenes.

4. Tetsuya Ishiyama: Human Fungus

Tetsuya Ishiyama; Human Fungus (stoneware); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Giant Year Gallery)

When doing research for this article, I came across another Human Fungus figurine by Tetsuya Ishiyama. That one is of a baby contentedly sucking his/her thumb and is entirely white (It can be viewed here: www.asiacontemporaryart.com/artists/artist/Tetsuya_Ishiyama/WhiteBaby/en/). The all-white figurine seems cute and peaceful, while this one, due to the color and pose of the child, seems melancholy. To me, the outgrowth spiraling up from the head represents a kind of spiritual energy, and in this case, the child’s spiritual energy is tinged with sadness.

Fungus grows by decomposing and absorbing nutrients from organisms. Perhaps the ‘human fungus’ shown here grows by decomposing and absorbing emotions. That is my interpretation, anyway 🙂

The figurine is made form stoneware. Stoneware is similar to porcelain but is made from a different kind of clay, often involves a simpler firing (i.e., baking) process, tends to be fired at slightly lower (but still very high) temperatures, is more opaque in appearance and can come in different colors (like the blue in this figurine).

Mini-bio: Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishiyama (石山哲也) was born Saitama Prefecture in 1973. As a young child he developed an interest in rocks and stones. When he was 18, he began excavating archaeological sites and two years later decided to become a potter and moved to Shigaraki, a town famous for its pottery traditions. Early in his career, he worked as an artist and technical assistant at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

5. Cecilia Avendaño: e.5 E.MERGE

Digital image by Cecilia Avendaño. Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Cecilia Avendaño; e.5 E.MERGE (2014, digital print); Art Central 2017 (Isabel Croxatto Galleria)

Cecilia Avendaño is best known for her composite digital portraits such as the one shown above. She has people pose for photos, and from these photos she creates a database of images of individual physical features (e.g., eyes, ears, noses, mouths, etc.). She then mixes and matches features from different photos to create portraits of weird-looking people who never existed. The title of her series—E.MERGE— can carry three meanings:

  • The E in E.MERGE can refer to the use of graphics editing software.
  • The MERGE and can refer to the process of joining together the features of different people.
  • The whole word EMERGE can refer to the new identity that emerges from the process.

A few years ago, she traveled to Asia so that she could add different kinds of features to her database. The above portrait was likely influenced by that trip. The heavy use of blue in the painting seems to add to the otherworldly feeling of the portrait.

Her artwork is also feature in my article: Cecilia Avendaño: Digital Composite Portraits.

Mini-bio: Chiliean artist Cecilia Avendaño Bobillier was born in Santiago in 1980 and studied photography at the University of Chile.

6. Zhou Lian Hua: Without the Pitch Tubes

Zhou Lian Hua; Without the Pitch Tubes (acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Gallery of Contemporary Arts)

The title of this painting—Without the Pitch Tubes—refers to comments by Mencius (孟子), an influential philosopher who lived during China’s Warring States period. Pitch tubes seem to have been an ancient equivalent of today’s electronic tuners (which musicians use to ensure they are in tune).

Mencius said, ‘The power of vision of Li Lou, and skill of hand of Gong Shu, without the compass and square, could not form squares and circles. The acute ear of the music-master Kuang, without the pitch-tubes, could not determine correctly the five notes. The principles of Yao and Shun, without a benevolent government, could not secure the tranquil order of the kingdom. There are now princes who have benevolent hearts and a reputation for benevolence, while yet the people do not receive any benefits from them, nor will they leave any example to future ages – all because they do not put into practice the ways of the ancient kings.

Hence we have the saying: “Virtue alone is not sufficient for the exercise of government; laws alone cannot carry themselves into practice.”

en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Works_of_Mencius/chapter07

In the above passage, Mencius notes that just as how skilled mathematicians and musicians need to use the proper tools to produce the correct shapes and notes, governments and rulers also need to use the proper systems and practices so that their policies can be properly implemented.

Without the Pitch Tubes: (Detail view)

In an interview with Sara Zilienski, the artist comments on the inspiration behind the series of paintings—A Dialogue with Mencius— to which this painting belongs:

Although I live in Suzhou which is a relatively peaceful and quiet city, I am deeply concerned about many social issues that our modern society is facing today – environmental pollution, ecological destruction, disappearance of heritage and cultural traditions…to name just a few. When I read the teachings on humanism by our ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, I am inspired by his emphasis on the innate goodness nature of human and people’s ability to do what is right. So in this new collection, I captured my impression of modern cities using my distinctive style of bold and vigorous brushwork. I want viewers to reflect on the damage we have done to our society and environment and yet to realize the inherent goodness and power we possess to change the world for the better.

www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sara-zielinski-interviews-zhou-lian-hua_us_58c9d7e0e4b0537abd956dd6
Detail view

An unusual mini-bio: Chinese artist Zhou Lian Hua (周蓮華) was born in 1967 in Henan province. Her path to becoming an artist started when she was 28, when her husband and mother-in-law died on the same day. To support her three children, she moved to Shanghai to look for work. She ended up working in an art gallery and started to create her own paintings. She continued painting and eventually became a full-time artist. She is now based in Suzhou.

7. Chae Sung Pil: Terre Anonyme (historie de bleu 180302)

Chae Sung Pil; Terre Anonyme (historie de bleu 180302) (2018, natural pigments on canvas); Art Basel 2018 (Gallery Grimson). Photo by Maggie Lai Man-yee.

Chae Sung Pil creates landscapes in the most literal sense of the word; his abstract works are comprised mainly of…land. He collects soil from around the world, which he then filters, dilutes and mixes with glue to create natural pigments (he makes it a point to never use artificial materials in his work). The artist then uses a large brush to apply the mixture onto a mulberry-paper canvas that is laid flat on the floor. He adds highlights and shadows by dropping silver dust and ink onto the pigments and then tilting the canvas.

Detail view, Photo by Maggie Lai Man-yee

Chae Sung Pil’s paintings embody the artist’s love for Earth (the planet) and earth (the surface of the land). He states:

It all began over 20 years ago – I started working with earth….Every time I touch earth, I feel again like a boy playing in earth. When drawing with earth, I feel so good – as if embraced by my mother….I love earth, because it never changes, even when everything in this world does. God used clay to create the first man – soil has always been there. Of the five elements everything began with, it is earth that is in the center. Water, plants, fire, iron are all around it.

www.galleryshchukin.com/artist/chae-sung-pil/bio

South Korean artist Chae Sung Pil (채성필) was born in 1972 on Jindo Island and studied at Seoul National University and Université Rennes. He is now living and working in Paris while working on his PhD at Université Paris.

8. Studio 30: Hug Me

Studio 30; Hug Me (mixed media on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (11.12 Gallery)

Studio 30, the Russian artist duo of Lily Balasanova and Sergei Kolevatykh, is best known for large and complex collages of cityscapes (which I will introduce in another article), but they also create more intimate works like this painting of two rabbit-headed figures embracing one another.

Besides being associated with fertility and procreation, Rabbits can also symbolize fear and vulnerability. In this painting, the main figures are surrounded by dragonflies, which are often said to symbolize things like change (because they transform from water-living nymphs to flying adult dragonflies) and the ability to endure hardships (as they have been around for hundreds of millions of years). Therefore, the painting could represent the importance of mutual support when facing frightening hardships and changes.

The artists in Studio 30 tend to combine collage techniques (involving digital printouts and fabrics) and more traditional acrylic painting techniques to create their works.

Hug Me

Bonus Round & Coming Soon

I had been planning on introducing more artworks on this page, but I think the article is quite long already, so I will stop here and do a second Blue Art page in the future. The next page in the color series will be devoted to red artworks.

If you want a little more blueness, however, you can drop by my post on Vancouver street art, where you can see two blue pieces by indigenous graffiti artist Larissa Healey (one of a bear, and one of a sun and whales): artjouer.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/vancouver-street-art/


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Artist Websites

  1. Chun Kwang Young (artist’s website): www.chunkwangyoung.com/html/main.php
  2. Mao Lizi (artist’s page at Parkview Art HK, which includes an interesting video about his background): www.parkviewarthk.com/artists/mao-lizi/
  3. Yan Wei (artist’s photoblog): www.behance.net/kokomoo
  4. Tetsuya Ishiyama (artist’s website): www.tetsuya-ishiyama.com/
  5. Cecilia Avendaño (interview with the artist): disinfo.com/2015/04/chilean-artist-cecilia-avendanos-strange-evocative-portraits/
  6. Zhou Lian Hua (interview with the artist): www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sara-zielinski-interviews-zhou-lian-hua_us_58c9d7e0e4b0537abd956dd6
  7. Chae Sung Pil (artist’s page at Gallery Shchukin): www.galleryshchukin.com/artist/chae-sung-pil/bio
  8. Studio 30 (artist’s website): studio30art.net

Three Questions

  1. Which of the above artworks do you like best? Why?
  2. Choose one of the above works. Why do you think the artist chose to use mainly blue for that work?
  3. What are the benefits of an artist putting a limitation or restriction on the creative process (e.g., painting only in one color, writing a novel without the letter ‘e’, using only five notes to write a song, etc)?

Art Challenge

Using any medium (e.g., ink, paint, photography, sculpture, mixed media, etc.), create an artwork that uses only blue, black and white.


~ text and photos by longzijun, with two photos by Maggie Lai Man-yee

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

Re-imagining Historical Photographs: Paintings by Lorna Simpson and Cheung Sze-lit

Lorna Simpson; Three Figures – detail view (2014, ink and screenprint on 12 clayboard panels); Venice Biennale 2015

In the two works featured on this page, the artists have taken existing photographs as their inspiration.

Three Figures by Lorna Simpson

Before I describe the background of this artwork, I would like you to take a look at the two images of this painting and think about your own response. What is going on in the picture? What is the painting about? What feelings does the painting evoke?

Lorna Simpson; Three Figures (2014, ink and screenprint on 12 clayboard panels); Venice Biennale 2015

Three Figures was created by African-American artist Lorna Simpson. She created a screen print of an existing photograph and then painted over the print with ink to create the final work. In an interview with Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes, the artist describes the background of the work:

It is actually based on an AP news photo…a famous image from the civil rights era of three individuals, I think two women and one man, being hosed down by police..with a fire hose….while they are trying to hold hands.

For me, that image is an iconic image within the civil rights era; it also, in terms of the way that it looks to me, looks like three dancers….Certainly these kind of outstretched hands and the gestural quality of the bodies could suggest many different things and there’s a certain beauty and grace to that, but the reality of what the image is is kind of contradictory to me…. It’s a kind of description of the kind of violence during the civil rights movement against the protesters….

It depends on one’s vocabulary of visuals from a particular time period of American history if one picks up on it as a protest image or as something else.

The Modern Arts Notes Podcast No. 270: Lorna Simpson

The actual photo can be seen here:  allthatsinteresting.com/civil-rights-movement-photos#22

The last sentence in the quote from Lorna Simpson is quite important. If you are familiar with the photo, you will likely interpret the painting in the context of the civil rights movement or in the context of protests in general. Nevertheless, with the three rather small and isolated figures people joining hands in solidarity to face some kind of undefined and violent maelstrom in front of them, the theme of courage and solidarity in the face of violent oppression can come though even if the viewer is unfamiliar with the civil rights movement in the US in the 1960s.

I asked a couple of people in Hong Kong who are in their early twenties (and who would therefore be unlikely to be familiar with the imagery of the American civil rights movement) to briefly interpret the painting, and these are their responses.

TN: I think there is a couple walking on a bridge, close to a waterfall. It seems that there is a girl on the left who looks quite worried and seems to have lost something in the water, but there is a third person like a man on the right, who is like holding on to them. I think this piece of work brings me feelings like the world is falling apart. People are trying to hold on to each other, while losing something they treasure in their life.

WW: I see the first pic as  three people helping each other to go across a bridge from somewhere to somewhere while the condition is a bit dangerous while the girl at the end is trying to look for someone else she can also offer a helping hand to..

ML: The figure of the man is trying to hold back the woman, who is searching for something, or they are trying to cross probably a river or flooded area. The column on the right is hung downward a bit (if those panels were put back into position, there would be three people holding hands together), but now what I see is that the man on the right-hand side is probably the past/future shadow of the middle man. 

The interpretations share some common characteristics: the people in the painting are facing a kind of dangerous and/or challenging situation, and all three interpretations present the scene as part of a larger story.  Two  interpretations include a sense of helping, while the other refers to ‘holding back’ (which could also be a way of trying to help). Interestingly, all three interpretations included searching for someone or something. In the original photo, the three protesters are not physically searching for anything, but the quest for equal rights could itself be considered a kind of search to recover that which has been lost— freedom, dignity, equality.

Mini-bio: Lorna Simpson is influential African-American multimedia artist. She was born in New York in 1960. As a teenager, she attended the the High School of Art and Design and took summer courses at at the Art Institute of Chicago. She traveled extensively before studying photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and fine art at the University of California, San Diego. During the 1980s, she became well known for her works with photographs and text that explored themes of  gender, identity, culture, history and memory. She lives in New York and her work is displayed in museums around the world.

A Quiet Box by Cheung Sze-lit

Cheung Sze-lit; A Quiet Box: Paintings 4, 5 and 6 (Oil Painting); Fotanian 2014 (the A-lift)

A Quiet Box is a series of six oil paintings by Chinese artist Cheung Sze-lit (張施烈). Again, before reading about the background take at three of the images from the series and think of your own response to the paintings.What is going on in the series? What is it it about? What feelings does it evoke?

Cheung Sze-lit; A Quiet Box: Painting No. 2 (Oil Painting); Fotanian 2014 (the A-lift)
Cheung Sze-lit; A Quiet Box: Painting No. 3 (Oil Painting); Fotanian 2014 (the A-lift)
Painting No. 6 (detail view)

The paintings are based on a series of photographs of a nuclear bomb test that show how a typical house would be destroyed by the blast wave. The original photographs were taken in 1953 and are described in this Wired article: Nuclear Blasts Show Terrifying Power. The house was actually a couple of miles away from the center of the blast!

In his work based on photographs, Cheung Sze-lit is focusing on trying to bring out the aspects of that photo which create a personal connection to the viewer. He explains that this approach is based on Roland Barthe’s ideas about interpreting photographs. In his book Camera Lucida, Barthe’s argues that there are two main ways of interpreting a photo. One way is based on cultural, linguistic and political interpretations (which he calls ‘the studium’) and the other way, the approach which Cheung Sze-lit is focusing on, concerns the details of the photo which the viewer reacts or connects to on a much more personal level (which Barth calls ‘the punctum’).

For example, based on Lorna Simpson’s interview,  it appears that the thing that gave her a personal connection to the original photo of the three protesters (i.e., the punctum) was the contrast between the graceful movement of the three figures in the photo and the violent oppression they faced, and this is what is brought out in her painting.

When I saw the images in A Quiet Box, I immediately recognized them as photos of a nuclear test. I am pretty sure I first saw the photos that inspired the painting when I was growing up in Canada during the 70s or early 80s. At that time, for people in Canada, a country sandwiched between two nuclear superpowers—the USA and the Soviet Union—that were in the middle of a decades-long cold war, the prospect of getting caught in the middle of a nuclear holocaust was a very real concern. It wasn’t something that kept kids awake at night, but it was a thought that might sit there in the back of your mind. Therefore, for me, the images in A Quiet Place were instantly recognizable and evoked a strange sort of nostalgia, a mostly-forgotten old anxiety of the possibility of being annihilated in a nuclear war.

The choice of a house as the subject of the test (and as the subject of the photographs and paintings) is important in that a house represents civilians, it represents family and it represents protection. The destruction of a house emphasizes that it is the innocents who will suffer in a nuclear attack and it shows how vulnerable we all are. The house, built to protect us and shelter our families, withstands the combined force of the blast (the force of the shock wave, the powerful blast winds that accompany it and the thermal pulse) for just a fraction of a second before being blown apart in a spectacular explosion.

The image I found most striking was the one with roiling black smoke against the wall of the house. The smoke reminded me of something in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke—the monstrous dark writhing infection that drove the boar god mad.

Again, I asked people for their interpretations:

TN: I suppose that there is some kind of weird fire or devilish stuff that tries to conquer the world… since it is spreading all over the world; it also burns down a house. One thing i can’t understand is about the match in front of the house. The match’s shadow was like a woman in one painting. It became shiny and bright when the house was all on fire… I think this series is quite scary—feelings of danger, desperation, darkness, horror… and just a little hope.

WW: I think it is something like a progression of erosion of darkness to the place. As if by the end the place has been completely destroyed.

ML: For the second series the strokes were a bit horrifying, so I dared not to stare for long at night (so I will just discuss  what I glimpsed).  I saw a time-lapse during which a house burns down. Was there a shifting in ‘figure-ground’ with the white house engulfed by the blackness versus the white fire and the black remaining?  The horror comes in with the distorted strokes and (suspicious human faces?) hidden under the stokes. 

Though none of the viewers recognized it as a nuclear test, they all noted the process of destruction and commented on the blackness and/or brightness. It seems that even though the viewers did not know exactly what the subject matter was, they were all able to sense in the paintings the violent destructiveness and horrifying nature of an atomic bomb blast

One interesting thing is that it seems that the other viewers took more time than I did to look into things like brushstrokes, minor details and the interplay between light and darkness. Perhaps that is an advantage of not knowing exactly what the subject matter of an art work is—the viewer may be encouraged to examine the painting in more detail in order to come up with an interpretation.

The solo exhibition show pictured here was organized by the A-lift gallery (www.a-lift.hk/index2.html) as part of Fotanian 2014 event (the Fotanian is an art studio open day showcasing the artists operating in the industrial neighborhood of Fotan in Hong Kong: (www.fotanstudios.org).

At the exhibition, some of the artist’s initial notes, sketches and drafts were also on show.

Cheung Sze-lit; preliminary sketches for the oil painting series ‘A Quiet Box’
Preliminary sketches
Cheung Sze-lit; the artist’s notes for his oil painting series ‘A Quiet Box’
The artist’s notes
The artist’s notes

The artist was also on hand to describe his work.

Artist Cheung Sze-lit discusses his oil painting series ‘A Quiet Box’ with Veron; Fotanian 2014 (the A-lift). . Photo by longzijun.
Artist Cheung Sze-lit discusses his oil painting series ‘A Quiet Box’ with Veron; Fotanian 2014 (the A-lift)

Mini-bio: Cheung Sze-lit is a Hong Kong-based artist. He studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University. He specializes in figurative paintings, sketches and drawings.


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Artist Websites

Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Three Questions

  1. How closely did your own interpretations of the subject matter of the paintings correspond to the actual scenes depicted in the original photographs?
  2. The paintings are quite similar to the original photographs. To what extent where the artists able to bring out the key elements of the photographs and create something entirely new? How was this achieved?
  3. In Three Figures, the three panels on the right have been shifted down. What is the effect/meaning of that?

Art Challenge

Find a photo by someone else that resonates with you. Create a drawing or painting based on the photo. Try to bring out the elements of the photo that led you to have such a powerful response


~ text and photos by longzijun

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

Art of the Umbrella Movement: Part 1. Paintings and Sketches

During the autumn of 2014, 79-day protest was held in Hong Kong. The protesters, calling for greater democracy, occupied streets in three districts: Mongkok, Causeway Bay and Admiralty. For more background on the protests itself, you can read my article: Photo Essay: The People of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement.

During the Umbrella Movement (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbrella_Movement) protests, many artists, designers and photographers got involved, with new artwork frequently appearing at the protests sites. This article showcases some of the paintings and sketches that were created and displayed. Future articles will focus on posters, banners, installation art and sculpture.

Flyingpig

Artist Flyingpig sketching at the Admiralty protest site

Flyingpig is a young Hong Kong artist who specializes in watercolor paintings of daily life in local neighborhoods. For each painting, she tends to choose one dominant color to set the mood for the painting. During the Umbrella movement protests, she was mainly concerned with documenting the normal routines at the protest site.

Painting by Flying Pig

During the protests, participants spent the vast majority of time just trying to go about life as normal—eating, sleeping, getting supplies, talking do friends and doing school assignments. This sense of normalcy is reflected in Flyingpig’s paintings; barricades blend innocently into the urban landscape, protest tents looks like market stalls and people are just going about their usual business.

Painting by Flying Pig

She would sketch on site in a sketch book and after the paintings were completed, they were blown up, printed out and displayed at the Admiralty site.

Flying Pig (Umbrella Movement Art)

She is still very involved with social issues; for example, I saw her at an event held to preserve the Yen Cho Street Hawker Bazaar.

Artist’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/flyingpig.work/

Frances Lee (pseudonym)

Frances Lee (pseudonym) is a Hong Kong-based artist. When painting the Hong Kong skyline, he tends to use warm, earthy and vibrant colors that reflect both his Mediterranean upbringing and his appreciation for the vibrancy of Hong Kong. From a distance, Hong Kong is all silvery steel, grey concrete and deep green vegetation, but these cool colors don’t really do justice to the territory’s energy and liveliness.

He painted at different protest sites, inviting passers-by to add their own messages and pictures to the buildings. The first picture in this section shows some of the completed paintings that he put on display at the Admiralty site.

A passerby adding her touches to a painting (Umbrella Movement Art)
(Umbrella Movement Art)

Miso Zo

Painting by Miso Zo (detail view)

Miso Zo’s vibrant paintings capture the contrasting moods of Umbrella Movement protests. In one striking painting, policemen, their faces distorted with rage, blast a lone protester with pepper spray. The man stands still and resolute, with hands clenched at his side.

Artist Miso Zo working on a painting of a man getting a haircut

When I came across Misa Zo at the Admiralty protest site, he was working in acrylic and oil paint on a large canvas, the painting depicting a scene capturing the more peaceful side of the movement. In that painting, set in a quiet area a few blocks away from the main protest site at Admiralty, a man is getting a haircut in the middle of the road. As the protests dragged on, support facilities run by volunteers started appearing to cater to their needs—first aid stations, supply stations, a library an outdoor study hall, battery recharging stations, recycling centers and, in this case, a barbershop.

Artist Miso Zo standing beside a one of his paintings. The painting is of one the barricades that had been set up by protesters.
Artist Miso Zo

Miso Zo is pseudonym. He is a New York-based artist who was in Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He also did some installation pieces during the Umbrella Movement protests.

Perry Dino

Perry Dino painting at the Mongkok protest site

Perry Dino is a an artist and a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I came across him at the Admiralty site, where he was on an overpass beside the BBC news crew. (twitter.com/BBCNewsAsia/status/517202961882427392). His goal was to document the protest movement in a more expressive way. As he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post:

I wanted to capture the moment by sitting down and painting what I saw. This issue was so important to the people of Hong Kong and I wanted to record it for posterity.

Perry Dino captures Hong Kong protests in oil on canvas
Perry Dino painting at the Admiralty site

Artist Perry Dino at the Mongkok protest site
Artist Perry Dino being interviewed on Nathan Road

Vin

Artist: Vin (Click on the image for a higher resolution version)

Vin is a Hong Kong designer. His ink on cardboard works were more overly political than many of the other artists. In one drawing, a lone figure clad in a rain coat, goggles and surgical masks and holding an umbrella asks “Who dressed me like this?” At the beginning of the protests, police used tear gas and pepper spray on the peacefully assembled protesters, who used the umbrellas that they had brought to provide protection from the sun to protect themselves from the tear gas cannisters and the spray. The umbrella soon became a symbol of the protest. After that day, whenever police gathered in force in riot gear, the front line of protesters opposing them, would wear whatever protection they could scrounge up.

Another of his drawings deals with the suspected collusion between the police and organized crime members.

chanqueen, Kay Cheung & Bear Pang

Sketches by Bear Pang, Kay Cheung and chanqueen

Like Flyingpig, chanqueen, Kay Cheung & Bear Pang are sketch artists who worked worked with ink and watercolor to document the protests. Their works were blown up and displayed at the Admiralty site. To save space, I have included two pictures from each artist, but you can see more of their sketches at my Flickr album (the link is at the end of the article).

Sketch by chanqueen of an art installation set up by students and staff from the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong
Sketch by chanqueen of the Admiralty protest site
Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay: Sketch by Kay Cheung
Umbrella Square (at the Admiralty protest site): Sketch by Kay Cheung
Sketch by Bear Pang
Sketch by Bear Pang

Umbrella Movement Art by Other Artists

Here are some of the other art pieces I noticed at the Admiralty site. These five paintings were labelled #PaintForChange, but I don’t know anything about the artist(s). If you happen to know anything, please leave a comment below.

Oil Paintings (by #PaintforChange)

The painting by Jenn Chan below is a reference to a meme involving Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s surname, which sounds like the Cantonese word for ‘wolf’.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as a Wolf (painting by Jenn Chan)

I spoke briefly with the artist who painted the next picture. It is an optimistic piece describing a dream in which birds return to a forest and fill the air with their songs.

Umbrella Movement Art (at the Admiralty site)
Birds Returning
Birds Returning

Here are two more works:

Wolf Attack: Art of the Umbrella Movement
Police vs Protestors: Art of the Umbrella Movement
Police vs Protestors: Art of the Umbrella Movement

Notes: The Umbrella Movement in a Nutshell

The umbrella movement refers to the pro-democracy protests that took place in Hong Kong from 26 September to 15 December 2014. Protesters, who occupied streets in three districts, were seeking greater democracy and sought to have territory’s Chief Executive elected via universal suffrage. For more information, you can check out my blog post on the Umbrella Movement: Photo Essay: Hong Kong Protests

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:


~ text and photos by longzijun

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